CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Newman replaced Martin Truex Jr. in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship on Monday night when NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing for manipulating the outcome of last weekend’s race at Richmond.
Michael Waltrip Racing was fined $300,000, and general manager Ty Norris received an indefinite suspension. Truex, Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers were docked 50 points apiece — but Bowyer’s deduction does not affect his position in the Chase, which begins Sunday at Chicago.
‘‘We penalize to not have this happen again,’’ NASCAR president Mike Helton said. ‘‘It’s a message from the league saying, ‘You can’t do this.’ "
Newman was leading with seven laps remaining Saturday night at Richmond, where a victory would have given him the final spot in the 12-driver Chase field. But Bowyer spun to bring out a caution, setting in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to Newman losing the race and Bowyer teammate Truex earning the final Chase berth.
“I am proud that NASCAR took a stand with respect to what went on Saturday night at Richmond,” Newman said in a statement, ESPN reported. “I know it was a tough decision to make. With that being said, myself, [crew chief] Matt Borland, and this entire No. 39 team are looking forward to competing for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.”
While examining the situation, NASCAR reviewed communication between Bowyer and his Michael Waltrip Racing crew that seemed to indicate the spin was deliberate, as well as additional evidence that suggested MWR had Bowyer and Vickers take a dive over the final three laps so Joey Logano would knock Jeff Gordon out of Chase contention in yet another attempt to help Truex.
Bowyer denied he intentionally spun and Truex was an unwitting participant. There was silence from MWR officials until Waltrip tweeted after NASCAR’s announcement.
‘‘This wasn’t a master plan or about a spin. It’s about a split-second decision made by Ty to try to help a teammate. I stand by my people,’’ he posted on Twitter.
The controversy surrounding Saturday’s race put a damper on Newman’s Monday announcement that he had reached a deal with Richard Childress Racing to replace Jeff Burton next season in the No. 31 Chevrolet.
‘‘What happened to me Saturday night is the toughest thing that I've ever gone through in any kind of racing in my 30 years of driving because of the way everything went down,’’ Newman said. ‘‘I knew this announcement was coming, but in the end, I don’t think it’s anything to compare or contrast or say that the positive outweighs the negative or even compensates for it.’’
Now Newman gets the chance to compete for the title in his final races with Stewart-Haas Racing. He won the Brickyard this year and has 17 career victories overall.
MWR will not appeal the penalties, which included probation for crew chiefs Brian Pattie (Bowyer), Scott Miller (Vickers), and Chad Johnston (Truex) through the end of the year.