Jeff Gordon was left frustrated by a last-minute call for rival Trevor Bayne (LEFT), who left him alone in the draft ahead of the final lap of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega.
The four-time Cup champion had been working with Hendrick teammate Mark Martin for the whole race but the incident that caused the final caution involved Martin and meant Gordon was left looking for a new drafting partner for the two-lap sprint to the finish. Gordon said he agreed during the caution to work with Daytona 500 winner Bayne, but the 20-year-old suddenly stopped pushing him and changed lanes as his Ford colleague Matt Kenseth came up behind.
There was reportedly an agreement between Ford teams to not push other manufacturers' cars during the race, but Gordon and Bayne had been good drafting partners earlier this year at Daytona. In the end, what could have been a good finish for Gordon turned into a 27th place as he dropped down the order without anyone pushing him.
"Well, I just find it odd," said Gordon. "We talked on the radio a good bit and agreed that he was going to push me. I came on there and I said, 'Hey, what's your deal? You got anybody you're working with?' And he said, 'No, man, I'm pushing you.' And I went off my radio and talked to my guys and went back to his radio and we talked through it and he said, 'Yep, yep, yep.'
"So, Trevor came over to me [after the race in the garage] and said, 'Hey, it wasn't me; it wasn't me. That's what I'm being told to do.' But I'm surprised that somebody didn't come back over [the radio].
"I just think it could have been handled better. If somebody is going to screw you, you'd like them to say it to your face, you know? Or, at least on the radio. I would have been fine with that but I'm sorry; I would have been totally fine with that and understood."
Gordon added: "Politics play out sometimes. He feels terrible about it. Listen, at that point you work with anybody that you can when you lose your partner then you're desperate to find somebody. I was going to go with the 13 [Casey Mears] but Trevor lined up behind me and when he agreed to it and I said, 'Hey, we can't go with a better person than that.'
"He's got a fast racecar; we already have history of working well together and I thought it was a no-brainer. But I probably should have known better."
Bayne posted on Twitter that he did not like being forced to work with certain cars only and having to leave Gordon despite agreeing to push him to the checkered flag.
"I'm not happy about what this has become...it's too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around," Bayne wrote. "That's why I'm so sick about all this. I won't race restrictor plate races next year before I'm put in that situation."
Bayne finished the race in 15th while Kenseth was 18th, a result that allowed the latter to move up to second in the Chase standings behind his Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards.