Shar­ing data a bad idea

Com­pet­i­tive spirit lost when teams work to­gether

Baltimore Sun - - NASCAR - On auto rac­ing

Shar­ing is car­ing, we like to tell our lit­tle ones.

That’s a no­ble phi­los­o­phy, ex­cept the big ones aren’t al­ways will­ing to play nice.

That leads us to a do­mes­tic spat in the datashar­ing ar­range­ment be­tween Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing and Hen­drick Motorsports. SHR is switch­ing from Chevro­let to Ford in 2017. But with the di­vorce pa­pers not fi­nal yet, the strain on the re­la­tion­ship is ev­i­dent.

“Just to be self­ishly speak­ing on the Hen­drick Motorsports/Ste­wartHaas re­la­tion­ship — we didn’t get their data,” said Jim­mie John­son, a star of team Hen­drick. “We didn’t share their data. They had ours. So it was a fan­tas­tic sit­u­a­tion for them. They had our best stuff and then they have a huge en­gi­neer­ing staff and they can take Hen­drick’s best equip­ment and re­fine it and make it bet­ter.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, HMS ex­ec­u­tives went into dam­age-con­trol mode last week­end. Gen­eral man­ager Doug Duchardt said the in­for­ma­tion flow ceased in both di­rec­tions shortly af­ter SHR an­nounced that it was leav­ing the Chevro­let camp to go with Ford’s Roush-Yates en­gines next sea­son.

“That got shut off, I think, be­fore Day­tona,” Duchardt said. “That has been straight­for­ward be­tween Ste­wart-Haas and us, and (SHR com­pe­ti­tion direc­tor Greg Zi­padelli) and I worked through that.”

Fair enough. But still, it leads to a big­ger ques­tion. Why is ev­ery­one so chummy-chummy in the first place? The sport is in cost-cut­ting mode, scal­ing back from the hey­day. Less test­ing and such makes sense. But in­for­ma­tion shar­ing doesn’t make nearly as much sense.

Why would you want to sleep with the enemy from a com­pet­i­tive stand­point?

Back in the day, mul­ticar teams were shar­ing data among them­selves but kept ev­ery­thing in house. We now live in an age of com­put­ers and elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion, mak­ing it much eas­ier to cob­ble to­gether in­for­ma­tion.

“I’d rather not have that,” Dale Earn­hardt Jr., who drives for Hen­drick Motorsports, said in 2012 when elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion started be­com­ing a thing. “It would be a bene- fit to be able to see all that. But I think it’s a slip­pery slope.”

Part of the prob­lem is that the com­pet­i­tive land­scape has changed. SHR signed Kevin Har­vick, who won a Cup ti­tle in 2014, and then Kurt Busch, a for­mer Cup champ.

“You know be­fore Rod­ney Childers and Kevin Har­vick were at Ste­wartHaas, it worked pretty good for us,” John­son said. “We had a bunch of in­come for the com­pany and didn’t have to worry about rac­ing for wins or cham­pi­onships against the Ste­wart-Haas equip­ment. But those guys changed the game, and bring­ing in Kurt Busch and Tony him­self, you start ques­tion­ing the re­la­tion­ship and if it re­ally is the right thing.

“They re­ally had all the rights to our stuff; we didn’t have the rights to theirs.”

JEFF CURRY/GETTY

Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way Sun­day, 2 p.m. TV: NBC Sports Net­work Jim­mie John­son (48) and Kevin Har­vick com­pete on the track, but their teams have been col­lab­o­rat­ing off it.

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