Opinion: Right of Way

E.Sadler-R.Preece

MRN's Pete Pistone says that NASCAR's Championship 4 race is not just about who will win the title and that others have a right to race for position, too. Here, Elliott Sadler (second from left) takes issue with Ryan Preece's driving tactics after last weekend's XFINITY Series finale. (Photo: Getty Images)

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A curious thing happened during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Some drivers criticized others for doing their job ... you know, like, racing.

Saturday’s XFINITY Series race and Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series main event featured two incidents where championship-eligible drivers took others to task over racing for position.

Elliott Sadler’s quest to run down JR Motorsports teammate William Byron got bogged down when the veteran encountered the car of Ryan Preece, who was running in third place and trying to get Joe Gibbs Racing the owners title with a good finish. Unfortunately for Sadler, he couldn’t get by the youngster, at one point making contact, and the scuffle allowed Byron to get away and clinch the crown.

An upset Sadler confronted Preece on pit road after the race and once he got into the media center, went from angry to beyond frustrated.

"If (Preece) would have let us go and let us race, we would have won the championship. The (Penske car) was half a lap ahead," Sadler said of the contention that Preece was racing for the owners title. "Let us race fair and square. Don't become part of the outcome."

While Sadler’s view, given the circumstances, is understandable, the idea that anyone other than drivers many laps down should get out of the way for any reason goes against the grain of racing.

The same situation bubbled up in Sunday’s Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400, this time with Kyle Busch trying to catch Martin Truex Jr. in the waning laps. But Busch had Joey Logano in his way and the two raced side-by-side for several laps for the position inside the top five. Busch finally cleared Logano but was unable to get to Truex, ultimately finishing second in the race and championship.

"Battling with the '22' (Logano) there," Busch said. "Wasting too much time with him. He held me up. I was trying to get by him and just overworked everything. He was there blocking every chance he got, so I've got a real buddy there, but that’s racing. That’s what happens.”

Busch’s assessment is off-base. Logano had every right to race as hard as he could to get the best possible finish in a year that's been a disappointment. I’ll leave out the punch thrown by Busch at Logano way back at Las Vegas this spring, a time when he wasn’t necessarily acting like “a real buddy” to the Team Penske driver.

The unique concept of NASCAR’s championship is the drivers who compete for the title must do so within the parameters of a 400-mile race. That equates to navigating their way through the challenges that come with racing at the sport's highest level. It also means that the other drivers who no longer harbor championship aspirations have every right to every spot on track.

The championship drivers do deserve respect and nobody wants to be the fly in the ointment. But expecting others to simply pull over or aside, especially such as the cases of both Preece and Logano when a top finish was possible, is unacceptable.

Fans pay to watch drivers race. Even in the championship event, that means all drivers.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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