NASCAR ‘crashgate’ accusations arise

UPDATE #2 The discussion here at TNI regarding Paul Menard and his spin at Richmond began on Wednesday. One of our readers, Fireball Doowah, submitted the following question to ATIW:

Jeff Gordon alleged that the late spin by Paul Menard at Richmond was intentional. Do you think there is anything to this, other than sour grapes?

I responded with the following answer:

I guess anything is possible. As tore up as Menard’s car was, it’s not implausible to believe that he just lost it. But Menard spinning out with 17 laps to go did not win Harvick the race. The late pit stop and a strong race car did.

Now, thanks to Jay Busbee and his guys over at “From the Marbles," Menard’s radio traffic from the end of the race is available for you to hear and you can decide for yourself. Click here to hear it. And, to balance this out, click here to read Menard’s comments to SBNation regarding the incident and his radio transmissions.

…Now that you’ve had a chance to listen and see Menard’s thoughts, what do you think? The conversation between Menard and Stevie Reeves certainly doesn’t appear to be innocent. And the voice asking Slugger to switch over to channel two towards the end sounds like it could be that of RCR’s Mike Dillon. The obvious connection here is that the message over on channel two was that it was time for Menard to get involved. Near the end, the driver and crew chief claim the spin was caused by a down tire, but that right rear sure looked like it was up to me. NASCARInsiders

Sounds like some people may be lying through their teeth.

09/16/11 The following is a statement by Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, regarding speculation surrounding RCR's No. 27 team last week at Richmond International Raceway:

"There were no team orders despite all the speculation in the media. I know Paul Menard well enough that he wouldn't have spun out on purpose even if he had been asked. We are at Chicagoland Speedway to win the race and get a great start toward the championship."

There will be no further statements from RCR about the issue. RCR PR

09/16/11 What would the Chase for the Sprint Cup be without a little controversy at the outset to spice it up? What about a 'crashgate' scenario that F1 had when Nelson Piquet was asked to crash his Renault F1 car to help his teammate Fernando Alonso?

That occurred Thursday when, during the Chase Media Day events at downtown Chicago restaurant, Jeff Gordon wondered aloud if the late-race caution caused when driver Paul Menard spun his No. 27 Chevrolet last Saturday night at Richmond was intentional.

Menard's spin with 17 laps to go in the Wonderful Pistachios 400 came while Gordon was in the lead, with Menard's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, Kevin Harvick, in hot pursuit. Harvick subsequently beat Gordon off pit road and went on to win the race, while Gordon had to settle for a third-place finish behind Harvick and second-place finisher Carl Edwards.

"Here's what I am going to say about it: You do whatever you can as a team to win, win races, win championships, and if any of that is true of what's being speculated right now, all I have can say is I've lost a lot of respect for Paul Menard if that's the case. But I don't want to blame him for any of that if it's not true," Gordon said."

"He might have just lost it off of Turn 4 and the caution came out. But when you listen to the radio, and I've had other people translate it to me, it sounds a little fishy."

On the audio channel able to be monitored by fans, media and even other teams, Menard's spotter, Stevie Reeves, came on with 23 laps to go and began giving Menard detailed updates on where the cars of Gordon and Harvick were as they battled for position on the track.

With 22 to go, RCR competition director Mike Dillon came on the radio and asked Menard's crew chief, Slugger Labbe, to switch the radio "to Channel 2" which was not able to be monitored by the masses.

With 17 to go, Menard said on the main radio channel that he thought he had a right rear tire going down and Labbe told him to back off if he needed to. Shortly thereafter, Menard spun — bringing out the caution.

"What I heard was something about some communication about needing a caution, not needing a caution, and then they were giving the gaps between me and the 29 car, the distance as I closed in," Gordon said. "And I think after I passed them, they said something and Paul asked, 'Do you need the caution? Don't need the caution?' Then they said 'Go to Channel 2,' — and then they spun out.

"I would love to hear Channel 2."

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