That's Racin Magazine

Talladega exposes dark side of racing

Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011

As the fallout from last weekend’s race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway continues, there is a darker side to the debate emerging.

It can be found in the rash of denials from a growing list of teams involved in the bizarre circumstances in the race’s final laps. Within the denials is a litany of inconsistencies and around the inconsistencies lurks a side of racing NASCAR would be better off without.

Let’s take a few examples.

The most glaring one is Trevor Bayne’s decision at the last moment to bail on drafting partner Jeff Gordon on the final restart after agreeing to draft with him. The two were primed to contend for the victory with the tandem of Jeff Burton and race winner Clint Bowyer.

Bayne, who in an interview posted on the Ford Racing Web site before the race had already expressed misgivings over not being able to draft with who he pleased, went on his Twitter account after the race talking about the race being “too premeditated” and that he was “strong-armed” into leaving Gordon.

By Tuesday, however, Ford and Roush Fenway Racing officials were insisting there were no team orders. RFR owner Jack Roush even said, “At Roush Fenway Racing we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race.”

How did Bayne bailing on Gordon – who was up front – and moving backwards to connect with Matt Kenseth – and dramatically slowing in the process – but him in the best position to win?

But there were no team orders.

Tony Stewart, who told everyone on Friday he found out he had been told Ford driver David Gilliland could no longer work with him, used several partners in the race. One was Joey Logano, who drives for the organization where Stewart used to run (Joe Gibbs Racing), and coincidentally, where his former crew chief Greg Zipadelli still works but is rumored to be leaving to join Stewart after the season.

After one point, Logano abandoned Stewart and dropped back to help his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin. JGR officials said that was the only reason Logano left Stewart. Yet why did Hamlin then dump Logano, helping himself to an eighth-place finish and leaving Logano in 24th?

But there were no team orders.

Again on the final restart, Stewart was still in good position to pick up a solid finish, this time working with fellow Chevrolet driver Paul Menard. As with Bayne, Menard dropped off from Stewart shortly after the final restart.

In an interview after the race, Menard’s owner Richard Childress said, “I went on Paul's radio and told him go up there and push Tony and try to win the race.”

Yet supposedly told this, Menard abandoned Stewart and had to settle for 12th place while Stewart – a championship contender – fell back to seventh.

But there were no team orders.

For three days we’ve been told what didn’t happen at Talladega.

How about NASCAR – or anybody – step up and tell us what really did.

Next race

Tums 500

Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday


Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Denny Hamlin

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