Are team orders already becoming a reality?
Team commands are prevalent in other forms of motorsport, but they are prohibited in NASCAR. With teams recently working together to secure victory for one of their drivers, could that change?
The subject of team drives in NASCAR has been controversial, and sometimes lamented, but that doesn’t mean that such drives never existed.
One of the most notable examples in the sport was the infamous ‘spingate’ incident, when Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer purposely turned to manipulate the race and secure his teammate Martin Truex Jr. a place in the race. NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Michael Waltrip Racing ended up being $ 300,000 fine, and their drivers each scored 50 points, knocking Truex out of the chase and reinstating Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing while adding Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports as the 13th seed.
NASCAR then created the “100% rule” which requires every driver and team to run 100% at all times during the race.
Team orders are not exclusive to NASCAR. The FIA, the governing body of Formula 1, banned team controls in 2002, but teams have always found ways around this, therefore the ban was lifted in 2010. Although NASCAR has not lifted the 100% rule, teams recently seem to be pushing their luck.
Last year at Martinsville Speedway in the last race before Championship 4, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones was ordered not to pass teammate Denny Hamlin, being told: âDon’t go over it, Jones. NASCAR ultimately did not impose any penalties on Joe Gibbs Racing and Hamlin advanced to Championship 4.
This year, several races have seen teammates move away from the leading driver so that one of their teammates will eventually catch up with the leader, overtake him and win. The two races at Atlanta Motor Speedway serve as examples.
In March, Team Penske’s Joey Logano took the line away from Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports, which gave teammate Ryan Blaney the victory.
In July, Ross Chastain of Chip Ganassi Racing blocked off Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing to help his teammate (and Busch’s brother) Kurt, who took the win. Kurt even credited Chastain’s decision to make “His work as a teammate”.
In the absence of sanctions for these incidents, similar incidents recurred.
Last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Truck Series saw Kyle Busch Motorsports driver John Hunter Nemechek seemingly allow teammate Christian Eckes to pass as a necessary win to advance into the playoffs.
Nemechek was not very happy with the accusations.
Add to that the Cup Series race, when Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports took the line away from Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing, allowing his teammate Kyle Larson to claim his sixth victory of the year – another case in which the Orders team could be challenged.
Elliott had an argument with Harvick earlier in the race, which certainly played a role, but Elliott admitted he would defend himself and his team. He added that he “Held his line” when it was suggested that it affected the race between Harvick and Larson.
While some have had radio communications to back them up and some have just been examples on the right track, it looks like team orders could happen more often than not in NASCAR since they added a ban. against them. If teams can find ways around the penalty, it will continue to open the door to other situations similar to the ones mentioned.