In the closing laps of this past weekend’s IndyCar race in Portland, and interesting scenario developed. Will Power’s Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin was leading the race (50 points), with the Power in second (40 points), and championship rival Scott Dixon in third (35 points).
By swapping positions with McLaughlin, Power would have banked an additional 11 points in his championship quest (IndyCar gives a bonus point for leading a lap). It would extend Power’s points lead from 20 to 31 and have a much better shot at the 2022 IndyCar Series Championship. But, would a driver like Will Power want team orders to help him win a championship?
“Absolutely. I was on the radio asking for team orders. Yeah, 10, 11 points would be great; I think we’d go in there pretty confident that we could get it done. 20? It’s still a big fight.”
Will Power, No. 12 Team Penske
Even perennial championship contender Scott Dixon (Demaras Racing’s least favourite IndyCar driver) saw the ‘switch’ coming. A motorsport.com article even quotes the driver of the No. 8 Chip Ganassi race car as saying:
“I called it with 10 laps to go: ‘…I’m surprised they haven’t swapped yet…’. Honestly, try to help if you can. But situations like today with the No. 3 and the No. 12 , I thought that would have been a no-brainer… “
Scott Dixon, No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing
There’s been so much bad publicity about team orders over the years. But is it really fair? Like back in 2002 at the Austrian Grand Prix where Rubens Barrichello had to give up a win to team leader Michael Schumacher in his championship quest. The team was willing to do anything necessary to help Schumi win the title, and Rubinho’s magnanimous act helped.
When ‘team orders’ were banned, the pit wall would just use codes to instruct their drivers, resulting in the now infamous Scuderia Ferrari instruction to Felipe Massa to give up his position at Hockenheim 2010 to team leader Fernando Alonso in his title quest: Fernando Is Faster Than You.
Veteran racer and Indy 500 winner Power is in his sunset years, Newgarden is already a double champion, and new guy McLaughlin took his third win this season to secure his seat. Swapping positions and giving up the win would have solidified Will Power’s chances of a championship. But it would have also eliminated McLaughlin’s No. 3 from contention, and put Newgarden’s No. 2 a full 31 points out of the lead. Team Penske is balanced right now, so why would risk disturbing the dynamic? To win the championship! That’s why.
Everyone is in favour of ‘fair racing’ and nobody wants to be accused of race fixing or collusion. But there is a chance that Team Penske’s inaction, by not doing everything it could to clinch the championship, could backfire and hand robotic Scott Dixon the Astor Cup… filled with the tears of Will Power fans.
Go Will Power!