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Woody: Racing Is About Competition, Not Cooperation

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 28 2009
Teammates helping teammates can give racing a black eye.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Teammates helping teammates can give racing a black eye. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

With the growing “cooperation” between racing teammates, you knew it was bound to happen:

A driver deliberately crashed in order to bring out a caution that helped his teammate win.

It happened in Formula One. Could it happen in NASCAR?

We know there’s a definite trend toward teammates helping teammates. That’s troubling, and if NASCAR’s not worried sick it ought to be.

Earlier this season, Jimmie Johnson intentionally slowed down while leading a race to allow teammate Mark Martin to pass and collect five bonus points.

Later in another race Martin repaid the favor. He deliberately slowed and allowed Johnson a free pass for five freebies.

At that point the point standings became fixed. Two drivers had points they didn’t earn.

As it turned out neither Martin nor Johnson needed the sham points to make the Chase, but what if they had? What if those five points had made the difference in their making or not making NASCAR’s playoffs? How big would they have been then?

Just because they didn’t need the points doesn’t change the principle: teammates conspired to assist each other during a race to improve their position on the track and in the point standings.

TV commentator Andy Petree said he once asked Terry Labonte to slow down and not pass Petree’s driver Ken Schrader near the end of a race so that Schrader could hold onto his position and finish in the Top 10. Schrader got the coveted Top 10 position by one point and Petree thought there was nothing wrong with arranging it. Wonder what the 11th-place driver who got bumped out of the Top 10 thought about it?

Other sports have an absolute horror of points shaving; the number of points shaved is irrelevant. NASCAR should share that horror.

Some say it’s a big leap from giving a teammate a few points to intentionally crashing. Is it? If a teammate is willing to give his teammate five points, why not give him 10? Or 20? Or 40? How many’s too many?

When a driver gives a teammate points or position on the track, he takes the first step into an ethical minefield.

With the trend toward more teammates in NASCAR, consider the temptations – especially with the added pressure of the Chase. If one teammate is eliminated from contention but still on the track, how tempting might it be for him to have a timely spin to aid a championship-contending teammate who desperately needed a caution?

What if the boss ordered it, as happened in the Formula One debacle?

We know that teammates “work together” on the track to assist each other. Where does it end? If it’s OK to give a teammate a free pass, is it OK to give him a free lap? And if a free lap is OK, then how about a victory?

Once crossed, the ethical line becomes hazy.

Earlier when I wrote about the danger of a couple of championship contenders swapping free passes and points, some readers said I was over-reacting. What’s the big deal, they said, exchanging a few points between teammates? Who does it hurt?

For starters it hurts every driver below the two persons in the point standings. More importantly it hurts the credibility of the sport. Today a free pass, tomorrow a free spin for a win?

Of course that could never happen, could it? A teammate would never dare go that far, would he ? Just ask the fixers in Formula One.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 28 2009
10 Comments

10 Comments »

  • Robert Eastman says:

    So… what kind of cars do you think they race in Heaven?

  • Ramo says:

    What if??? Who cares about “what if’s”??? Please let us know when something whorthwhile actually happens.

  • wv mule says:

    this stuff has always went on as far as i can remeber. In 98 the 25 car jeff gordons teammate was ordered to stay in the way of the leader at bristol so jeff could catch him and bump his way to win,after the race the 2 car even blamed the 25 car who was laps down for losing him the race. ive also seen the 25 car leading at atlanta and had just lapped the 24 car. a caution came out with leader coming out of turn 4 the 25 car who was the leader locked up his front tires and almost wrecked trying to slow down to let the 24 car back on lead lap( this was before the luckydog rule)the 24 car went on to win race. you would also see the same kind of thing wth roush.

  • DL says:

    Nobody talks about it but it’s old news. It has happened before, and will continue to happen. The cure? The end of multi-car “teams”. How about we go back to the days you brought your car to the track- your own car, not your string or stable- and went at it for the top money. Wow, what a lot of racing we would suddenly see, I think. Robby Gordon would love to be on equal footing.

  • yankeegranny says:

    I was there and saw that Richmond race. Never liked Hamlin after that. I have to smile every time he has some bad luck on the track, Can’t think of a driver who deserves it more. I especiallly liked the Nationwide race at Dover this past week,and loved seeing Brad stand up to him after the race.

  • As fun as it would be to think that Hamlin stopped for Busch after he blew that tire, I guarantee you that Kyle Busch’s chances were the last thing on his mind given the circumstances.

  • The0real0slander says:

    Yeah, that could never happen. No one would, let’s say, blow a tire in the closing laps at Richmond and park at the top of the track to draw a yellow so that his teammate would have a chance to catch up to the leader. Nope, never could happen…

    • Bill Mumbauer says:

      Hate to tell you but it already happened and at Dover. It happened in the 70’s. I was at the race and toward the end David Pearson had a huge lead. A car whose driver’s name I don’t remember was in a car “loaned” to him by Richard Petty. For no reason his car came to a stop at the top of the track in turn one bringing out the caution. After the caution came out the car immediately started and drove all the way around the track without any trouble. Don’t know if he was asked to help out or he just did it because of Petty’s helping him get in the race but it did happen, I was there