The Frontstretch: Nationwide Series Breakdown: Missouri Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 by Bryan Davis Keith -- Monday July 19, 2010

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: Missouri Illinois Dodge Dealers 250

Bryan Davis Keith · Monday July 19, 2010


You could see it coming from a mile away.

After battling for the lead for nearly the entire 250 miles on Saturday night, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards were again duking it out up front as they took the white flag. With Edwards holding the advantage entering Turn 2, Keselowski pulled the bump and run to take the lead down the backstretch. Edwards then responded by stalking his rival through 3 and 4, then clearly turning into the No. 22 coming to the checkers and sending the point leader’s Dodge hard into the outside wall. The resulting impact sent Edwards to Victory Lane and Keselowski ricocheting into oncoming traffic; he was T-Boned hard by Shelby Howard, with Taylor Malsam and Steve Arpin also involved in the last lap carnage.

Emotions were heated on both sides of the incident. Edwards in Victory Lane made no attempt to conceal his actions, stating he couldn’t stand to have someone take the lead from him like that, while Brad’s father Bob threatened to don his own driver’s suit and take care of Edwards; the elder Keselowski remarked, “he’s not going to kill my boy.”

Carl Edwards went to Victory Lane on Saturday night, but his torn up fender hints that he didn’t get there without incident.

Avoiding the wreck, Reed Sorenson, pole sitter Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, and Steve Wallace rounded out the top 5. The points were, as to be expected, shaken up by the late-race calamities, with Edwards closing the gap on Keselowski to 168 as the Nationwide Series heads to O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis next Saturday night. Despite being involved in an earlier wreck, Justin Allgaier (who gave the command to start engines) remained the leading Nationwide Series regular, third in the standings and 497 markers out of first.

For full analysis of the Edwards/Keselowski episode and the resulting carnage, see the conclusion of this article below.

Worth Noting

The Good

Trevor Bayne’s stat sheet is slowly, but finally, starting to show results that are indicative of how well the Diamond-Waltrip Racing development driver actually has run in 2010. Winning his second career pole earlier in the afternoon, Bayne was a fixture at the front all night long, leading laps with less than 15 to go and forcing Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick both to race extremely hard and pass the No. 99. The third-place result was a career best for the teen, his third top-10 in the last five races as well as his best shot yet at snatching a Nationwide Series victory.

While Bayne is still running his first full-time NNS campaign, he’s not technically a rookie. Saturday night, the official 2010 freshman class joined Bayne at the front of the field in a race that saw eight of the top-10 finishing positions occupied by series regulars. Brian Scott finished sixth, a solid follow-up to a top 5 run at Chicago that saw the No. 11 team challenging for the win, while the Roush Fenway duo of Colin Braun and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished seventh and ninth, respectively.

Josh Wise, who has seen his full-time ride with Specialty Racing evaporate into a start-and-park role, was reduced to doing the same for Baker Curb Racing last weekend at Chicago. But he made the most of his third start with JR Motorsports, one of a handful of audition rides for him to possibly earn the job full-time in 2011. With providing rare sponsorship for a race Danica Patrick was not driving in, Wise delivered an eighth-place finish that not only saw him outrun JRM’s flagship No. 88, but score his first top 10 since ORP in the summer of 2008. Coming from the 34th starting position to do it only speaks more to how well the No. 7 ran at Gateway. GoDaddy will certainly not ditch the marketing machine for Wise, but the way he looked Saturday night, here’s hoping that funky-looking dude will grace his quarterpanels a few more times in 2010.

The Bad

Kelly Bires, landing a ride for only his second start since JR Motorsports kicked him to the curb in May, was fortunate enough to snag a start in Baker Curb Racing’s No. 27 car, the one slated to run the distance while Brad Baker and Kevin Swindell ran start-and-park in the team’s Nos. 37 and 43 entries. Swindell lasted just eight laps, while Baker ran 61 before parking the No. 43. Trouble is, Bires only lasted one more lap himself, with an early engine expiration parking all three of the team’s cars well short of even the halfway marker. Among the three cars combined, BCR still did not complete 250 miles on Saturday night.

Ryan Truex spent over three-quarters of his Nationwide Series debut looking as if a top-10 finish – something that was well above the expectations he even set for himself in Frontstretch’s exclusive driver diary Friday – would be well within the defending K&N Pro Series East champion’s grasp. Unfortunately, the first rookie hiccup for Michael Waltrip Racing’s latest development project struck on lap 178, sending the No. 00 car into the wall in turn 2 and flattening the rear end of the machine. Truex, who currently leads the East Series standings in his bid for a repeat title, may still be challenging for a Nationwide crown in 2011 should he continue to run as well as he did Saturday night… plus 20 circuits more.

Landon Cassill retired for the second week in a row less than 10 laps after the halfway point for RAB Racing, parking the No. 09 entry with a “vibration.” In short, this unsponsored bunch that has campaigned through much of 2010 with blank quarterpanels has now joined the start-and-park brigade. NASCAR’s new payout rules for this season mandate that to score bonus money for running a full-time car, a team must complete at least half of the laps in an event. Sadly, RAB is hardly the first team to use the rule to their advantage… Specialty Racing ran Dover to the halfway point before going to a straight start-and-park model. Doesn’t make it any less sad, though, to see another full-time team reduced to it, nor to see Cassill seemingly joining Danny O’Quinn as a recent NNS Rookie of the Year doing S&P for a living.

The Ugly

While it was certainly a plus to see the two JGR Nationwide cars on track with no Cup drivers in them, the end result for the team wasn’t so positive… two torn up race cars. Running in the top 10, Matt DiBenedetto lost control of the No. 20 as he exited turn 2 and smacked the wall. The resulting damage led the former East Series regular to spin in turn 3 on lap 151, sending the No. 20 smack into teammate Brad Coleman’s No. 18 car and resulting in a vicious impact that destroyed both machines. DiBenedetto was also visibly shaken after the wreck, walking with a pronounced limp and being forced to sit down in the infield grass immediately after exiting his totaled Toyota. He turned out OK, but the finishes weren’t; DiBenedetto and Coleman wound up 29th and 30th, respectively.

Underdog Performer of the Race: Tony Raines. Willie Allen’s ability to score top-15 finishes in the No. 05 car never ceases to impress, but Raines’ ability to deliver a top-10 result in Front Row Motorsports equipment is just as significant an accomplishment. For the longtime journeyman driver, the run was his first top 10 on a non-plate oval since Charlotte last October, as well as his first top 10 at Gateway since 2005. That leaves him still within 200 markers of the top 10 in the Nationwide Series standings, an impressive feat for an independent operation with limited funding.

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Fact or Fiction: Was Carl Edwards In The Wrong On Saturday Night?
Dale Junior And LeBron James: Big Decisions Equal Big Results?
NASCAR And YouTube: Fans Shouldn’t Be The Ones Filling The Gaps
Tracking The Trucks: 200

The Final Word

There were not 52,000 fans at Gateway Saturday night, but there had to be at least 52,000 race fans watching in the immediate area wishing they had been there after Carl Edwards turned Brad Keselowski hard into the outside wall to score his second win of the 2010 campaign. The resulting carnage was ugly, Edwards’ seeming indifference to the melee he produced aggravating, and Bob Keselowski’s fear for his son’s well-being well-founded.

But nobody did anything wrong in this situation.

Keselowski was out to win Saturday night, and he proved that when he intentionally put the bump-and-run on Edwards in turn 2 during the final laps. Call it a nudge, call it a tap, call it acceptable, Brad moved Carl out of the way. And Carl hit back. That’s the reality of racing that drivers like Keselowski have to accept. Choosing not to race like Jeff Burton means a driver will win more races; it also means they’ll be on the receiving end of a lot more chrome horns. Brad made it clear to Carl that he was going to do what he had to to win, and Carl returned the favor.

This is the kind of intensity the sport has been desperately seeking, drivers throwing the points and playbook out the window and doing everything in their power to win. Carl Edwards stopped at absolutely nothing to get to Victory Lane. His actions were violent, brash, and held no regard for anyone but himself. He won, the points took care of themselves, and every single fan, be it 5,200 or 52,000 in the stands, left buzzing about what they had just seen. Even my dad and I exchanged heated words of disagreement over the incident, with my dad eventually leaving the room visibly irate.

This level of excitement and passion aroused in people is what has long distinguished NASCAR and its fans from other sports. This is a violent game we all play and celebrate, and it boils the blood of competitors and fans alike. I took great pleasure in seeing two of the most talented drivers in the sport out there battling with each other in a no-holds-barred capacity. There isn’t enough of that seen these days.

What’s a shame is that for Carl and Brad to throw caution and points to the wind and race for the trophy, they had to come down and play in NASCAR’s equivalent of AAA ball. Between Cup races at Talladega in 2009 and Atlanta this spring, the tension between these two is indisputable. But for it to have to come out simply because the two are driving for teams that have 10-15 times the budget of many of their competitors does ring a bit hollow.

Further, as the wrecked cars of Taylor Malsam, Steve Arpin, and others demonstrated, this type of racing destroys equipment. It comes with a price. And it’s impossible to dismiss the fact that both Edwards and Keselowski drive for teams that have the funding to tear up cars and not worry about it. The sad truth is the vast majority of their competitors at this level can’t afford to race like that, and seeing those type of teams paying the price for this episode is both unnecessary and unfortunate.

The now-scalding rift between these two is something that NASCAR has been hoping for. The problem is, thanks to their lack of control over the Cup stars stroking their egos week after week in the minors, next to nobody saw what was likely the most dramatic race finish since Brad sent Carl flying at Talladega last spring. The Cup drivers raced the way the Chase culture was supposed to make them race… in a minor league event, fighting for glory in a series that has no playoff to worry about.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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07/19/2010 05:10 AM

You are about as smart as Kissin Cousin Carl, I mean you too are a Dumb A??.

What will you say when someone is finally killed? They finally crossed the line.
I believe the other drivers will police this and nascar is going to be suprised at all the negative feedback they are going to receive.
I will be boycotting all sponers of wreckem if you can’t beatem carl and nascar if the do nothing following this “race”.

This is the second time Brad has put it in nascars hands to do the right thing, I for one DO NOT BELIEVE they will.
Harvick and Spenser both were parked for a WHOLE LOT LESS.

07/19/2010 09:31 AM

Absolutely DITTO what wcfan said above. Carl Carnage is a weapon with a Jekyl/Hyde switch. Harvick (a fellow driver – not a writer or casual fan) said it was 100% wrong.

07/19/2010 10:28 AM

What do you think BradsDad said when Carl flew at Talladega? Or any other time he punted somebody.
“Gee son. You shouldn’t have done that. Someone coulda got hurt.” (and was)
I don’t think so.

07/19/2010 10:34 AM

When the two Gibbs cars wrecked and when Brad was spinning out towards the track when he wanted to pit (another brain dead move) I had visions of Zanardi in almost the same scenario. It could have been a lot worse.

07/19/2010 10:42 AM

Nothing but Brad cry babies!!, not a REAL man here, just babies!!…..mommie, he stole my candy bawl, bawl!

07/19/2010 11:50 AM

i hope they park Crazy Carl until he learns the correct way to bump and run or maybe he would rather demolist a bunch of cars and kill his opponent.

07/19/2010 12:52 PM

Does anyone think Brad has learned anything from this? Do unto others and they will return the favour. He is NOT Dale Earnhardt.

Chris in TX
07/19/2010 01:47 PM

I understand everyone has a different perspective. Opinions are formed early, and held closely.

That being said…this just does not seem like rocket science. If Saturday night were a Nascar Modified race, and you put Donny Lia in the 60, and Ted Christopher in the 22 (or hey, pick any one of 50 competitive Modified guys)…then what happens in turn 1 (bump and run) still happens in turn 1. If the 60 could get back to the 22’s bumper in turn 3/4, it happens again. What happened on the straight coming to the finish doesn’t happen. It doesn’t, because it’s not racing.

Maybe it is because of what I grew up watching that I see a very, very clear line here. Close racing: Good. Bump and run: Good, and exciting! Wrecking someone intentionally: Not good, and classless. Carl’s postrace: Beyond classless.

no Spin
07/19/2010 03:54 PM

Mister wingcars6970 you must be dreaming
“Harvick (a fellow driver – not a writer or casual fan) said it was 100% wrong”
You have to be kidding Harvick Has a PHD & MASTERS , in dirty driving, get your facts before holding that guy up as a clean driver He is not.

07/19/2010 09:33 PM

No he is not squeaky clean – not even close, but he is a peer that spoke about it. No one else here is. That was my point. Anyone that is more than a casual fan and not the president of Edwards fan club can tell the difference between hard racing and hard dumping. Take the numbers and war paint off these cars and review every incident between these two with a clear mind. Who got the short end of the stick every time?

07/19/2010 10:17 PM

After what Harvick did to Joey at Pocono who’d care what he said. I’d be more worried about what Delady did.

07/20/2010 12:44 AM

Uh, you missed a big one there chief (“since Brad sent Carl flying at Talladega last spring”). Didja actually watch that race or only the high lites? carly put a block on BK and sent himself spinning.

07/20/2010 04:48 PM

Apparently if it generates good buzz and gets everyone talking – well then it must be ok. Bump and run done right followed by blatant wreck – no problem. NA$CAR has spoken. Apparently ignorance is bliss……

07/21/2010 05:06 AM