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Head2Head: Do lap-down cars owe more respect to leaders?

April 16, 2012, ,

The past couple weeks, he focus in the closing laps of the Cup Series races has shifted to those a lap or more down playing a role in the finish of the race. At Martinsville, it was David Reutimann not pulling off the track with mechanical issues; at Texas it was Ryan Newman, a lap down, racing leader Jimmie Johnson hard with 30 to go, costing Johnson the victory.

Do lap-down cars owe the leaders more respect?


Before everyone gets all in a tizzy about Jimmie Johnson's post-race comments following his runner-up finish at Texas, let's admit one thing: Ryan Newman had no shot at winning that race. Or even, really, finishing on the lead lap.

Listen to Johnson's point in his post-race interview: "My issue was with the 39 [Newman], when I got inside of him. He was already a lap down and proceeded to race me and cost me the lead."

Sure, Newman was trying to stay one lap down. But he still would have finished the ninth car one lap down instead of the first car two laps down. At some point, you have to realize what you're working with, find out who you're racing for position, and let the rest of it go. At Texas, with about 30 laps to go, that was that time.

Johnson led 156 laps on the night, and was in front of Greg Biffle. But then Newman decided to try to save some shred of dignity, assuming the "333" in the laps column would look better. Two cars racing side-by-side allow those behind them to catch up more easily.

And so Biffle did. When he passed Johnson for the lead, all the five-time champion could think was how Newman had cost him a shot at the victory. It wasn't all Newman's fault, but when you're already nearly two laps down, there's no need to make yourself part of the story. Race those you're actually racing with, and let the leaders do the same.

Jill Erwin, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

There is a lot of whining and belly-aching taking place in the Cup Series, and it has to do with that word no one can really define: "respect."

David Reutimann is still being criticized for not pulling off the track in Martinsville and is being blamed for an accident his car was nowhere near. This past weekend, Jimmie Johnson all but blamed Ryan Newman for the fact Greg Biffle passed Johnson for the lead with 30 to go.

What is the number one goal of all 43 drivers on the track -- complete as many laps as possible and finish the best they possibly can. Yet, apparently when it jacks up a Hendrick party in Victory Lane, the new rule is stay out of the way.

My question is, if you're a lap down are you supposed to just go to the garage?

I get so tired of all the complaining. There are so many things that happen during a race, to call out one instance as the reason a driver won or lost is ridiculous. Here's a thought -- maybe NASCAR needs to implement a new rule that with 25 laps to, all lap-down cars just pull off the track. That would fix this "respect" problem we have on the track.

You laugh at how ludicrous it sounds, yet those who don't just move over and give up get criticized. This is racing, folks ... not tea and crumpets. These guys get paid to put up the best finish they can -- let's not condemn them when they try to.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

The word "respect" is thrown about almost every race weekend and the question is, is respect a problem? Do those a lap-down owe more to those who are on the lead lap? Bill Kimm and Jill Erwin have their thoughts. Read their opinions and weigh in with your own in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.