NASCAR issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it was looking into scanner traffic on David Gilliland's radio that included a purported request from Penske Racing to have Gilliland move over for him in the closing laps of the race.
Per Gilliland's scanner and audio broadcast on Fox Sports 1's RaceHub, the idea of Gilliland moving back for Logano was broached with nine laps to go in the race; before Clint Bowyer spun to bring out the race's final caution. At that time, Logano would have missed the Chase assuming that Ryan Newman would win the race. He was outside the top 10 with one win to Newman's two and Kasey Kahne's two.
Gilliland was 24th at the time and Logano was 25th. However, nothing was able to happen before the caution flag. The chatter reignited on the restart with three laps to go, and soon after the green flag fell, Logano was around Gilliland.
Logano finished 22nd and Gilliland finished 23rd.
"NASCAR is aware of reports about the #22 and #38 radio communications at Richmond International Raceway and is looking into it, but has yet to see anything in full context that requires any action," it said in a statement.
It's important to note that nowhere is there collusion from both parties active on the scanner feed broadcasted. While Penske Racing is mentioned, there's no direct communication from the team on Gilliland's radio. It's simply employees of Front Row and the No. 38 team.
After the race, Logano was 10th in the standings, one point ahead of Jeff Gordon.
On its own, the Logano-Gilliland matter ultimately is inconsequential to the Chase because the one point exchanged between the two drivers would have still left Logano in the Chase by virtue of his tiebreaker over the winless Gordon. (Logano won at Michigan.) In that case, it's just like a driver letting a teammate lead a lap. It's for a single point, and the cases of the latter -- and there have been MANY cases of it -- it's an accepted, if not even harmonious practice.
Though when combined with the penalties that Michael Waltrip Racing received for its actions at Richmond, it's seen differently. NASCAR penalized the three MWR teams 50 points apiece, which removed Martin Truex from the Chase. After his spin, Bowyer meandered around until the finish of the race and Brian Vickers was ordered to pit road.
Those moves ensured that Logano would be ahead of both drivers, and locked into the top 10 ahead of Gordon. While Logano would have still made the Chase had he finished behind Bowyer and Vickers, he would have done so via the Wild Card, which would have knocked Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase altogether. But since Logano was in the top 10, Truex was the second Wild Card. (After the penalty, which was applied to his pre-Chase points total, Truex fell behind Ryan Newman and Newman was given the second Wild Card.)
While the moves that MWR made and the move that Logano made around Gilliland are part of the collective whole that was Saturday night's race at Richmond, they're independent of each other and should be judged as such. Neither team was operating in cahoots with each other and were looking out for its own best interests. It just so happened that MWR's best interests were also the best interests of Penske's.
However, when Logano made the pass on Gilliland, the complexion of the race had already changed. Newman was out of the lead. Logano was in the Chase, and he would have been in the Chase had Gilliland stay in front of him. And given that Logano was right behind Gilliland on the restart, there's no guarantee that he would have passed him, purported team orders or not.
NASCAR put everything under the microscope with its penalty of Michael Waltrip Racing, and the chatter on Gilliland's scanner has the same odor. However, given that there's no communication from Penske, nor did Logano's pass of Gilliland -- ordered or not -- affect the outcome of the Chase, a Penske penalty at this point isn't a scrupulous option.