When should a driver play the good teammate role and when should he look out for number one, a.k.a. himself? NASCAR, and most other forms of motorsports, for that matter, present that kind of issue more so than any other team sport. When it comes to stick-and-ball sports, one team competes against another team, so the role of players and teammates are much more clear. But in motorsports, teammates are also competing against each other on race day, not just drivers on other teams.
Ever since team owners like Junior Johnson and Rick Hendrick developed multi-car race teams in NASCAR several years ago, that’s an issue that drivers have had to answer. The reason I bring this up now is that since Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has been bashed via Twitter and other social media outlets for being a bad teammate to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior Nation (the collective name for Earnhardt’s legion of fans) think that Johnson, while leading the race, should have slowed to keep Earnhardt from going a lap down when a caution came out during the Martinsville race. Was Johnson’s action of not slowing down an example of being a bad teammate?
While he could have slowed to not put Earnhardt a lap down, that move would’ve probably been to his own detriment. If he had slowed, he wouldn’t have been maintaining caution speed, and as a result, could’ve been penalized by NASCAR. And even if NASCAR didn’t penalize him, someone else could’ve passed him for the lead, which would have been permissable if Johnson was declared as not keeping up with the speed he sould have during the caution.
That was the case Johnson made for himself. But then again, the caution had just come out and the pace car had yet to pick up the field, so wouldn’t NASCAR revert back to the last scoring loop? That would’ve ensured that Johnson would still be in the lead. I think the caution speed rule pertains to after things have settled down and the pace car has picked up the field.
Still, it begs the following question:
So when does looking out for teammates end and going after the win begin? I say teammate rule applies when at the shop, in practice, sharing notes in the garage and maybe even sharing info. during qualifying between a driver who has already qualified and one who hasn’t. But maybe that’s where it should stop, with the exception of maybe drafting at Daytona and Talladega.
I’m not even really all that big of a fan of letting a teammate lead a lap for the bonus point during the race, if we’re being really honest here.
I don’t want to come off as a Johnson fan here, an Earnhardt fan, or a fan of any other driver for that matter. That’s just the way I see it. When the green flag drops, it should should be every driver for himself (or herself).
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