NASCAR shows drivers who's boss

BY Jeff Hammond • July 21, 2010

By issuing fines and penalties to both Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski following an intentional crash in Saturday's Nationwide Series race, fans and critics may say that NASCAR is waffling or backing up on their intention of letting the drivers police themselves, but that’s not the case.

What NASCAR is attempting to do here is stop these two from ruining an otherwise effective system for everybody else. By issuing these penalties, particularly docking 60 points, NASCAR is telling Edwards that he is not going to benefit from the carnage he created. NASCAR is sending a message, and I don’t think they are going over the top with it. Keselowski and Edwards have taken NASCAR’s statement of “Boys, have at it” and pushed the limit, putting the governing body in a spot where they have been forced to do something they really didn’t want to do, but had to do.

The probation situation for both of them is to try to make sure both drivers understand that if they mess up again, NASCAR has the right to do what is necessary as punishment. NASCAR is trying to eliminate the revenge factor for the rest of this year by letting Keselowski know that he can’t mess with Edwards just because Edwards has his hands tied behind his back.

These penalties put the advantage back in NASCAR’s hands, instead of the drivers. Being put on probation means that NASCAR is watching and the next time something happens they don’t have to give warnings and can hand down a harsh sentence. Simply put, this is a preventive strike so that Keselowski can’t retaliate and try to make things even. As they like to say at our sister operation FOX News, this is a fair and balanced penalty.

Some may criticize NASCAR for punishing Keselowski, since he was the one that took the brunt end of crashes at Atlanta and this past weekend at Gateway. But folks, right now we aren’t dealing with what’s fair — we are dealing with what’s necessary to put a stop to this for the remainder of the season. Some would argue that we would not have been in this situation if Brad hadn’t slid up into Carl – and that goes back to the previous history between the two drivers.

Again, trying to rationalize it out, if we are in a court of law the question that will get asked is “Who swung first?” One guy may have done more damage in the fight, but a lot of times the other guy may get punished more by the judge because he instigated the fight. In this instance, if you are looking at it from that type of angle, you could argue that if Keselowski does not knock Edwards out of the lead on the last lap this past weekend then Edwards doesn’t feel like he has to retaliate.

I really believe we are looking at past history between the two being weighed into this decision by NASCAR.

If Keselowski has trouble with another driver in the future, NASCAR will look at the incident both isolated and collectively with this one. This probation does not put him in a position where he can’t race, but it does send the message that if Keselowski decides to lock horns again with Edwards — or vice-versa — officials have a precedent established which allows them to do something decisively if warranted.

Everybody has to try to understand what it’s like to be in NASCAR officials’ shoes. It doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what is right for not only the fellow competitors, but also what’s right for the fans of the sport and of each one of these drivers.

The people who are involved in decisions like these — NASCAR president Mike Helton, Sprint Cup Series director John Darby, Nationwide Series director Joe Balash, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton — look at incidents like these and have to make decisions that benefit the sport, keep it from being called hypocritical because they changed their minds, etc.

Personally, I don’t think they are straying away from their “Boys, have at it” approach, instead they are doing something that is necessary before they have to make apologies for not intervening earlier. I still think they could have gone further with the penalties if they deemed it necessary, but they believe this is enough to get their message across.

To take the amount of points away from Carl Edwards so he could not benefit from what he did is a way of telling him “We are not going to put up with you getting back into the Nationwide Series championship battle at the expense of wrecking the title leader around.” And they are telling Brad, “Hey, you ain’t said nothing, your dad said something, and we feel like there’s a fuse that’s been lit and we don’t know when the explosion is going to occur so we are going to throw water on it right from the get-go. And if you get into Edwards, you are going to get into trouble. And Carl, if you get into Brad again, losing 60 points is going to be light considered to what we are going to do next.”

If Edwards had just spun Keselowski around and only cost him a position like Brad did to him earlier in the lap, that’s an instance where “Rubbing is racing” and I don’t have a problem with that. But when you turn a guy around and cause that much damage deliberately, I do have a problem — especially if you do it more than once. I know people make mistakes, especially when they are angry, but now Edwards has done it twice, and I don’t think that’s the way you should race. I’m not a race car driver, but I could’ve done what Edwards did Saturday night. He’s a professional; he can and should drive like one. The retaliation was over the top.


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