By admin | October 13, 2011
By Richard Allen
Kevin Harvick has been the only driver for Richard Childress Racing to be seriously in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2011. And it seems as though the RCR organization has adopted a policy of “All for one, and…well, all for one.”
This past Sunday in Kansas, as the series appeared to be on pace for yet another fuel mileage stretch run in the latter stages of the Hollywood Casino 400, Harvick’s car received a push under caution as his team’s calculator readings flirted with that mythical ‘window’ of having enough gas to make the finish. The assistance allowed the driver of the #29 Chevrolet to shut his engine off and conserve the most possible fuel under the yellow flag.
Technically, the car pushing Harvick, driven by Austin Dillon, was not from the RCR stable. However, Dillon is the grandson of Childress, which made him a pseudo teammate to the RCR cars.
There is no official rule against such a practice as long as it does not occur on the last lap. But, it smacks of the type of team orders behavior that has come under great criticism and scrutiny in Formula 1 and other forms of racing.
NASCAR did issue a radio warning to the RCR team to stop employing the push during the caution in question.
My reasoning for singling out the RCR cars, even though other teams have likely done the same thing, is that they have used this same strategy before. In May’s running of the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, Harvick received a similar push from teammate Paul Menard, who was multiple laps behind in the event. That proved to be the move that would allow Harvick to win as he passed the fuel starved car of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just yards from the finish line.
NASCAR needs to officially eliminate all pushing of cars under caution unless it is to assist an ailing car to the pits, no matter what the lap. And, that action needs to be taken immediately with the Chase for the Championship currently underway. No way should a title be determined by a driver making it to the finish because of getting a push by a non-Chase teammate under caution.
With so many races coming down to fuel mileage stretches, the winner does not ever need to be determined by the fact that one driver happened to have a teammate who was laps down while the others did not.
That particular practice could be easily monitored and regulated. Any car receiving a push under the yellow flag must report to pit road, and thus, be made to restart from the tail of the field.
Something that would be much more difficult to regulate would be the possibility of team orders being issued to allow the title contenders within a particular organization to finish ahead of those team members not in contention, and thus, maximize point collection.
Unless there is a ‘smoking gun’ in the way of a damning radio transmission, it would almost be impossible to know if a teammate laid over intentionally or not. But if such a thing does start to be perceived, it will be bad for the sport. It brings into question the legitimacy of the outcome of races and championships.
With all the multi-car teams involved in NASCAR racing today, and not just that of Richard Childress Racing, the temptation to offer a little extra help to that fellow organization mate who is in contention could be great.
With other reasons, such as phantom debris cautions, causing NASCAR to be questioned, team orders would be more than a little detrimental to the sport.
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