The Politics of Drafting

Trevor Bayne (Driver of the #21 Wood Brothers Ford) had a wild race, one that was especially weird considering his fourth-place qualifying spot. Bayne was sort of a free agent in the tandem drafting pool.

Apparently Ford drivers in NASCAR’s top series were forced to work under directions from those higher powers which manage the manufacturing of the racecars that discouraged them from drafting with Chase contenders in other manufacturer camps.  (That means that if you drove a Ford at Talladega, you could only draft with another Ford apparently.)  However, Bayne ran much of the day with #7-Robby Gordon (who happens to drive a Dodge).  Bayne wound up in the middle of the upfront drafting pack at the end of the race and was hooked up briefly with #24-Jeff Gordon (He drives a Chevrolet). They had drafted successfully together at Daytona International Speedway in February as Bayne won the Daytona 500. Unfortunately, this time Bayne broke away from Gordon in the closing miles (due to pressure from the team that he had to draft with another Ford.)  After the race Bayne tweeted on his Twitter account that he wasn’t pleased with the way the race concluded. “I’m not happy about what this has become,” Bayne wrote. “It’s too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around. I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell [Gordon] I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing.”

Gordon finished 27th.(Ford Racing)

Jamie Allison, who oversees Ford’s motorsports program in North America, was on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Tradin Paint” show on Monday afternoon and discussed the issue of if Ford ordered its teams not to work with any other manufacturers at Talladega this past weekend in light of Trevor Bayne leaving Jeff Gordon late in that race and Tony Stewart saying he could not work with David Gilliland because of orders.
Here’s what Allison said to the question of if he or Ford ordered its teams not to work with anyone else: “We don’t have orders per se.  (That means they did) That’s how we work with these teams. These are independent teams that choose an affiliate with us as a manufacturer. We have a lot of respect and mutual agreements. We discuss many strategies. We don’t mandate. We don’t issue orders. I can tell you at the start of the Chase, we reached out to all the Ford teams, I personally did, along with my team and basically said, “Hey, thank you for affiliating with Ford Motor Company. We’re very proud of everybody. Hey, these are special times for us. If an opportunity presents itself where you can help a Ford teammate, just please be aware and try to help out. It was just an outreach, a consideration, just be aware that we’re in the Chase and we’re all part of the big Ford family. No orders. None of what you have been reading around this big plan or big orders. It’s none of that. I can tell you guys, it’s been a very, very tough and long and hard-fought season. It’s been on merit. We’ve earned all the wins. I wish we could count the almost-wins. It’s not just in Cup. You look at Nationwide. We have a strong, strong lead with Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.). We’ve got the manufacturer’s championship that we’re contending with there. It’s a strong, strong year. It’s all because of good preparation, good teamwork and a lot of great teams. We just are reaching out and helping the fellow teammates.”(Virginian Pilot)(10-25-2011)

Source: www.jayski.com aside from sarcastic parenthetical references from myself throughout this edited version of the article.

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I’m going to have to agree with Trevor on this one.  Whether or not he was bullied into “only helping out his own kind.”  I think he still should have been allowed to run with whoever he could at the end.  It’s really the only thing that would make sense to me if I were in that situation.  I watched and all race long guys had certain partnerships that they wanted to keep going throughout the race because they trusted each other…but is it worth backing up 10 spots to pick up your buddy when you could get run over from behind?  And another question, Is your buddy really going to be there for you all the way through? As illustrated by the unfortunately ill fated drafting partnership of Regan Smith and Kurt Busch.  Busch would drop back to pick up Smith on restarts and then when Bobby Labonte spun out in front of Smith, Smith dove for cover leaving Busch to run head first into Labonte.  Smith would then wreck later.

Back to the Bayne issue.  He had the chance to draft with Jeff Gordon…one of the best at it and he was apparently bullied out of it to draft with a weaker Ford driver, thus abandoning Gordon.  Imagine how much better both of their finishes could have been if Bayne and Gordon were allowed to stay together and draft towards the front.  Oh well, orders are orders.  Sometimes it pays to not follow the “rules.”

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