Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Friday October 28, 2011
“Jack can be pretty blunt,” said David Ragan last Saturday speaking of Roush Fenway Racing owner, Jack Roush. Oh yeah? Well so can I (and usually am in this column!)
I hate Fords! Have most of my adult life. Why? Not because I’m some fanatic about Chevy, but because every Ford I have owned in my adult life has been nothing but a pain in the butt POS! As I’ve written before, I vowed long ago never to have a Ford, titled in my name, sitting in my driveway ever again. Well, maybe….but it better be from the early 70’s or older!
On the other hand, again as you probably know if you’ve read this column for any length of time, my favorite NASCAR drivers are Dale Jarrett and Carl Edwards, both of which have driven a Ford for nearly, if not all of their careers. Point being, when it comes to racing, I don’t blindly throw my loyalties out there, least of all for a manufacturer. I root for the man, not the car. At any rate, trust me when I say, had the recent allegations of Ford itself issuing orders that only cars of that ilk could play together during ANY NASCAR race, been made by ANY manufacturer, their name would be in the headline. I don’t play favorites when it comes to cars.
While the exact date that the alleged ‘orders’ were given remains a bit of a mystery, it was beginning to leak out as early as last Friday’s practice session.
“I’ve kind of heard the Ford guys are kind of being told they have to stay with Ford guys,” said Tony Stewart when he wasn’t tandem drafting with David Gilliland as they have in the past. Gilliland drives a Ford for Front Row Motorsports.
On Sunday it was reported by The Sporting News that “The dictum of Ford drivers helping only other Ford drivers in Sunday’s race came from Ford Racing brass and team owner Jack Roush during a meeting early in the week.”
“Yeah, we aren’t,” Gilliland said. “It’s such a tight points battle right now, and we’re going to try to help the Ford guys out all we can.”
After the race and perhaps, as they say, ‘from the mouths of babes’, young Trevor Bayne tweeted his displeasure. “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.”
Immediately, Ford and Roush started the damage control statements that would make any politician proud.
“We don’t have orders per se,” said Jamie Allison, who oversees Ford’s motorsports program in North America. “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 realize that quote may be a bit long but I put it all in there solely because, after reading it, I realized that it sounded remarkably like something Brian France would say, albeit Allison said it marginally more eloquently. Look for Allison to one day be sitting behind a desk in NASCAR’s Ivory Tower!
Jack’s attempt at an explanation is almost as good.
“At Roush Fenway Racing we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race. That is a philosophy that we have lived by for over two decades, and one that we will continue to abide by going forward. Of course, as in any team, we would prefer for our drivers to work together when possible. However, to be clear, we did not micromanage or dictate to any of our drivers, nor any other Ford drivers, how to race with other drivers at Talladega last Sunday. There are unique codes that all drivers establish and have to live by on the track. How they manage their code is up to our drivers as individuals.”
“This weekend, there were no team orders, from myself or anyone at Roush Fenway, given to any of our drivers as to whom they could or could not choose to run with or assist, nor did I give similar directions or suggestion to any of the other Ford drivers. I’ve spoken with Trevor (Bayne) and understand that he was put in a situation requiring a split-second decision on the track and in his response to questions justifying his actions afterwards, where it was almost certain that not everyone was going to be satisfied. Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy. I’m confident in his decision making, his ability and actions on the track, and I’m excited as we continue to move forward with his development.”
Oh, really!? Perhaps David Ragan and Trevor Bayne misunderstood. Perhaps in the future Jack needs to be more blunt!
At any rate, the whole point is this: Any time a person or – and perhaps ESPECIALLY a manufacturer – makes an attempt to alter the outcome of a race by issuing orders, orders that would result in consequences I’m sure (if not then they’re not really orders now are they?), if not followed by lesser than RFR teams, it makes a total mockery of the sanctioning body and of racing itself.
Were orders really given? I guess it is up to you to decide if you’re going to believe the drivers or the ‘politicians’ of the sport. I choose to believe the orders were in fact real.
As for bluntness, how’s this…If Brian France had any balls, he’d be on the phone directly and inform ALL the manufacturers that, going forward, there better not even be a hint of this type of thing. His daddy and granddaddy would have!
Stay off the wall (walls are pretty blunt!)
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