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Saturday, September 17, 2011

If Menard did bring out caution to help teammate, it wouldn't be the first time

An interesting discussion was launched last week after a Paul Menard caution in part allowed teammate Kevin Harvick to win the race.

Jeff Gordon hinted something sounded fishy, and NASCAR is looking into the matter (though I doubt anything will come of it). Still, it raises an interesting point: Do teams sometimes fudge the rules to help their fellow drivers?
The answer, of course, is yes. Sometimes it is very public – as it was in the Formula 1 series a few years back when Nelson Piquet Jr. (now a NASCAR truck series driver, incidentally) was told by his team to wreck so his teammate could have a better shot at winning. In that case, a hefty punishment was handed down, but in the NASCAR ranks I’m pretty sure it’s not an uncommon occurrence.

If I would go back in time and research it, I’m guessing there’s quite a few times that a teammate has brought out a caution that has benefitted someone up front.
The rub, of course, is that you can’t really prove why someone spun, which is why the Menard incident is mostly all hype and nothing will happen to the RCR team as a result. Unless you hear the team say it, they can’t be punished.

Even Gordon was a bit cautious with his criticism a week later, but still had doubts about the incident.
“I’m not saying anything happened, I’m just saying that I was asked questions about what happened and when I heard about the radio communication, it sounded odd to me. Obviously, it did to others as well because they are looking into it. It’s just something that NASCAR can deal with and we are ready to come here and focus on this race and do everything we can to win this championship.”

Gordon said teammates should be able to help each other, but usually that’s done off the track via information gathering, not during the race – though he did admit that the line isn’t exact.
“Most of the time when we think about that, it’s trying to gather information for setups to make the car go faster. We don’t think of that as what can we do on the race track to benefit where it alters the finish of a race,” Gordon said. “Who knows what measure you’ll take. We want to win.”

Other drivers had takes on the topic, including Ryan Newman – who did not approve of such team strategy on the track that could alter race results.
“That’s putting me on the spot. But one time I had a tire that went down and the smart thing to do was to spin it out and that benefitted me at the same time but it was the safest thing to do,” Newman said. “I think everybody has always contemplated it at different times. NASCAR, at places like Richmond, you’ve seen them penalize guys for stopping on the race track; causing the caution, even if they don’t spin out. There’s times when guys spin out and just wait for the caution. So, I know the situation you’re talking about and there’s a lot of question about it. But I will definitely say that when you’re having a bad day and the way this sport works with teammates, there are times when you think about it and it’s never the right thing to do.”

So am I offended by what Menard possibly did to help his teammate? Maybe a little, but
I am also not naïve, and I can say with certainty that if he did go to some secret channel and get secret orders to bring out the caution, it wasn’t the first time such team actions have altered a race – and it won’t be the win.

Like Gordon said, you want to win.

Vegas odds
Vegas odds are out for the Chase. There’s not much respect for Denny Hamlin, who is a 25-1 longshot. That’s even worse that Dale Jr., who is 20-1. Brad Keselowski is a surprisingly impressive 7-1, and Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson are favorites at 3-1.

When asked if he’s curious about how the Kurt Busch/Jimmie Johnson battle plays out if it continues, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said:
“I have no curiosity to see how that plays out. It bores the s***t out of me to be honest. It’s probably exciting to you guys; but, I’m concerned about my championship run and what I can do to be as good as I need to be. I’ve got my own damn problems to worry about. Not very interesting. Sorry.”

You tell em, Jr.

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