A fan is an individual who watches his respective sport, pays hard-earned money for merchandise and tickets, and could tell you almost anything about the sport they love. A fan is an individual who is willing to look pass the sideways glances when they speak of their sport with reverence.
I was a fan, one of many, who was robbed of a memorable race by a cheap move.
I was watching the race, like many of you, expecting Ryan Newman to take the victory and clinch the second Wild Card spot. I had my picks, and although Newman wasn't one of them, I was more than happy to concede that he was the best man and that he would earn a spot in the Chase.
Good for him and their Stewart-Haas group, an organization plagued with issues in 2013.
Meanwhile, the race to get into the Chase was tight, possibly the tightest it has been in years. Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne were all battling to improve their chances at contending for a championship. It looked to be a good race, with the bubble drivers combating fiercely for position.
Then the caution flag flew for Clint Bowyer's spin.
At first, not much was thought about it. It was Richmond, a short track. Spins and incidents do happen. But once we saw the replay, right away it just looked...fishy. It looked controlled, somehow. It didn't have the look of an out-of-control race car.
The replays came around, and looking at the in-car camera one can notice Bowyer seeming to saw back-and-forth on the wheel prior to the spin. Then he calmly goes sideways as he only stands on the gas for a brief moment before locking down the brakes and casually turning the wheel.
Let's not forget the in-car audio leading up to the spin. The interaction between Bowyer and his crew isn't like the interaction between Paul Menard's crew before his suspicious spin at this race in 2011. No switching over to a secret channel. Just the peculiar trade-off of "Does your arm hurt? Bet it's hot in there. Itch it."
Hearing that, one couldn't help but think, "What does that mean to you? We're eight laps from the finish. Worry about the traffic and making sure your driver doesn't do something stupid." It sounded too suspicious, considering the circumstances. Even the analysts were suspicious, as both Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham, two larger-than-life NASCAR personalities, claimed that they felt the spin was deliberate.
On top of that, although he was given a penalty for pitting early, which would have meant tail end of the longest line, he ended up going for a pass-through on the final restart. While passing through, he was going much slower down pit road than he needed to.
What else doesn't make sense is that he was on the lead lap in 16th when he spun, yet with such a minor spin with only a flat tire put him down two laps in 25th. One would expect a crew of that caliber to have him out much quicker, especially considering that he had one of the better cars in the field.
With that spin, the field was shuffled just enough so that Bowyer's teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex, could make the Chase while Gordon and Newman among others were shut out.
Now, it is something that happens every year. A few lucky fellows cap off the Chase playing field while several more are left heartbroken that their big shot will have to wait another year. It's an old song in NASCAR already.
Intentional cautions are also an old song in NASCAR, especially those that conveniently benefit teams who need them. But the implication of this spin is a little bit bigger than just a race win. This is a matter of making sure the best man wins and the fans aren't robbed.
Racing isn't supposed to be about manipulation and greed. It isn't supposed to be about making a few extra bucks.
It is supposed to be about the thrill of the competition. It is supposed to be about earning your spot among the sport's elite.
In my opinion, the spin was intentional. NASCAR should do something about it. I'd shoot for a penalty that makes MWR's 2007 Daytona Speedweeks penalty look small. This is a matter of throwing the race, manipulating the ending for personal gain. It is a despicable move.
Will something be done? I honestly doubt it. We as a whole were duped, but the sanctioning body knows that we'll keep paying them to give us a show next week and the week after. We're fans through rain, we're fans through shine, we're fans through good and bad.
This incident will die down, and although we'll always remember it, the messed up thing is that it'll happen again.
None of the explanations presented from Bowyer made sense. Nothing made sense about his spin, and yet he's going to get away with it. Moreover, NASCAR had a chance to set a precedent in order to keep the racing honest, and they slipped.
It's a shame, because with 10 laps to go last night's race was shaping up to be one of the best fall Richmond events in the history of the Chase.