Team orders put NASCAR into disrepute at Talladega

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Talladega, AL (Sports Network) - NASCAR's latest shindig at Talladega Superspeedway turned out to be as big of a political circus as the one in Washington these days. Don't blame NASCAR officials for the latest mess in restrictor-plate racing. Point the finger at the drivers, team owners and car manufacturers this time.

It was neither compromise nor common ground with opposing teams and manufacturers on Sunday at Talladega -- the sixth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. A Chevrolet pairing up with a Ford or visa-versa during the 500-mile race at Talladega was along the lines of Democrats and Republicans agreeing on a political issue. It was out of the question.

Thanks to team orders, finding a partner in NASCAR's latest episode of "Dancing With the Cars" had its limits. And that cost many drivers, including several in the Chase field, an opportunity to win the race...and perhaps a championship.

Jeff Gordon was one of the championship contenders left hanging in the final laps. Gordon, in a Chevrolet, had partnered with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Mark Martin, in a two-car tandem throughout the race, but Martin was one of five drivers caught up in a wreck with eight laps remaining.

Prior to the final restart with two laps to go, Gordon was hoping to tango with Ford driver and Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne. The two had worked well together in previous restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega) this season. But when it came crunch time in this race, Bayne bailed on Gordon and hooked up with Ford driver and title hopeful Matt Kenseth.

"We worked together pretty well in February [Daytona 500]; him pushing me and me pushing him," Gordon said. "But I think everybody knew coming into the weekend, the Fords made it very clear about what they were doing in working with one another and helping one another out and all those things. So I didn't expect him to commit to me on the radio. I expected him to say, 'Man, I'm sorry; I can't.' And when he said, 'Yeah, I'm pushing you; we're good.' I believed him, but I think they had a different plan."
Jeff Gordon finished 27th and saw his hopes of winning a fifth Sprint Cup Series title begin to fade away.

Gordon finished 27th and saw his hopes of winning a fifth Sprint Cup Series title begin to fade away. He is now 82 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

Bayne wound up finishing 15th, four positions ahead of Kenseth.

"Trevor came over to me [after the race in the garage] and said, 'Hey, it wasn't me; it wasn't me. That's what I'm being told to do'," Gordon noted. "But I'm surprised that somebody didn't come back over [the radio]. I just think it could have been handled better.

"If somebody is going to screw you, you'd like them to say it to your face you know? Or at least on the radio. I would have been fine with that."

Bayne had no comment at the track but later responded on his Twitter account.

"I'm not happy about what this has become... It's too premeditated," Bayne tweeted. "We should be able to go with whoever is around [us]."

He also posted on his account, "I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell [Jeff Gordon] I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing."

In what's should be every man for himself in each NASCAR race, restrictor- plate racing has become every team and every manufacturer for itself.

"The plan was that we should stick together as Roush Fenway and as the Ford group and try to help one another as best we can," said Edwards, who partnered with teammate Greg Biffle. "I thought we did a good job with that, and I saw other teams doing the same thing.

"You never know what is going to happen. We didn't think that plan would go through to the end. We thought that some of us would be crashed or have trouble or something like that, and then people would mix up partners and stuff."

It's a shame that politics played a major role in this race. It has no business on the racetrack. And NASCAR needs to address it.

You know who really got screwed the most in this race?

The fans.

"These fans pay a ton of money to watch these races, and we owe it to them to put a show on them from rag to rag," race winner Clint Bowyer said.

Talladega is supposed to be a real barnburner. This time, it was a real bummer.

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