Following Sunday’s Daytona 500, Joey Logano and Michael McDowell had a brief exchange on pit road where Logano explained that he believed that had the two linked up, Ford driver to fellow Ford driver, they could have contended for the win instead of Logano finishing fourth and McDowell finishing fifth.
“Typically you kind of expect manufacturers to work together like the Toyotas do or the Chevys do, and just was expecting that, as well, in that moment coming to the checkered flag. I was very surprised by his decision,” said Logano. But according to McDowell, not only did he feel that Logano would have slowed them down due to damage on his rear end, he was adamant that he had to look out for himself in the final run to the finish.
“My team doesn’t pay me to push Joey Logano to the win, it’s as simple as that,” said McDowell. “At 200 mph, I made a split-second decision about who had the fastest car, and that’s where I went. I wanted to put myself in the best spot to win the race, and the Fords weren’t that friendly to me this weekend.”
Although manufacturer solidarity is usually prevalent on the superspeedways as well as other situations when in the hunt for a manufacturer’s championship, sometimes it’s been shown to be a liability for drivers in search of a win, especially in the case of McDowell, who has never won a Cup race in 286 starts. This is in comparison to Logano, who along with winning the 2015 500, also won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship last season.
Late in the going of any race, it should always be every driver for themselves regardless of team or manufacturer loyalty. Sure, it may be a few extra bucks in bonuses after the race should a manufacturer sweep a position, but putting manufacturer goals ahead of driver goals essentially robs the the fans and the drivers who are participating. Last October at Talladega the race was dominated by the Stewart-Haas Racing Fords, who at times were several seconds ahead of the rest of the field before SHR driver Aric Almirola took the checkered flag.
Of course, in terms of team loyalty, it’s common and in some cases expected for Hendrick Motorsports drivers to help each other out or for Team Penske drivers to give each other a push. Given the circumstances surrounding the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas entering this year’s Daytona 500, it’s only fitting that they finished 1-2-3 at the checkered flag.
But when it counts late in the going, the overall goal is for a driver to go for the win regardless of team loyalties. Even then, manufacturer loyalties shouldn’t have as much clout as team loyalties, because much like the Owner’s Championship, the Manufacturer’s Championship is nothing more than a paper title in order to get a few extra bucks.
Obviously a few extra bucks goes a long way in an organization’s daily operations, but when the goal of racing becomes more of a battle for cash instead of the ultimate battle for a win, then it’s obvious that the racing isn’t fun anymore.
McDowell’s point was valid and true: His team doesn’t pay him to push Logano or any other Ford driver to the win. He’s there to race and succeed, which is and should be the ultimate goal of any race car driver.