A couple of weeks ago, after my personal favorite Dale Jarrett announced he would be retiring from Cup competition following the spring Bristol race in 2008, I transitioned into fan mode and penned a column explaining just why DJ was my favorite all these years – thanking him for being an all-around classy guy. Also in that column, I mentioned that a few years ago I had selected another driver to step up as a new favorite when DJ hung up his racing helmet.
That man is Carl Edwards.
My selection of Carl was never based on anything he had done, at least to that point, in Cup competition, but rather the way he raced and conducted himself when he was still in the Craftsman Truck Series. I saw then that he was a great young racer with many successful years ahead of him; I have often said since, in print and in person, that time would prove Carl to be just as classy a guy as Jarrett. Up until last Sunday, I’ve never had any real reason to doubt that.
Now, before I proceed further, let me be clear on one point. I am not (usually) in some fantasy land where I believe everyone I like is perfect. In fact, while I do harbor great respect for many people, I am very careful never to put anyone too high upon a pedestal. Being a gambling man, I figure that if I don’t put them too high, if/when they do do something really stupid, I can’t be let down all that much.
Having said that, I would be lying if I didn’t also say that I was a bit shocked by the actions of Edwards toward Matt Kenseth after last Sunday’s race in Martinsville. In an episode that was caught on video, Carl is seen talking to Matt and then feigning a punch at the small Wisconsin native. (You can view the video here.)
While I do concede that the incident is at first alarming, having been involved in the law enforcement/security business for many years, I also know that there are two sides to every story, and have learned to reserve judgment until both of them have been heard. Of course, many in the internet community do not have such patience and are quick to make snap decisions and put one or both parties against the wall before the firing squad.
As soon as Monday afternoon, the hasty accusations began coming in, and it wasn’t pretty. One of the juicier ideas was speculation that, in his effort to maintain his buff physique, Edwards has been using steroids. Now, it has been well documented that steroids can cause erratic behavior in those that use them. While that is a possibility, I find it absurd that the first time I have ever heard of such speculation suddenly comes after the video of Sunday’s confrontation. I prefer to reserve judgment, waiting till I hear from all parties involved. Fortunately, I and the rest of the fans didn’t have to wait long.
“First of all, I was definitely wrong for showing my anger and putting on an aggressive display towards Matt Kenseth after the race at Martinsville,” said Edwards on the Tuesday NASCAR teleconference. “I definitely want to apologize to my fans, to Office Depot, to Matt Kenseth, to DeWalt, to everyone at Roush Fenway for letting it come to that. That was definitely the wrong thing to do.”
OK, score one for Carl. I can respect a man that readily admits that he was wrong and takes credit for his actions, for I am the same way. It doesn’t happen very often, but hey, when I screw up, I am the first to say so.
“I feel bad about what I did,” Edwards continued. “I feel bad that I got sucked into that turning into such a bad deal. I really look forward to putting my best foot in front of me and going out and doing whatever it takes to be the best teammate I can be to Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle and all these guys. I think we’ve gotten off of what’s important lately, and I know for me, personally, I’m ready to get back on track.”
As I said earlier, when I was told that there had been speculation about Edwards using steroids, thus explaining his actions, I thought it was ridiculous. However, after reading comments by Kenseth, I can see how such speculation gets started.
“His behavior has been real erratic lately, honestly,” Kenseth said of Edwards. “You don’t know what to expect with him. That’s the thing that’s a little bit troublesome. One minute, he has so much respect for you, and he’s real friendly and everything’s so much fun. The next minute he wants to kick your butt and he’s swearing at you. It’s a little scary. You never know what you’re going to get.”
To be perfectly fair to you, my faithful reader, I must say that while I have never had anything against Matt, there has always been a little “something,” something I’ve never been able to quite pinpoint, about the guy that has always given me the impression that he is not quite being honest. Not that he is a liar as such, but more like he is “polished,” so to speak, much like a politician. There is something about him that I just do not trust.
Of course, as with any altercation, the parties involved will all see things from different perspectives. That is to be expected; as such, perhaps a voice from a more neutral position can give us a truer view of the whole situation.
“Carl is a very bright guy with a huge heart, and he is a hardened competitor,” Roush Fenway Racing President Geoff Smith said. “As Jack (Roush) says, he’ll race a snake down a snake hole if that’s what the race is going to be. You’ve got to let the guys have room to be competitors in their own way. I don’t view him being irrational at all. Carl Edwards has a very profound sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. And so does Matt Kenseth. We have two strong-willed personalities, each with a sense of what’s happened, whether it’s been right or wrong or unfair.”
Both Edwards and Kenseth agree that, even though they will need to work at being better teammates, chumming around together and becoming best buds is probably just not going to happen.
“We just don’t talk a lot. We don’t know one another well enough, and it’s my opinion that what’s precipitated this stuff is that lack of communication. If it’s irreconcilable, it won’t be because I’m not trying,” said Edwards. “I’m ready to do whatever it takes to understand Matt and be good teammates so we can enjoy the success that the people that are doing that are enjoying right now.”
For now, as long as he is willing to step up to the plate, I’m not about throw Carl out with the bathwater as my next favorite driver. However, as forgiving as I am, I may have to reevaluate my decision to grant Carl my respect should future incidents like this arise. Only time will tell.
Don’t let me down, Cousin! It’s a real pain in the butt picking a new favorite.
Stay off the wall, (and off the ‘roids!)