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NASCAR 'looking into' Menard spin at Richmond

JOLIET, Ill. -- Reacting to suspicions surrounding Paul Menard's spin late in last Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Richmond, NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday the sanctioning body will look into the accident that caused a late caution and ch...

JOLIET, Ill. -- Reacting to suspicions surrounding Paul Menard's spin late in last Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Richmond, NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday the sanctioning body will look into the accident that caused a late caution and changed the course of the race.

With Jeff Gordon leading, Menard spun his already heavily damaged Chevrolet with 17 laps left in the final regular-season Cup event. Kevin Harvick, Menard's teammate at Richard Childress Racing, took advantage of the caution and won the race, pulling away from Gordon after a restart with 12 laps left.

Carl Edwards finished second and Gordon third.

Analyst Jimmy Spencer reviewed the radio chatter between Menard and his team on Speed's "Race Hub" and suggested the spin might have been intentional.

On Friday, team owner Richard Childress issued a statement emphatically denying the charge.

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"There were no team orders despite all the speculation in the media," Childress said. "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."

Harvick is the only one of four RCR drivers to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but he was locked in before the race at Richmond. Harvick did gain three extra bonus points toward the Chase with the victory and begins NASCAR's 10-race playoff with 2,012 points, tied with Kyle Busch for the series lead.

During its officiating of the race itself, NASCAR neither saw nor heard anything it deemed inappropriate on Menard's part.

"In light of the suspicions, we're going to look into it and see if there is anything--and a lot of it is going to be interpretation," Helton said Friday morning at Chicagoland Speedway. "But certainly I think it's on us to understand exactly whatever we can find as far as facts are concerned."

In one radio exchange, Menard was instructed to "go to channel 2," a frequency different from the primary channel used by the team. The NASCAR rule book requires all communications between drivers, spotters and crew chiefs during competition to be broadcast on analog channels.

"Now there's a lot of radios out in the garage that do a lot of other things, but the rules call for the analog channels to be used," Helton said. "And most cars have multiple analog channels that fans in the grandstand, us in the tower, the industry listen to."

Helton said NASCAR planned to review videotape of the spin itself, as well as listening to whatever radio communication might be available.

Helton, however, was quick to characterize the incident as a racing procedure that isn't subject to change after the fact--much like an "out" call in a baseball game.

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"The only thing that I'd ask everybody to cautiously go through--it's time to determine our 2011 champion, and we've seen in the past accusations, suspicions, things that spool up, and I think it's on all of our shoulders to get the facts right," Helton said. "And if there's something there, then we should find out about it and be sure we've got it right. But it is a sport, and these guys are athletes, and they know how to work the situation."

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