By admin | March 9, 2010
By Richard Allen
Anyone who has children knows the difficulties involved in disciplining them(and yes, I am about to compare race car drivers to children). Consistency is critical in the effort. If you tell your child that something is OK, as a matter of fact you openly encourage him to behave that way, you cannot turn around later and punish him for doing the very thing you encouraged him to do. Such actions on your part would cause you to lose all credibility in the future.
NASCAR was faced with this very dilemma when one of its competitors did what they told him to do. It just so happened that his behavior resulted in a spectacular incident.
Of course, I am referring to the crash Carl Edwards caused when he bumped Brad Keselowski on the front stretch of the Atlanta Motor Speedway during the final laps of the Kobalt Tools 500. Keselowskiâ€™s car flew through the air and slammed the wall much like crashes that have been seen on the larger tracks of Daytona and Talladega.
NASCAR, in a very open and encouraging way, told their drivers to â€˜have at itâ€™ and to do a little â€˜self-policingâ€™ in the off season. The sanctioning body finally seemed to realize that its sport had become too vanilla with stars who often exhibited the personality of a cardboard box due to the overly corporate mandating of behavior that had come about in recent years. So, their solution was to loosen the reins.
On Sunday in Atlanta, Edwards did a bit of â€˜self-policingâ€™ when he intentionally took more than one swipe at Keselowski and eventually turned him around. He was most likely retaliating for an earlier incident the two had but also for previous run-ins in other races.
â€˜Having at itâ€™ and â€˜self-policingâ€™ are the very terms used by NASCAR during the off season. Parents, again I ask you to consider the importance of consistency when instituting discipline.
Hereâ€™s another thing to consider. NASCAR has to take almost as much of the blame here as the drivers involved. This horrible Car of Tomorrow they have designed played a significant role in what happened. Not only is the car virtually impossible to set up and drive, it has a well known tendency to leave the ground when turned backwards at high speed.
Races on the high speed tracks have had numerous incidents in which cars turned around would take off yet NASCAR has waited until this season(in the coming weeks) to finally address the issue by replacing the rear wing with a blade spoiler. I cannot say whether or not Keselowskiâ€™s car would have left the ground on Sunday had it had a blade spoiler but I can point to plenty of evidence that showed it would with the wing.
Let me offer an example. Last season in the Nationwide Series race in Homestead Denny Hamlin spun Keselowski in somewhat the same way Edwards did in Atlanta. Both incidents took place on high speed 1.5 mile tracks. In the Nationwide race Keselowskiâ€™s car spun around a couple of times and suffered no real damage. That series does not use the Car of Tomorrow or a rear wing. Obviously, in the Sprint Cup race Keselowskiâ€™s car did suffer considerable damage.
Had Keselowskiâ€™s car just spun harmlessly through the grass on Sunday, as it might well have with a blade spoiler, there would have been no debate or no press conference. Hamlinâ€™s retaliation was every bit as premeditated and intentional as Edwardsâ€™ retaliation. Itâ€™s just that the results were far more spectacular on Sunday.
I think itâ€™s safe to say that NASCARâ€™s Car of Tomorrow helped the situation become more of an issue in the Sprint Cup race than it was in the Nationwide example.
For the reasons mentioned, NASCAR could not have and should not have penalized Carl Edwards anymore than the three race probation they gave him. And for the record, that was probably as much for driving the wrong way on pit road as for the crash.
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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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