Jeff Gordon has to consider 13 is lucky number, at least in 2013. After all, on Friday the 13th, it was announced he was being added to NASCAR's Chase, as the 13th driver.
This caps a week of unprecedented statements and actions on NASCAR's part. First, of course, was the assessed penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for interfering with the race result at Richmond, a move that dropped Martin Truex, Jr., out of the Chase and put Ryan Newman in.
No sooner had the dust settled on that announcement, mid-week, when petitions from fans (and others?) who thought NASCAR hadn't gone far enough by not addressing the situation that bumped Jeff Gordon from the Chase. The specifics there were that one of Penske's drivers, David Gilliland slowed way down and made an extra trip or two down pit lane, in order to bump another Penske driver, Joey Logano, up the order, thus gaining enough points to make the Chase ahead of Gordon.
NASCAR apparently believed this was done on purpose and didn't like it enough to add Gordon to the Chase, though they didn't remove Logano. In addition, over the weekend, the suits held a closed-door meeting with all drivers/teams, then brief the media on the details. The gist of it was that drivers and teams had better drive to win and not try to manipulate race or championship outcomes.
The response on Twitter was swift, at least from the media, with jokes about the 100% effort rule being applied to journalists, anthem singers, and so forth. One reporter noted the irony of a major sporting organization calling a meeting to tell its participants they should be trying hard to win at all times....
Which is true, if a bit exaggerated. I'm not sure if I agree with every decision NASCAR made, but I am glad they did something. Personally, I'm OK with team orders where you let your teammate pass you on the track, even if for position or a win, if he or she is right there behind you. I don't like it a lot, but I'm OK with that. Because at that point, it's only affecting you (well, and maybe the bettors), even if it's affecting the positions in the race or the points for the championship.
But affecting the whole field through a spin (Bowyer for Truex, Jr.) or dropping a couple laps in order to let your teammate catch up (Gilliland for Logano), to squeak the one or two points that gets him into the Chase? I'm not down with that either.
So what do you think? How far is too far for team orders? And were the punishment and outcomes NASCAR doled out fair?
(Photo from www.nascar.com.)