Woody: Racing Is About Competition, Not Cooperation
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments