Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart feels your pain.
Stewart said at a fan question and answer session on Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame that Paul Menard was instructed not to push him to the win after the final restart of Sunday's race at Talladega.
"Somebody heard (Menard) change to a different channel and heard that conversation in the trailer on a scanner," Stewart said. "So it was really disappointing to hear something like that from an organization like (RCR)."
During the post-race press conference, Richard Childress said that he instructed Menard to push Stewart and try to win the race over the final two laps.
Stewart and Menard had found themselves as drafting partners when each lost a teammate to a crash. Stewart was pushing Ryan Newman when Newman spun into the grass and damaged his splitter and Menard narrowly escaped the crash that took out Kevin Harvick when he was pushing Harvick.
But what makes Stewart/Menard situation even more interesting is the fact that Stewart professed loyalty to Menard on the final restart to none other than Gordon himself. While the field was under caution, Gordon came over Stewart's radio and asked Smoke if he needed a drafting partner. Stewart said that he had been working with Menard, and that he was going to stick with him.
Gordon ended up having an agreement with Trevor Bayne and we all know how that worked out.
And the loyalty Stewart expressed was nice in this case and hindsight is 20/20, but he already knew first-hand how politics had plagued Sunday's race on Friday. During his press conference Friday, Stewart said that he was looking for another drafting partner (his drafting partner, David Gilliland, drives a Ford) as he understood the Fords had been instructed to stick together. Plus, Stewart had worked well with Joey Logano and his battered car throughout the middle of the race, but Logano left Stewart to help push Denny Hamlin with about 30 laps to go.
With Gordon in Hendrick equipment, the same stuff that Stewart gets for his own team, the odds of getting hung out to dry were minimal. (Over his radio after the race, Stewart blamed himself for a poor restart that prevented he and Menard from hooking up immediately.)
This is now the second team orders accusation that has been levied against Menard, who spun late in the Richmond race, leading some, including Gordon, to believe that he was instructed to spin by RCR officials. Harvick went on to win the race.
So... what have we learned from all of this? It's that you probably shouldn't trust anyone who isn't your teammate at a restrictor plate race. There may be less drama on this season of Glee than we'll see at Daytona in February.
- Tony Stewart
- Paul Menard
- Jeff Gordon