By admin | March 7, 2010
By Richard Allen
If you clicked on this column expecting to read criticism of Carl Edwards you have come to the wrong place. The real topic here anyway is whether NASCAR will make the right decisions going forward.
In the moments after Edwards ran into Brad Keselowski and sent him spinning and flying down the front stretch of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, there was a great deal of both condemnation and praise directed at Edwards. From sources ranging from the television broadcast booth to the various social networks, many had an opinion to share on the situation.
Early in the race Keselowski got into Edwards and sent him up into Joey Logano and then the wall. For that matter, the two drivers have a history with one another dating back to the spring race in Talladega last year as well as a couple of Nationwide Series run ins.
NASCAR competition director Robin Pemberton declared as much after the incident. “It looked like it could have been a payback from the #99 to the #12,” he said.
The problem I have seen in regard to people’s forming of opinions on this matter is that many are focused on the fact that Keselowski’s car went airborne. Many of those who have condemned Edwards have focused their energy on the end result.
The real issue is about paybacks and self-policing. NASCAR announced in a very public way that they wanted their drivers to ‘have at it’ and encouraged self-policing. So, the thing for the sanctioning body to decide is whether they meant that or if those were just empty words.
If NASCAR really meant what they said in the off season then what they did at the end of the race by parking Edwards should be enough of a penalty. They can’t bow to the pressures of some in the media, particularly the mainstream media or those who cover NASCAR but would rather be covering something else, who will offer as a criticism that this type of behavior would not be tolerated in another sport. That’s just it. Racing is not another sport and that’s why it appeals to so many who do not follow the stick and ball events.
Things have always been settled differently in racing than other sports because there is more on the line than in other sports. If one basketball player fouls another it can prevent a basket. If one racer fouls another it can wipe out a life savings or end a career. That’s why racers have to deal with things themselves rather than wait for some referee who may not understand the whole situation to make a decision.
When NASCAR said ‘have at it’ they put themselves to the test. If they further penalize Edwards for doing what they told him to do they will fail their own test.
In the Edwards/Keselowski case one driver sent a message to another driver for past fouls. Message delivered. It did not involve other drivers. The fact that the car went into the air was secondary to the real issue. Penalties can’t be issued because this one time was worse than some other time. Had another driver been affected then a stronger penalty would have been justified.
I have read and heard some who said Edwards should have waited until Bristol or Martinsville. On those small tracks there would almost certainly be other casualties. That, in my mind, would be worse.
I wrote a while back that I like Keselowski and his hard charging style. That is every bit a true today as it was then. I hope he will continue to race hard. He might just want to have second thoughts when he’s around Carl Edwards, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
But more importantly, NASCAR needs to have second thoughts if they feel like going against their own policy or allowing people who do not truly matter, or care about the sport, make decisions for them.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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