By admin | November 1, 2010
By Richard Allen
Sometimes NASCAR drivers can be pretty outspoken. But other times they have been trained well enough not to say anything that might be considered even slightly controversial or inflammatory.
Was this the case after Sundayâ€™s Amp Energy Juice 500 at the Talladega Super Speedway?
In 2008, Carl Edwards bumped Greg Biffle on his back bumper in the middle of turns 3 and 4 which caused Biffle to spin and thus set off an eleven car pileup. After the wreck several drivers were critical of Edwards for bump drafting Biffle at the wrong spot on the track. Kevin Harvickâ€™s criticism of Edwards was so harsh in fact that it led to a garage area scuffle between the two drivers the next weekend. Even Edwardsâ€™ teammate, Matt Kenseth, offered a rebuke of Edwards.
That 2008 wreck looked very much like an incident that took place on Sunday in Talladega. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gave Jeff Burton a tap in the back in the middle of turns 3 and 4 which sent Burtonâ€™s car for a spin and ended his day. Earnhardt himself as well as Jamie McMurray suffered enough damage that their days were ruined.
Since the wrecks were so similar the condemnation of the offending driver was the same, right? Well, not exactly. After all, the offending driver in the latter case was the sportâ€™s most popular so to criticize him would bring about a firestorm upon the critic. And, the race was sponsored by Earnhardtâ€™s primary backer. Bringing negative or adverse attention to NASCAR sponsors is highly frowned upon.(Was it really random that Robby Gordonâ€™s car was selected for a post-race teardown after he had a press conference to announce a competing energy drink on Amp Energy Juice weekend?)
Instead of pointing a finger of blame at Junior, Burton simply stated that, â€œHe did nothing wrong.â€
Burton is not always known for taking it easy on other drivers. During the recent race at Martinsville he blasted teammate Kevin Harvick over his team radio after the two had a bit of an on-track spat. Perhaps Burton really wasnâ€™t that upset in Talladega. After all, it is just restrictor plate racing.
Maybe the other drivers just donâ€™t like Carl Edwards and donâ€™t mind casting blame his way. Whereas they may indeed like Junior and donâ€™t want to accuse him of anything.
Whatever the reason, it just seemed strange that Edwards was dealt with so harshly after an almost identical crash and Junior was not.
My guess is that no other driver, nor his sponsors, want to tangle with â€˜Junior Nationâ€™ so they avoid the fuss. Since Edwards has no nation having a run-in with him is not so damaging and it gives the sport some attention.
Aside from selling a lot of souvenirs and making a fortune, thousands of fans having your back each week can have other advantages as well.
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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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