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Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski: Some Perspective

March 9, 2010

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So it finally came to a head.

It shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise when Carl Edwards decided enough was enough this past Sunday in Atlanta. It’s not like Brad Keselowski has a squeaky clean reputation amongst NASCAR’s other 42 drivers.  To a man, several drivers, upon finding out that Keselowski was okay, didn’t seem upset over the bit of frontier, vigilante justice that Edwards dished out. In fact, many of us would say he had it coming. He had it coming from last year’s Talledega flip, and he had it coming from earlier in Sunday’s race. You didn’t have to look too hard at the replays to see the 99’s tires make that short jog to the right, sending Keselowski flying into the wall. Edwards never came out and said, “I meant to do it,” but he may as well have. Take a peek at the quote on Carl Edwards’ facebook page:

My options: Considering that Brad wrecks me with no regard for anyones safety or hard work, should I: A-Keep letting him wreck me? B-Confront him after the race? C-Wait til bristol and collect other cars? or D-Take care of it now? I want to be clear that I was surprised at his flight and very relieved when he walked away. Every person has to decide what code they want to live by and hopefully this explains mine.

I’m sure Denny Hamlin isn’t shedding any tears.

I heard a lot of back and forth yesterday, both in print and on the radio, a lot of politically correct talk. I heard more tap dancing about when something like this might be appropriate, did NASCAR back itself into a corner by throwing their rule book out of the window. Honestly, I don’t get much of it.

I listened to Sirius Speedway’s Dave Moody on Monday afternoon, saying that there’s a time for this, but he wasn’t sure if that was the time. I’d love to ask Dave Moody this: Can you think of a better time? If your Carl Edwards, does it really matter if you’re down 156 laps or one?  Because you’re not going to want to put out a Wrath of Khan style “revenge is a dish best served cold” move if you’re 7th in back of the #12. That would be ridiculous. When you’re that far back, you’re racing because it’s what you do, not to mention you have an obligation to the sponsor on the hood of your car. But you’re no longer racing for points or money. In that situation, with nothing to lose, I can’t think of a better time to give ‘er the ol’ right turn herky jerk.

I saw a lot of sports guys, knowledgeable ones, wondering if NASCAR has a bigger issue on it’s hands by allowing the drivers to police themselves. “You’re going to see more of this in the coming weeks” they wrote. Good! This is the shot NASCAR needs. It’s been everywhere, right up to a report on Monday evening’s ABC Nightly News. Is a “have at it boys” mentality, along with a good old fashioned intentional wreck that bad for a sport with sagging television ratings and attendance? I can damn near guarantee one thing: Brian France and Mike Helton are in an office somewhere grinning ear to ear, silently adding “Lord, please allow this incident to boost our ratings” to the Bristol invocation.

Anyone remember Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators tickets going for a thousand on ebay after both teams established a new record for most penalties in a single game? The buildup for the Detroit Red Wings/Colorado Avalanche game following the brawl filled game where both goalies started pummeling each other? The Yankees/Red Sox games after the bench clearing brawl that even saw, of all people, Don Zimmer get into the action, charging Pedro Martinez? I’d love to know the dollar value in that kind of publicity, because street value it’s enormous. I’d bet it’s more than what AFLAC is paying Roush Fenway Racing to put the duck on the hood of the car. Bristol could be a lot more interesting than usual, maybe it brings some older fans back, and NASCAR isn’t paying a dime.

To everyone who says that someone could’ve gotten killed in the cars or in the stands, that’s the assumed risk in buying a ticket that close, or being in a sport that requires you to drive at speeds hovering 200 mph. It’s the same as buying a ticket to a ball game where line drives are prone to landing, or hockey games where pucks can hit fans. Take it from me, I’ve come within inches of being hit with a puck myself. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m only saying it’s there. I also doubt there’s a fan out there who became so fed up with NASCAR after the wreck that they’ll never watch another race, ever again, for as long as they live. That flip wasn’t the last straw for anyone.

NASCAR needed an injection like this one, and I believe they saw it. By putting Carl Edwards on probation, they sent two huge messages. They’re not backing off on having their drivers police themselves this season, along with an “I told you so” to Brad Keselowski (he has friends in no places these days). And if there was an ever-so-subtle thank you to Carl Edwards by not suspending him, that’s okay by me as well. NASCAR wanted 43 drivers to police themselves. We saw the first instance of it, even if it was Dirty Harry style.

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