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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Like it or not, team orders are part of racing

Team orders are a tricky thing.

Whether we admit it or not, they exist in all forms of motorsports.

Sometimes, they are blatant, like when Rubens Barichello pulled over and let his teammate Michael Schumacher get the win at Indy a few years ago in F1.

Most of the time, though, it’s more subtle. Perhaps a driver just acts like he’s slow, so a teammate that’s higher in points can inch closer to the championship.

Things like that happen im many races, and we rarely notice.

This week, though, team orders were front and center in several different racing series.

In one instance, legendary NHRA owner/driver John Force is being accused of throwing a race against his employee/teammate Robert Hight so Hight could qualify for the drag racing series’ equivalent of the Chase.

In another, NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick was angry that Ron Hornaday, driving a car owned by Harvick, wouldn’t get out of his way and let Harvick go after leader Kyle Busch. He apparently though Hornaday would just get out of the way, but he thought wrong. Hornaday battled hard and maintained second place, while Harvick finished third.

The third, and most blatant, case of team orders comes again from Formula 1. Team Renault is in deep doo-doo after Nelson Piquet Jr. was told by the team to crash, so the safety car would come out and the team’s other car, driven by Fernando Alonso, would win the race.

This is going to be met with harsh punishment from the FIA. The sport is a global phenomenon, and any activity that it is fixed must be dealt with harshly.

There is no easily solution to the question of team orders. For starters, we don’t usually know when it is happening. If Piquet hadn’t opened his mouth, the Piquet incident would never have come to light. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s happened before in Formula 1 or other series.

As a race fan, I want to see everyone race full on, but I can also understand the concept of team orders. Why wouldn’t Force want to help his team car get into the title fight? He has won plenty of races and losing is not big deal to him.

Situations like Harvick getting mad are just silly, as he was more concerned about winning one race than about letting his driver, who is battling for a title, maintain the biggest points advantage possible. His desire to win that race made him forget what was best for the team.

As far as Renault, that is a terrible thing and the team should face severe consequences. Imagine if Jamie McMurray purposely crashed on a green-white-checkered so Carl Edwards could win a race. That’s basically what happened.

The bottom line is team orders are a part of racing no one talks about, and don’t be surprise if you see the team orders concept sneak into the Chase in ways a little more subtle than the Renault incident.


Blogger Kevin said...

These are called teams for a reason.Being asked to create an accident to bring out the pace car is criminal. The driver should have refused, and reported the person who gave such orders.

September 27, 2009 at 12:04 AM 

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