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Did team orders contribute to late caution at Richmond?

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Paul Menard's spin late in Saturday's regular-season Sprint Cup finale at Richmond raised some eyebrows. It also raised questions about how far a driver could and should go to help a teammate. Jeff Gordon was leading comfortably ...

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Paul Menard's spin late in Saturday's regular-season Sprint Cup finale at Richmond raised some eyebrows.

It also raised questions about how far a driver could and should go to help a teammate.

Jeff Gordon was leading comfortably when Menard's spin on Lap 385 brought out the final caution. Harvick pulled away after a restart with 12 laps left and held off Carl Edwards for the win, with Gordon finishing third.

With each victory worth three bonus points to start the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, you could argue that the Menard caution may have produced a six-point swing between Gordon and Harvick.

On a Speed Channel "Race Hub" segment earlier in the week, Jimmy Spencer cited several instances of radio chatter where Menard asked if a caution was needed. Menard was getting regular updates as to the relative positions of Harvick, his Richard Childress Racing teammate, and Gordon on the racetrack.

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After Gordon passed Harvick for the lead before the final caution, Menard was instructed to "Go to channel 2" on his radio for further communication.

"Whatever happened -- where it was intentional or unintentional -- that's on them," Gordon told Sporting News during Chase media day at the LaSalle Power Co., a bar on Chicago's north side. "We can't control that. I think it's something that NASCAR maybe needs to address to make sure that it doesn't affect how the championship is decided.

"I certainly frown upon it if that is true. If it is true--and I say 'if' -- I've lost a lot of respect for Paul Menard... But that's all speculation, and it doesn't affect what we're going to be doing over the next 10 weeks. If we get beat by three points, I'll be a little disappointed.

"I'm a big believer in karma, and I believe that you get what you deserve and you earn (it) by working hard and putting yourself in position and being smart and getting the results because of that. I'd be surprised if somebody could win the championship by playing that game."

Harvick pointed out that Menard's right rear tire was worn to the cords. He also pointed out that the idea of teammates helping teammates during the Richmond race wasn't unique to RCR.

"All I can tell you is I wish I could have brought the right rear tire from the car -- it was basically down to the cords," Harvick said. "But you know when you see something like that happen, you know what everybody's going to think.

"From my seat, it looked like everybody was spinning everybody else out so Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. could stay on the lead lap. You can go on and on with this battle all day long."

To Tony Stewart, the idea of spinning deliberately, even to help a teammate, was repugnant.

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"I'll be honest, I don't even want to think about it," Stewart told Sporting News. "I don't even want to think about it happening. I pride myself in racing the guys and everybody racing fair, and I hope we never have to worry about that."

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