The dominant story of Thursday's Chase Media Day in downtown Chicago was not the Chase itself, but an event that occurred late in last weekend's NASCAR race at Richmond.
With Jeff Gordon leading and Kevin Harvick running second, Harvick's Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard spun out with 17 laps to go, causing a caution. Harvick got the lead on a late pit stop and won the race.
Gordon said after the race that the timing of Menard's spin seemed a bit suspicious and called it "a little fishy" again on Thursday.
"Whatever happened – whether it was intentional, unintentional – that's on them," Gordon said. "We can't control that. It's something maybe NASCAR needs to address so it doesn't affect how the championship is decided.
"I certainly frown upon it if that is true. If it is true – and I say 'if' – then I've lost a lot of respect for Paul Menard."
Menard's radio chatter was highlighted by Jimmy Spencer this week on Speed's Race Hub, and Gordon said people have told him it was questionable.
"What I heard was something about some communication about needing a caution, not needing a caution, and then they were giving the gaps between me and the 29 car, the distance as I closed in," he said. "I think after I passed them and they said something, and Paul asked, 'Do you need the caution? Don't need the caution?' Then they said 'Go to Channel 2' and then they spun out."
Menard hasn't commented on the issue yet, but Harvick said Thursday his teammate had a tire issue that caused the spin.
"All I can tell you is I wish I could have brought the right-rear tire with me – it was basically down to the cords," Harvick said. "You know when you see something like that happen what everybody is going to think."
Harvick added that from his view, "it looked like everybody was spinning everybody out so Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. could stay on the lead lap" and make the Chase.
"We could go on and on with this battle all day long," he said, adding the Hendrick-powered Phoenix Racing car of Landon Cassill raced him extra hard to let Gordon catch up. "...We could argue this point for many moons."
Did the accusations upset Harvick?
"Not really," he said. "They can come over and look at the trophy if they want."
The issue is important in part because the caution resulted in Gordon starting the Chase with three less bonus points than he would have had he won the race – and Harvick starting with three more.
NASCAR released a statement Thursday evening saying officials weren't aware of any impropriety last weekend.
"We haven't seen or heard anything that would indicate (Menard) did anything inappropriate in Richmond," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "We watch closely the activity in each event all season long to maintain a fair and even event for all competitors. We naturally will do the same for the balance of the season."
Tony Stewart said the concept of a teammate spinning out to help another driver bothered him so much, he preferred not to even let the possibility enter his mind.
"I don't even want to think about it happening because I pride myself on racing the guys and everybody racing everybody fair," he said. "I hope we never have to worry about that."