TEAM ORDERS

So it is that at last month’s Auto Club Finals, four Funny Car racers came into the event with a somewhat chance of the championship; Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan and with an outside chance, John Force. Truth is that my feel good choice was to have Force score his 17th championship; didn’t happen as we all know now. However, Force did play somewhat of a spoiler role.

And please… let me make this clear before it gets taken the wrong way. I am in no uncertain terms insinuating that any of the below named drivers or teams have ever done anything which may or may not have changed the outcome of a race. I have no information to the contrary and don’t wish to even find any. That’s between them and their Maker, no one else. Enough of the disclaimer.

Through some serendipitous qualifying, Hight and his boss Force were to face off in the first round of eliminations. If Hight loses, his chance at the championship is done. Between the two, Hight did have the best chance of winning the crown in no small part to his points total at the time. Maybe some of that played in Force’s mind, but Force was somewhat late off the line and then smoked the tires at around the 330’ mark to advance Hight. Some have mentioned “taking a dive.”

Stay with me on this… A number of years ago, coming into the final race to advance into the Countdown, Hight was on the outside of the cut line. He and Force face off at some point in eliminations (I don’t remember when) and Force somehow gets crossed up to advance Hight which eventually advanced Hight into the Countdown.

In Pro Stock at the Dallas race this year, Greg Anderson had an outside chance for the championship, although teammate Jason Line was in a better position. More unanticipated qualifying and Anderson and Line have to face each other in the first round. Anderson defeats Line then, which ends Line’s day and the chance to score any much needed points. Anderson went on to win the Dallas event but it’s unclear had Line gone on in eliminations earning points, would the championship battle; which went to Erica Enders; been different?

Back to the Finals, and it seems like some are up in arms with Anderson playing the ladder game to qualify in a position so as to race Enders; in effect helping his teammate Line. By now we all know it worked perfectly except for losing by 0.004 to her in the first round. Defeating her might have changed the outcome of the championship.

But the question in all of this is: Why are people up in arms over this? It’s called teamwork which according to Wikipedia is: the collaborative effort of a group to achieve a common goal.

Isn’t that exactly what the above named racers may or may not have done?

I’m sure this instance has happened in sportsman/bracket racing as well. I have never raced either my son or daughter in eliminations and I really hope I never do. Not because I’m scared of them, but because I might have to make a decision. A number of years ago, my son was up there in divisional points. We both happened to be racing and I noticed on the ladder there might come a round where we’d have to face off. In my head, I had already made the decision to give the race to him as he was doing better in points than I was. Thankfully, it didn’t come to pass and as a side note, I think he went on to win the event.

Now certainly there are some teams when faced with having to race one another, will do so in an upfront, flat out manner; racing for the win regardless of what’s on the line. That’s admirable. And for the sake of the “show,” no one wants to see someone “take a dive.” For me, I truly don’t have a problem with that. It is after all, what teamwork is about. It’s certainly done in other forms of sports. How many times in baseball do you see a batter attempt a bunt in which he knows he’ll probably be thrown out at first base, only to advance a runner; his teammate; to another base? Closer to our “home” (if you will), many times in NASCAR you’ll hear of teammates working together to advance one or the other. Of course, when it does come down to the final lap, it’s every man for himself. That’s beside the point though.

I read a quote the other day from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar which said, “Great players are willing to give up their own personal achievement for the achievement of the group. It enhances everybody.”

Of course, maybe the opposite is Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

That said, if Funny Car drivers Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan wish to race each other flat-out, regardless of either one of them being in a position for a championship, that’s a pretty admirable thing to do. Do I think less of either one of them; or even the team as a whole; that they could have used the team aspect for the achievement of the group? No! Nor do I think any less of any one “team” driver helping his teammate advance as part of the achievement of the group.

Then… Who am I to talk? -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO