Sadly, we are now looking at the politics of the sport. Now the politics have always been there it’s just that they were under currents that the fans couldn’t hear and were not exposed to. Now with the scanners and things on the internet where we can eavesdrop on the teams and conversations we are faced with the politics of racing.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”248″][/media-credit]Racing is a team sport. It always has been. There was a time when most teams had one car until we got down to the end of the season and then other cars were fielded to manipulate the points finishes. Those cars would drop out to push finishes further to the top of the pylon. That was how it was done. There were “team orders” even then. The team order was OK take it to the house you are done. Thanks.
There were team orders with the manufacturers as well. I remember the fights between the Bow Tie Brigade and the Church of the Blue Oval. Pontiac and Buick. Buick and Oldsmobile. The manufacturers are in this to sell cars. To draw attention to their make and the speed that it produces. They are about winners.
There have always been defections. One of the biggest back in the day was Jeff Gordon. He left Bill Davis and Ford to go to Rick Hendrick and Chevrolet after Ford had poured millions into his development as a driver. It was a blow. It was a shock. It was a rarity.
Today team orders became very clear and obvious. They were apparent with Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon. They were apparent with Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. They were apparent with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton. They were apparent with Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
Remember this is a business. Someone has to pay the bills. Someone has to provide the resources and the technology. It’s sad to say but the man with the check book calls the shots. You don’t have to like it but it’s in everything you do and everywhere you go. Money talks and money makes the decisions that effect our lives. The drivers are no different.
It was obvious that Ford, actually Jack Roush made the call for Trevor to dump Gordon. Trevor as much as said so. “I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell @JeffGordonWeb I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing.” Bayne tweeted. Gordon’s view point was a little different. “When we lost Mark (Martin), when you lose your drafting partner, you do all that you can and we did all that we could. The unfortunate part is that we made a deal with somebody and they reneged on it after we took the green.’’ Roush made the call. It is a call he will have to live with. But lets try to remember that Roush had team orders too. Ford team orders.
Even the golden boys of NASCAR, the Hendricks Motorsports team had team orders. Dale Jr and Jimmie Johnson obviously had cars that were capable of running up front. They both were bitten in Daytona by the run around in the back and wait tactic. But again today when Earnhardt was wanting to go up and race team orders came down and the pair went to the back and again the call to go came too late and then was made worse by the late race caution as was reported by ESPN’s Marty Smith. Team orders in this case probably cost 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson the 6th consecutive championship. Jimmie will take the heat from the ever vocal Junior Nation. But the truth is the orders came from above Jimmie’s head. The orders came from above the crew chief’s head. Whatever it was that they were waiting for never materialized and again it relegated them to deep in the field finishing spots.
Team orders played a role in the victory of Clint Bowyer as well. The Childress teams stood together. They didn’t race with others. Because of that Bowyer and Burton were in a position to settle the race between them. The pusher always has the advantage because of the tandem racing communications that are necessary. One spotter. One crew chief. Bowyer pulled out and made it a drag race. He beat Burton by the front fenders of the car. But he did so because of team orders. Richard Childress stated, “Not running in the back might have cost Harvick the championship but he came to do what they’re supposed to do: race.”
The problem here is not that the orders were given. The problem is that they exist to begin with. Multiple car teams make team orders inevitable. Despite what some owners say about all things being equal for all drivers. We know that is not the case. We have seen that is not the case. We have seen it across the board in all series. The problem is team orders manipulate the competition. They always have. Just like in the early days when cars would drop out at pre determined times to guarantee points positions. It hasn’t changed. Team orders are still determining the final result on the track not only in who wins the race but in who wins the championship. It is a sad thing. But it has always been a part of our sport. It most likely always will be.
The most important thing about this race most likely will be lost in the politics and controversy of the race. The most important thing was that despite scarey looking wrecks and incredibly hard impacts every one is going home safe. They races with heavy hearts but they reached down where their courage lives and they climbed in and they raced. They raced in tribute to a fallen champion. I am pretty sure that Dan Wheldon was more than proud to ride with every single one of them.
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Congratulations to Mike Wallace on his truck series win in Talladega. It was awesome to see Mike have the opportunity to show how much talent he has and what he can do with it in good equipment.Congratulations to Clint Bowyer. Clint gave his word when he signed a contract a few years back. He was true to his word. He raced to win despite the fact that he is leaving at the end of the year to go to MWR.
To all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.