Jack Roush claims there were no team orders for any Roush Fenway or Ford drivers during last weekend's Chase round at Talladega.
In the closing laps of Sunday's race title contender Jeff Gordon was left alone in the pack despite having agreed to work with Ford racer Trevor Bayne, who switched drafting partners on the final restart to work with Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth.
Although such a move would not necessarily be unusual, controversy was sparked as Ford drivers were reportedly told to avoid tandem drafting with cars from rival manufacturers.
Bayne said in an interview before the race that manufacturers dictated how the race would play out to some extent and that Ford officials probably wouldn't like to see him working with "a Chevrolet [driver] who's in the Chase." However, Jack Roush claims that although he would prefer his drivers to work together, that no specific orders were given to Roush or Ford drivers for last weekend's race.
"At Roush Fenway Racing we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race," said the team boss in a statement Tuesday. "That is a philosophy that we have lived by for over two decades, and one that we will continue to abide by going forward.
"Of course, as in any team, we would prefer for our drivers to work together when possible. However, to be clear, we did not micromanage or dictate to any of our drivers, nor any other Ford drivers, how to race with other drivers at Talladega last Sunday.
"There are unique codes that all drivers establish and have to live by on the track. How they manage their code is up to our drivers as individuals. This weekend, there were no team orders, from myself or anyone at Roush Fenway, given to any of our drivers as to whom they could or could not choose to run with or assist, nor did I give similar directions or suggestion to any of the other Ford drivers."
Bayne drives for Roush Fenway in the Nationwide Series while Ford engines are all prepared by Roush-Yates, creating a bond that other manufacturers don't have among all their teams. The Daytona 500 winner was apologetic on Twitter Sunday after the race, expressing his dislike for restrictor-plate racing becoming "too premeditated."
Although some drivers worked with different partners in the draft, even from rival manufacturers, most were running with their teammates, as proved by Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, whose drivers remained in pairings almost all afternoon. RCR's Clint Bowyer eventually won the race from his teammate Jeff Burton after both worked together for the 500 miles.
"I've spoken with Trevor [Bayne] and understand that he was put in a situation requiring a split-second decision on the track and in his response to questions justifying his actions afterward, where it was almost certain that not everyone was going to be satisfied," said Roush about Bayne's quotes.
"Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy. I'm confident in his decision making, his ability and actions on the track, and I'm excited as we continue to move forward with his development."
Roush Fenway racing currently holds a 1-2 in the Chase, Carl Edwards leading his teammate Matt Kenseth.