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Teammates could play deciding role in Chase finale…for better or worse

By admin | November 17, 2010

By Richard Allen

NASCAR racing has never been quite as team oriented as Formula 1 where one teammate may be asked to pull over and allow another teammate to win a race. However, teammates do indeed play a role in stock car racing.

In NASCAR team assistance can be as subtle as allowing a fellow driver to squeeze back into the draft at Talladega or as obvious as slowing down to let a teammate lead a lap for the bonus points. So, with one of the closest championship battles in history coming down to the wire in this weekend’s race in Homestead, what role might teammates play in determining the 2010 champion?

Don’t be surprised if one of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers allows Denny Hamlin to lead a lap in the early stages of the Ford 400 or if one of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers does not contest Jimmie Johnson too much if Johnson’s car is not handling very well in the middle section of the event.

But in an odd way, the three drivers who are contesting the Sprint Cup championship may have less help from teammates than one might expect in such a trying situation.

Earlier this year, Johnson and fellow HMS driver Jeff Gordon had a well publicized spat in which Gordon openly suggested that Johnson wanted special favors from his mates on the track but did not necessarily want to return said favors. There were even a couple of bumps and scrapes exchanged between the two four-time champions during a couple of races.

And keep in mind that Gordon’s car will be pitted by the same crew benched during the recent Texas race by Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus. Think there might be some motivation of the former #48 guys to prove they were wrongly cast aside?

During this year’s Sprint All Star Race, Kyle Busch was so upset with Hamlin that he went into the #11 team’s hauler so that the two could “discuss” the matter of an on track dust up.

Kevin Harvick has also had his share of disagreements with both of his Richard Childress Racing teammates. He has had on track tussles with Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer over the course of their time together as partners. And like Johnson, Harvick exchanged pit crews in the midst of the Chase when his crew was sent to the #33 team and that crew was sent to him. Again, think there might be some extra motivation there?

This is not to say that any driver will intentionally sabotage the championship efforts of his teammates. However, could it be that one of these teammates might not help as much as he could?

Having teammates could be beneficial to Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick this Sunday in south Florida but it could also work in the other direction. A position given here or taken there, a case of boxing someone else in on pit road or not, or a case of racing another driver harder than would normally be the case in the early stages of the race could make the difference in a teammate gaining or losing an extra position. And one position could make all the difference.

So, how cooperative are these teammates going to be in the 2010 season finale?

The family motto of the Corleone family of ‘The Godfather’ movies was, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” On Sunday in Homestead, it may be difficult knowing which is which for the three title Chasers.

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2 Responses to “Teammates could play deciding role in Chase finale…for better or worse”

  1. midasmicah Says:
    November 18th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    What really puts my teeth on edge is that Harvick’s and Johnson’s pit crews were good enough to get them in position to win the championship. Harvick’s constant berating of his pit crews is well documented. I’ll bet you the swapping of crews po’d the crew that got him to the dance. Look how well Bowyer has been running. And Johnson’s scaveging of Gordon’s pit crew was disgusting as it was right in the middle of the race. That’s humiliation personified. I’m rooting for Hamlin even though I’m not a toyota fan. It’s the principal of the whole thing

  2. Jesse Says:
    November 18th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Too bad Bill Davis and the special fuel that Waltrip racing was using is not in the final race, oh they are I forgot Davis was involved with Toyota even though Dodge was suppling the money and Waltrip (OJ Simpson) never found the person who put the special fuel in.