Clint Bowyer claimed the victory at Talladega and Richard Childress Racing captured its 100th Sprint Cup win. The real drama of the race, however, was provided by Trevor Bayne and Jeff Gordon.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”247″][/media-credit]Gordon had been instrumental in Bayne’s surprise win at the Daytona 500 early in the season so the two of them had some history working together.
But Gordon probably knew what everyone had been hearing all week. The order had come down from Ford Racing that Fords would only work with Fords.
Still, Gordon had lost his drafting partner and he probably figured it was worth a shot.
So before the last restart of the race Jeff Gordon radioed Bayne and proposed that they work together on the final run.
Gordon didn’t expect him to agree but when Bayne said, ‘Yeah man, I’m pushing you. We’re good,’ Gordon said, “I believed him. But I think they had a different plan.”
Unfortunately, the partnership never really happened. Bayne, who insinuated that he was acting on team orders, left Gordon high and dry. Gordon finished a disappointing 27th and Bayne finished in the 15th position.
Bayne posted on Twitter shortly after the race to explain his actions.
@tbayne21: I’m not happy about what this has become… It’s too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around (us).
@tbayne21: I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell @JeffGordonWeb I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing.
Gordon was understandably upset after the race.
“I was going to go with (Casey Mears),” he said, “but Trevor lined up behind me and when he agreed to it, I said, ‘Hey, we can’t go with a better person than that. He’s got a fast race car; we already have history of working well together’ and I thought it was a no-brainer. But I probably should have known better.”
When Gordon was asked if he thought Bayne was following team orders, he answered, “It would seem to me like that’s it.”
But the story doesn’t end there.
Kevin Woods, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Roush Fenway Racing, was also on twitter following the race attempting a little spin control.
When I questioned him about what happened he indicated that the choice was in Bayne’s hand, quite the opposite of what Bayne had said earlier.
@PRKevinRFR @angiecampbell_ He could do what he needed, but NOBODY is going to hang out a teammate…not Gordon, not anyone…
@PRKevinRFR @angiecampbell_ He made the deal before he knew Matt was going to have an issue. He did exactly what Gordon would have done for the 48,88,5
I’m sure this is not the last we will hear about the matter but it does appear that Roush Fenway Racing is now the one leaving Trevor Bayne high and dry.
Bob Pockrass with SceneDaily.com reported on twitter that Roush Fenway President Steve Newmark had this to say.
“No one at Roush gave a specific instruction to Trevor about what he had to do in that situation.”
The aftermath leaves several questions unanswered and the truth slightly unclear.
Did Ford or Roush Fenway Racing give orders that Fords could only work with Fords or that teammates could only work with teammates?
Was Trevor Bayne specifically told not to work with Jeff Gordon and help a teammate instead?
Do fans really want to see manufacturers racing manufacturers or do they want to see individual drivers racing to win?
Or should the entire situation be blamed on the two car tandem racing that is becoming the norm at restrictor plate race tracks? When a partner is a necessity at these types of races, is it any wonder that the team mentality comes into play?
One thing is certain; NASCAR has some work to do at these types of tracks.
Steve O’Donnell, Senior Vice-President of NASCAR, acknowledged this on twitter saying, “(I) know we have work to do on Superspeedway(s) and we’ll certainly stay after it.”