© St. Petersburg Times, published November 4, 2002
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- There's no such thing as team orders for the Roush Racing crew. Kurt Busch did not give teammate Mark Martin any help Sunday in Martin's bid for the Winston Cup championship.
Busch and Martin battled for most of the Pop Secret 400, appearing to be the only two cars capable of winning.
With Busch leading, there was debate about whether he should allow Martin to pass, giving him a chance to earn the five-point bonus for leading the most laps and race for the win.
The practice of team orders is sometimes used in Formula One. Martin said there was talk on the radio about it, but the drivers were not involved.
"There was something said, but not between us," Martin said. "I can tell you one thing, when Kurt got ready to go, he blew me off."
Martin eventually passed Busch and led a race-high 144 laps to pick up the bonus. It pulled him within 87 of leader Tony Stewart. However, his car failed inspection after the race, and NASCAR likely will subtract 25 when it announces its fines next week.
Busch led 105 laps and finished third.
MORE ROOKIE STRUGGLES: Jimmie Johnson was eliminated from the championship chase with a 37th-place finish. That put him 219 behind Stewart, too great a margin to overcome with two races left.
Johnson, who has had a handful of freak things happen to slow his tremendous rookie season, had a wheel come loose. He had to make a lengthy stop to fix it and fell 12 laps down.
"That's part of it," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "These guys are under a lot of pressure to do some fast pit stops and that stuff happens. Luck didn't come into play or anything like that.
"Everybody says, 'Oh, bad luck.' Well, it's not bad luck; we did it. You make a lot of your own luck in this sport, and we're making a lot of our own bad luck."
HANK'S FIRST RACE: Hank Parker Jr. was disappointed with his first Winston Cup race after finishing 33rd in a car fielded by Ray Evernham.
Parker, a Busch series regular, said he couldn't accurately describe to his crew the adjustments his Dodge needed over the course of the race, hurting his efforts.
"I'm disappointed not knowing how to adjust the car, but that's something I'm going to learn," he said. "We had to make some decisions, we went the wrong way, and that hurt my finish."
WHO NEEDS A TITLE?: There won't be an official crew chief change for Dale Earnhardt Jr., despite speculation that Tony Eury would be replaced by his son.
Ty Norris, vice president at Dale Earnhardt Inc., said there's been too much focus on titles and that Eury has the same responsibilities he's always had.
Tony Eury Jr. is the car chief, but has some crew chief responsibilities because Earnhardt began speaking exclusively to him about the No. 8 Chevrolet in August.
"There sometimes was confusion with Junior talking to both, so now he only talks to Tony Jr. about the car and it's up to him to take it to his dad ... ," Norris said. "We've just defined the roles of the two Eurys."