By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
CHICAGO -- Accessibility has always been a hallmark of NASCAR racing.
Unlike what is said privately in dugouts, huddles and locker rooms, communications between drivers, crew chiefs, spotters and car owners are available in real time and in replay to fans, media and NASCAR officials alike.
That, says Dale Earnhardt Jr., is why it's easy to reconstruct Saturday's late-race events at Richmond, specifically those that led to a devastating penalty levied against Michael Waltrip Racing and Martin Truex Jr.'s ouster from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"I think those spotters and those crew chiefs and those drivers -- some drivers -- don't realize in the heat of the moment exactly how accessible all this information is," Earnhardt said Thursday during Chase Media Day at the Navy Pier. "That's another thing, as much as NASCAR's judgment, I think will be a deterrent.
"No matter how much you think you can camouflage this or pull these smoke and mirrors, the media and the fans can connect the dots."
Earnhardt also suggested that data mapping, made possible by NASCAR's switch to Electronic Fuel Injection last year, could provide insight into Clint Bowyer's spin with seven laps left in Saturday's race, the incident that set in motion MWR's manipulation of the outcome.
Bowyer's spin off Turn 4 deprived Ryan Newman of a probable victory and elevated Truex into a Wild Card position -- before NASCAR's penalty cost him the Chase spot. During his media avaibility on Thursday, Bowyer continued to dodge questions about whether the spin was intentional.
"If we needed to know what happened, there's so much technology, you'd be able to figure it out yourself," Earnhardt said. "We have all this data. You can look at how he drove the car through the corner a hundred times and watch his brake and throttle and watch it that lap and see what you think.
"We don't have to get the pitchforks out and go after Clint Bowyer. I'm just saying, if you wanted to know what happened, it would be pretty easy to figure that out without needing Clint to admit to what he did."
Logano: "I deserve to be in the Chase"
Despite controversy that surfaced Wednesday involving the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford team of Joey Logano and the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford of David Gilliland, Logano was adamant that he deserves his place in the Chase -- because he earned it.
"We've got one win and eight top fives and 14 top-10 finishes," Logano told reporters on Thursday. "If you look at those numbers, that is every bit of the top three or four that have happened this season.
"I don't feel bad about being in the Chase at all. We deserve to be in it, if you look at those numbers."
In a story originally reported by FoxSports1, radio chatter from the No. 38 team suggested a deal between Front Row and Penske to give Logano a position at the finish of Saturday night's race. There was no corresponding radio traffic from the No. 22 team.
Logano finished 22nd and Gilliland 23rd, but as it turned out, Logano didn't need that point to qualify for the Chase, after the Michael Waltrip Racing cars of Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer also finished behind the No. 22 -- by design.
NASCAR hit MWR with the largest monetary fine in the history of the sport -- $300,000 -- and assessed points penalties that knocked MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase in favor of Ryan Newman.
For Logano, the attention arising from the controversy is clearly unwanted, but he's used to it.
"I've been the focal point all year on something," said Logano, who was part of the wreck at Fontana, Calif., in late March that sidelined Denny Hamlin for four races with a fractured vertebra. "I'm used to it at this point. I just go with the flow.
"I guess I've learned a lot this year and experienced a lot. It just makes you stronger. They say it's character-building. I'm a hell of a character now."
Edwards sees silver lining
Carl Edwards, who won Saturday's race and finished the first 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events as the series leader, hopes the flap over the closing laps at Richmond can be a net positive for the sport.
"There are still a lot of things in the air, and I don't personally know where all the lines are," Edwards said Thursday during Chase Media Day. "And so I think that what we will see here in the next few weeks ... we'll see some real clarity and direction on what is morally acceptable and right or wrong, but also what NASCAR is OK with.
"I think that will be important. The other thing is, I hope we see that this doesn't diminish our sport. I hope it isn't a negative. I hope it makes people interested in the complexities of our sport, that there is a lot more going on here than just guys driving around in a circle. That's what I hope."