Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Amicable Adversaries; in NASCAR, a Little Help from the Competition Goes a Long Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Amicable Adversaries; in NASCAR, a Little Help from the Competition Goes a Long Way

Article excerpt


AVONDALE, Ariz. - The top three drivers in the Chase for the Championship are Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. All three will be looking for an edge in this Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, and that valuable information will come from an unlikely source - each other.

Unlike any other sport, NASCAR not only allows, but covets, the sharing of information in the garage area. If Martin has questions about his racing line, he can ask Johnson or Gordon. If Gordon's team has a problem with its suspension, it can ask for help, too.

Drivers love to make success dependent on their skills, so they're not afraid to give away secrets.

Success in NASCAR usually depends on a little help from your friends.

"There was somebody that helped us out when we first came in," Tony Stewart said. "We all do the same thing for the new guys coming."

Johnson, Martin and Gordon are teammates at Hendrick Motorsports. Their cars and setups are supposed to be available to everyone else in the same shop. But it doesn't stop there. If anyone else from another team has a problem, a solution often is a question away.

When Stewart struggled with his car at Martinsville, Va., last month, he went to Gordon's car and looked it over.

Such openness is uncommon in any other form of racing. In fact, it's not allowed.

In IndyCar racing, teams cover the rear and front wings to keep other teams from seeing how they've been prepared. In Formula One, each team is separated by a closed garage, many that include security.

And drivers aren't willing to share any of their secrets, either.

"It's crazy because in Formula One, if you see somebody doing something wrong, you probably enjoy it and don't help them," said Montoya, a former F1 driver. "You would get a kick out of it. It's great to see that, that people are that open about it. But when you're on the racetrack, it's time for business. That is cool to see."

Few people are questioned more than Mark Martin. He has nearly 30 years of experience in the Cup Series, and he's built a reputation for being a clean racer. …

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