Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Tuesday July 25, 2006
Throughout my life, I've yet to meet a person that doesn't have a breaking point. No matter how easygoing you are, there's some internal code going on inside your brain that, if entered correctly, will push you over the edge. It's a natural part of being a human being, the internal frustration caused by the ability for someone or something to get you so angry in the first place.
On Sunday, Carl Edwards became a bit more human.
Edwards ended the 2005 Nextel Cup season the sport's hottest young starâ€¦from substitute teacher to champion driver in just a few short years, the fan favorite, G rated personality from Missouri was clearly on top of the NASCAR world. Then 2006 began, and Edwards started the year on top of Kyle Petty's car in the Daytona 500; things have seemed to go the route of a roller coaster for the 26-year-old ever since. Even so, Edwards and anger go along, well, just about as much as Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt do these days, no matter how poorly he's performing on the racetrack. So, excuse me for being just a bit surprised that the mild mannered kid compared more often to Beaver Cleaver than an angry mobster left Sunday afternoon at Pocono ticked off enough to matter-of-factly suggest he'd punch someone else out and leave them bleeding.
That's not to say Edwards doesn't have good reason to be mad. In case you've been living in a cave the past 48 hours, you know Cousin Carl's most recent tale of woe all too well; on lap 31, while riding behind the race cars of Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer, Edwards watched innocently while Bowyer ran Stewart up the race track going through Pocono's treacherous turn three. Stewart's temper didn't like that so much, especially when his car scraped the wall heading out of the turn; so, without thinking he bodyslammed Bowyer going down the frontstretch as payback for his mistake. Bowyer's No. 07 car quickly spiraled out of control, slowing down and turning sidewaysâ€¦right in front of Edwards.
Just like that, Edwards went from a darkhorse contender for a victory at Pocono to seeing his Chase dreams all but end up in smoke. One lap behind in 42nd after repairs were made to his race car, Edwards was downâ€¦but certainly not out. A series of cautions falling at the right time could give the 99 car a Lucky Dog pass, getting it back on the lead lap and giving the team at least an outside shot at a solid finish. Meanwhile, an out-of-line Stewart was penalized a lap, serving a just punishment for unwittingly causing a crash he had no business causing.
Bottom line, the court of NASCAR had served Edwards justice, and while his car wasn't in great shape, there was still hope for a reasonable finish. _Too late_â€¦after two and a half years of being Mr. Perfect, Edwards had finally reached his breaking point in public. Too many weeks this year where he'd seen good runs go down the drainâ€¦too much private anguish over the loss of his crew chief, Bob Osborne, midseason to Jamie McMurray's operationâ€¦too much internal pressure to get back in the win column this season, to repeat the success he'd achieved the year before.
All that caught up with Edwards as his Sunday afternoon at Pocono reached a fever pitchâ€¦just as he caught up to Stewart 35 laps later, on his way to pit road, after Stewart had gotten back on the lead lap. That gave Edwards a perfect opportunity to release his frustrationâ€¦with the perfect push â€˜n' spin to Stewart's already damaged car on pit road.
Around Stewart's car went, putting innocent bystanders on pit road in dangerâ€¦and around Edwards went to his pit box, in line to serve a one lap penalty for the type of rough driving that got Stewart in trouble in the first place. Yet that still wasn't enough to satisfy an infuriated Edwardsâ€¦he made sure to give reporters outside his hauler after the race a thrill ride of comments rarely seen by someone who uses words like "Gosh!" as regular parts of his vocabulary:
"(Stewart) turned into Clint and took both him and I out and probably made it just about impossible for us to make the Chase, and then when I pull up beside him and wave my hand like, "What was that about?" He gives me the finger. I mean, what a jerk. I don't even know what to say. It's amazing to me that someone can be that special."
"If you hold that guy up (Stewart), he gets so upset and then he can wreck two guys and give you the finger. That's spectacularly self-centered. I can't imagine being like that."
"Let me just say this, if it weren't for respect of the sport and the people watching and his team and everything, (Stewart would) be out there bleeding right now."
Of course, as time went on Edwards slowly sank back from PG to a G rated version of his former self, apologizing profusely for putting crew members in danger on pit road with his spin and expressing his regret things couldn't have worked out differently. Unfortunately, that's a regret that may stick with Edwards awhileâ€¦after his lap penalty on pit road, he was put two laps down and clearly thrown out of reach of getting any sort of decent finish. Yes, Edwards' car appeared to be junk after that wreckâ€¦but what if he had controlled his temper, and gotten the Lucky Dogâ€¦what if that gave team and driver the extra motivation to fix that car and bring it to a Top 20 finish, which would have kept Carl with at least a fighting chance in the race to the Chase. What ifâ€¦instead, Edwards is now 235 points behind the very man he spun for 10th in points, six races too little, too late to make up the gap.
All around Edwards on Monday, tired citizens picked up their lives and went to work, dragging through their Mondays with the dull pain that can only symbolize the beginning of another long workweek. It's the type of dull pain Edwards woke up and experienced, realizing that his next set of workweeks will almost definitely no longer consist of battling for the championship he was favored to win back in February.
For Edwards, that pain will last the rest of the seasonâ€¦and then some. After two years of unparalleled success, happiness is no longer the only emotion permanently entrenched in his public persona. And while that makes Edwards more human, that may already have him wishing for simpler times just one year ago.
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