By admin | July 21, 2010
By Richard Allen
If NASCAR has a Department of Making Sure We Don’t Contradict Ourselves that department is failing…miserably. It has happened so many times in the past that one has to wonder if NASCAR simply doesn’t care that they contradict themselves. Or worse, they actually believe their audience won’t notice.
Earlier this week I posted a column condemning Carl Edwards’ wrecking of Brad Keselowski on the last lap of the Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway, but I also said that NASCAR should not and could not punish him because they had told drivers to ‘Have at it’ at the beginning of the year( ). With no clear definition of ‘Have at it’ then punishment for ‘Having at it’ appears hypocritical.
Well, NASCAR went ahead with the punishment of Edwards, and Keselowski, anyway.
On Wednesday it was announced that Edwards and his team would be docked 60 points, fined $25,000 and placed on probation until the end of 2010. Keselowski has also been placed on probation until the end of the year.
“Both of them are on probation through the end of the year – we needed to do that to help protect the garage area from being caught up in an incident not of their making,” declared NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton.
“These two drivers have a history with each other,” Pemberton went on. “We had talked to both drivers after the Atlanta incident. And even though Carl was put on probation, we had conversations with Brad about their relationship and explained to them that there will be a boundary.
“You fast forward to Gateway and you look at what we feel like was Brad misjudging his corner on Carl and then you look at the retaliation by Carl coming off Turn 4, we felt this had escalated beyond what we should tolerate on the race track. The penalty is to put these guys on notice. They have affected many of the other teams in the garage area and we felt they stepped over the line with their aggressive driving. It was time to penalize.”
As stated, NASCAR claims that a boundary was established after the Atlanta incident. However, no matter what was said in private meetings, the public statement by NASCAR of only putting Edwards on probation for three weeks said all that needed to be said. That light penalty told Edwards, Keselowski and every other driver in the garage that ‘Have at it’ was still firmly in place.
The bottom line is there can’t be a policy of ‘Have at it’ and then be a punishment handed down for ‘Having at it’. If NASCAR had come out this week and said that drivers apparently misunderstood what was meant so now ‘Have at it’ is over then that would have been one thing. They would have received criticism but at least they would not have been hypocrites.
Even if they had come out and said ‘Have at it’ is over for this one or these two drivers they would be criticized for making one or two drivers targets for everyone else. But, they could have responded that those drivers created their own situation by going too far.
Instead, NASCAR will continue to insist that ‘Have at it’ is still in place but the reality is that it is not.
In my opinion, NASCAR’s ‘Have at it’ policy has created some great storylines this year. Gordon vs. Johnson, Hamlin vs. Kyle Busch and Edwards vs. Keselowski are the types of rivalries that can make people want to watch. However, by now taking points away from Edwards, NASCAR has ended ‘Have at it’.
Points are the life blood of a NASCAR team. When threatened with losing points drivers and crew members suddenly will revert to ‘Kiss up to NASCAR’ mode.
Expect to hear plenty of “NASCAR did what they felt was best for the sport” and “NASCAR had to step in before things got out of hand” type statements from other drivers this weekend.
And when something happens on the track, expect to hear the old lines of “He and I will talk it over and work things out” and “We met with NASCAR and everything’s cool” statements.
Carl Edwards should not have done what he did in my opinion. However, he was only doing what he believed NASCAR had instructed him to do. Now, he has been punished for that. The end result will be back to the bland and lifeless.
Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.
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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