This will be an easy day to remember. A 13th car is added to this “Chase”. It was announced on Friday the 13th, 2013.
I’ll get to that later. At least in the last 15-20 years, it seems every driver in every interview has mentioned the team and teamwork and the guys back at the shop. There are two recent examples of how that sentiment may be not quite the reality of racing. ( Of course there’s a more recent example of how that teamwork thing can also make a mockery of the sport.)
Tony Stewart – not only team member, but team leader – took his team out of any contention via extracurricular activities. The more curious example is Austin Dillon. As hard as I try, I can’t come up with any justification for his jeopardizing his team’s championship run by driving the 14. There’s no team affiliation such as the 14 has with Hendrick. Mr. Dillon, whose future in Cup is secure, wasn’t making his Cup debut and had nothing to prove, and, by missing qualifying in Nationwide, chose to start from the rear on a road course. Obviously, it wasn’t for the money either. Of course, he’s not out of contention for the Nationwide title (-16), but it would be disheartening – at least to his fellow “team” members – if he loses by just a few points he may have accumulated by standing with his team.
Mr. Stewart, on the other hand, I can understand. He’s certainly thought of as one of the best drivers to ever turn a steering wheel. I don’t think “team player” is one of the first things that come to mind when you hear his name. I could be wrong. I’m not there and I don’t know him. I do know some of the things he’s capable of.
Maybe he and Mr. Dillon will make it all up to their team members. It used to be (and most likely still is) the case that team members would participate in a bonus program each race, and presumably post season, based on winnings. I’m sure they’ll get some compensation based on some formula.
Hold on while I extract my tongue from my cheek.
OK. The other thing is that most team members never get to be on a championship team. And those that do want to do it again. Not this year for the 14, and Mr. Dillon just made it harder for his team. The good news is Mark Martin gets to race more often. Wait. That tongue again.
So back to the 13th driver. I’m ambivalent. I find the chase more compelling with the elder statesman participating, but I’m not sure I’d appreciate MLB adding a wild card team just because they thought they deserved it. If we use that logic, Davey Allison would have been the ’92 Champ. Heck, Martin Truex, Jr., driving with broken bones, earned his way in. He was also the only MWR team member that did nothing wrong. But he’s out. Nascar was in a tough place. They don’t like that. There’s too many permutations to make a perfect decision. However, if they didn’t have a rule book more fluid than the Constitution, they wouldn’t have some of these problems. There are 9 judges to tell us what the Constitution says. There is 1 Supreme to tell us what the Nascar rule book means. As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be king”.
I’m not sure, but I would think the current rules state that 12 cars are in the chase. If that’s the case, they broke their own rule. You want to put someone in, someone has to go. That’s how the 39 got in. Who would that be? The 56? Guilt by association. That leaves the probationary 22 and the quintessential “team player”. The 15.
By Gary Erdakos