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Head2Head: Is it OK for team orders to come into play?

October 25, 2011, ,

It was well known within the NASCAR garage that Ford drivers would not be assisting any other manufacturers during the Good Sam Club 500. Yet, just before the final restart, Trevor Bayne in the No. 21 Ford agreed to draft behind Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet, which is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Is it OK for team orders to come into play during a race?


So Jeff Gordon is upset at Trevor Bayne for abandoning him and apparently following team orders not to draft with Gordon during the final two laps of last Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway?

Well, Gordon has every right to be upset. He said after Sunday's race that he asked Bayne before the restart if Bayne would continue drafting with him, and Bayne said yes. Then Bayne didn't, later indicating through his Twitter account that he had been "strong armed" into bailing on the plan apparently because Roush Fenway Racing and Ford Racing officials didn't want him helping the enemy.

Lying is never cool, even though Bayne may have thought he was telling the truth at the time. But the bottom line is that Gordon, who drives the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, should never have expected -- or even requested -- to work with the No. 21 Ford that Bayne was driving for Wood Brothers Racing in the final laps of a race that had huge implications in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Gordon has been around long enough to know better. He has won four championships -- and not by relying on drivers from other teams who are wheeling the cars of competing manufacturers. If anything, Bayne was simply naïve on Sunday. As a Sprint Cup rookie, that's to be expected. But for the veteran Gordon to play naïve as well and not understand what was about to go down in the final laps, that was just dumb.

Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Teammates have always tried to work together in restrictor plate races, as a course of necessity. But when did NASCAR races at Talladega and Daytona become playgrounds for groupthink and bullying?

Trevor Bayne, by all accounts a good young man, gave his word to Jeff Gordon for the final restart Sunday. But Bayne drives a Ford and Gordon's only crime is having a bowtie on the hood. At some point during that restart, assumedly someone from Ford told Bayne to assist Matt Kenseth instead.

So Gordon gets left out to dry -- he eventually finished 27th -- and Bayne is left with a pit in his stomach so large he instantly went to find Gordon and apologize.

"Hey, it wasn't me; it wasn't me. That's what I'm being told to do," Bayne was quoted as saying. Later on Twitter, he posted "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."

Lest you think Gordon was the only one hurt in all this, Bayne restarted ninth. He finished 15th. With Gordon, who knows where he would have finished, and that money would have been helpful for the part-time team of Wood Brothers Racing.

There are already teams in NASCAR who obviously work together for the best finishes. But now, to have a manufacturer step in and tell the drivers who they can and cannot work with for their best possible finish? That's more than a step too far.

Jill Erwin, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

He didn't stay there, however, having been told by someone to instead drop back and pick up fellow Ford Chaser Matt Kenseth. It hurt both Gordon and Bayne, and struck a blow against the individual nature of racing -- outrun every other driver out there. So are team orders OK when there's a championship battle being waged? Joe Menzer and Jill Erwin have their takes on it. Read theirs and weigh in with your own in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.