A long time ago (or what feels like a long time ago) I wrote about a NASCAR driver named Carl Edwards. He had intentionally (and admitted to it in national media) wrecked another driver while both were going 200 miles per hour at Atlanta Motor Speeedway. The other driver, Brad Keslowski, went airborne. Carl’s excuse? He needed to be taught a lesson. Brad had wrecked Carl once before, not on purpose, and it has since then turned into a not-so minor feud.
NASCAR instated a policy this year known as “Boys, have at it”. It’s a way to get away from the PC-ness the sport has been drifting towards in the years since Dale Earnhardt, and then Winston were removed from the sport. In March, the penelty towards Edwards was light, resulting in a probation for three races. Those three races came and went, and many more, and the two drivers have handled themselves pretty well. Until Saturday night at Gateway Raceway in St. Louis, MO. This race was not for the Sprint Cup Series, the big-time NASCAR races. It was for the Nationwide Series, which is similar to Triple-A ball. Keslowski leads Edwards in the Nationwide Championship standings.
I will admit before further discussing this, that I am a fan of Brad Keslowski, and until earlier this year, I was a fan of Carl Edwards. That has slowly turned into indifference.
On the final lap of the race, the 60 (Edwards) and 22 (Keslowski) were battling for the lead. The 22 made contact with the 60 heading into turn 1 to take the lead. You know the line from Days of Thunder, “Rubbin’s racin’ “? This was rubbin’. Nothing more. The 22 had the lead heading towards the checkers, but barely. It was at this point, that the 60, by his own admission again, turned left into the 22, turning him and instigating a multi-car pileup. The 60 won, the 22 sat wrecked feet from the finish line.
NASCAR announced the penelty of the action on Wednsday. It was stronger than the reaction in March, resulting in both drivers on probation until December 31. Edwards was also penalized $25,000 and both he and car owner Jack Roush were penalized 60 championship points, the amount gained on Keslowski on Saturday.
This decision has polarized fans, drivers and media, with the overarching question: Has NASCAR gone back on their promise of letting driver’s self-police themselves this season?
I don’t think so. This has gone past aggressive, competitive driving. It’s cheap and dirty driving. Especially in this case. To admit to deliberatly wrecking a driver not once, but twice, is going too far. These two need to resolve whatever issues they have with each other in some other manner. Not on the track. Not like this. It is going to result in someone getting hurt, or killed. And it may not be one of the drivers involved. It may be a fellow competitor, a fan, a crew member.
We’re still going to see “boys have at it”. And I hope for it. It makes it fun. Not the wrecking, but the competition and the spirit behind it. The moment I fell in love with Elliot Sadler? The night he threw his helmet towards another car after he had been wrecked. I will always adore Ward Burton for the night he threw his heel guards at Dale Jr. Heck, Kevin Harvick throwing punches at Ricky Rudd and Greg Biffle were moments I knew I loved this sport. I want to see those moments again.
But the actions in March in Atlanta, and Saturday night in St. Louis are different. I think I says it all by using boys, instead of men. The boys still need some rules.