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NASCAR made the right disciplinary decision
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I think the punishment fits the crime by the new standards of, “Have at it, boys,” and I applaud NASCAR for looking at everything from 2009 — maybe even further back — to the present and understanding there's a fine line between intent and result. I think everyone agrees that what transpired down there was horrific and unfortunate. But at the same time, fortunately, no one in the grandstand or inside those race cars was hurt and no other race cars were involved. For that reason, I'm excited for the competitors and perhaps more excited for the fans.
This is not just a victory for Edwards, I also look at it as a victory for Keselowski because the situation may be reversed next time. I'm sure Keselowski's going to hope that NASCAR will give him the same type of concessions and go through the same thought process they did with this situation.
As NASCAR President Mike Helton talked about when announcing Edwards’ probation, there's an imaginary line, and I think people need to understand that. We call it a line, but it's not something that's put down in black and white, as it's not definitive. This is something NASCAR in recent years has tried to do; they weigh each circumstance individually and weigh it against previous situations that have already occurred so they can make the most fair and meaningful decision based off that thought process.
Fans of other sports may be asking, “Isn’t that annoying?” Folks, I've grown up in this sport. I think we got too hard-line in recent years, that the least rule issue brought the harshest response. Maybe that's just my old school mentality. I've seen this before. I've grown up with this. I understand the ramifications. I've been in the middle of a team vs. team war, driver vs. driver battle royale. It's not good for anybody, but it's just part of what we've always accepted and not accepted within our sport.
No crew chief and no owner likes having a race car wrecked. But at the same time, there's no group of men who are more fierce about backing a driver when they feel they've been wronged. It goes on both sides of the equation here, whether Edwards was wronged or if Keselowski was wronged. That's just part of what we do.
If you listen to what Mike Helton's laid out there, NASCAR addressed this situation in this manner. In no way did he say, "Next week in Bristol, if we have the same thing happen a few times, we're gonna give out the same penalty." That's the thing we've got realize, that NASCAR can and will drop the hammer if necessary. Suspension hasn't been ruled out for someone doing something the governing body feels is unnecessary. They're just saying in this case, they don't feel that's the correct punishment.
Again, I agree with them and I like what I heard and I'm glad they're not going to deviate a lot from what their overall intention was. We're going to let these guys police themselves with our help. I think that if you gave me a different scenario right now with two combatants, and it was one of them who did somebody besides the other guy wrong, there may have been a different view. My point is a lot of people don't wreck a guy like Mark Martin because Mark gives and takes in a different way than Edwards or Keselowski. So, each situation has to be looked at independently and judged accordingly.
As Helton said, “Us stepping in to maintain law and order isn't always just a result of a penalty being issued or a public reaction from us. There are a lot of things that we do behind the scenes with owners and drivers to balance these type of things out.”
Today’s announcement doesn’t mean Edwards won't get a call from some of NASCAR’s top lawmen. He might get a call from Helton. He might get a call from Keselowski’s team owner Roger Penske. The same is true for Keselowski, who could be getting a call from Sprint Cup Series director John Darby or Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton to address this matter and his involvement. This is a continual work in progress to try and make all parties always aware of, "Are your actions really in the best interest of the sport?" And if you say, "Yes, they are," the, "oh, by the way," should be, “Are they in the best interest of you?” You can have opinions about how you approach or solve an issue.
Let’s not pretend like this has never happened in the past. I'll go back to Ernie Irvan. When he first came into our sport, he was running wild like a month-old child. He was running over a lot of people and made a lot of people mad, and eventually some of the veterans tried to get his attention. He made a driver meeting apology at Talladega to say he was sorry for how he'd been acting on and off the race track. From that day forward, he gained the respect from every driver in the meeting and was the kind of driver everybody enjoyed racing with and against.
So, that's what NASCAR and Mike Helton mean by this. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that's not for public knowledge all the time, not just after a situation like this. You know, if they go back to the Keselowski-Dave Reutimann situation they had in California, it may have been that they talked to both of those drivers and said, "Guys, you all don't need to get along like that, do you?"
They're doing a lot more behind the scenes than people give them credit for. This is one of those times they've had to step up to the podium or behind the microphone and announce something. Again, I applaud Mike Helton for doing this. He easily could've left it to Director of Communications Kerry Tharp or Robin Pemberton, but he felt this matter was drawing enough public attention, national attention, international attention to give this ruling himself. I think this also speaks volumes about where they are and where they continue to go for the moment, and I'm glad of that.
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