Hypocrisy: the act of pretending to hold beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities or standards that one does not actually hold.
A lot of terms have been used to describe Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500. Ugly. Marred. Over the top. “Oh, and Kurt Busch wins.” But there’s only one word needed to describe the race’s defining moment that saw Carl Edwards deliberately send Brad Keselowski spinning, a violent wreck that flipped the No. 12 car on its roof.
After spending the entire offseason pledging to take a “boys, have at it” approach to their racing in 2010, only four races into the season, NASCAR was back to its old ways, running away from the message they were drilling into the fans they had left faster than a Frenchman from a conflict. The sanctioning body wasted no time after Edwards took his shot at Keselowski, parked him for the remainder of the race and called him to the Oval Office trailer for a friendly chat. Later, Robin Pemberton deviated even further from their new “hands off” pledge, refusing to rule out the chance that NASCAR would levy additional penalties this afternoon.
NASCAR has persistently pledged to let the drivers handle matters on the track themselves. Yet, despite persistently pretending to hold these beliefs, they’ve gone back to disciplining drivers themselves. Hypocrisy.
There are a million different reasons being floated out there for NASCAR to be given a pass for reneging on their “have at it” pledge for 2010. Edwards was out of control and over the top with his actions. He also drove backwards down pit road. Keselowski’s car flipped and nearly got into the catchfence in a wreck that looked eerily similar to Talladega’s infamous finish in April 2009. Edwards wrecked him at one of the highest-speed locations anywhere on the track.
Yes, the wreck was ugly. Yes, it was dangerous. But like it or not, that’s the reality of drivers’ policing themselves. It’s brutal, violent and in the case of cars with wings, flipping isn’t out of the question. Furthermore, it’s unpredictable, and it always will be, because perceptions regarding who is at fault and how egregious offenses are will always vary between cockpit to cockpit.
It’s certainly a dangerous proposition to see this side of drivers policing themselves. This is especially true in Edwards’s case, given that under these rules NASCAR pledged to abide by, a driver whose history includes threatening to violently assault a teammate at Martinsville, actually hitting Kevin Harvick in the garage at Charlotte, trying to start an altercation with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Michigan, and has just as long a rap sheet of on-track incidents as devil incarnate “Special K” has just as much of a right as anyone on the track, according to NASCAR’s new thought process, to determine when he’s been wronged and how his competitors should pay.
But that’s reality in a sport that is as competitive and dangerous as stock car racing. There is a collective risk to taking part in it, be it racing against men far more aggressive than most in overpowered machines, or being willing to pay large sums of money to sit mere feet away from possible calamity and death.
And while I personally have and will continue to chide Edwards for an unnecessary, inexplicably violent outburst that was in no way justified, I, like NASCAR and everyone else that saw the events at Atlanta not named Edwards or Keselowski, am in no position to judge who was right and who was wrong. That should be left to the drivers to decide. NASCAR pledged to leave that to the drivers to decide. They acted like a bunch of frauds and did not.
But NASCAR wasn’t the only hypocrite exposed this Sunday. Just as his white gloves were visibly seen wheeling the No. 99 Ford into Keselowski’s Dodge, Edwards gave up any supposed high ground that he has been taking in his “feud” with Keselowski. Instead, he engaged in on-track activity that embodied absolutely everything that he has been railing against since Brad stormed onto NASCAR’s biggest stage.
Edwards was quick to rationalize his violence in the garage Sunday before meeting with NASCAR, noting that he and Brad had history and that Brad knew what it was. Yes, Keselowski sent Edwards flying while racing for victory at Talladega. Yes, Keselowski gave Edwards the old bump-and-run at Memphis to take the checkers. Yes, Keselowski got into Edwards on Sunday. Never even mind the fact that in two of those three incidents, Edwards showed the stock car of IQ of Danica Patrick – assuming another driver would slow down to accommodate having their bumper swiped across – just look at Edwards’s rap sheet.
This is the same driver that ran over Elliott Sadler to win a Nationwide Series race at Richmond, and that wrecked half his team and damn near half the field at Talladega in the fall of 2008 through aggressive bump-drafting. He also bowled all over Kyle Busch to win at Bristol. The history speaks for itself; all this aggression, all this contact that Edwards seems intent to hold against Keselowski is the very same kind of thing he’s made a career out of doing.
Just like Denny Hamlin before him last year, who after weeks of trash talking about how dirty a driver Keselowski was, decided the best way to deal with it was to run him over in much the same fashion of racing that he’d been whining about all season long.
The only real difference between these feuding drivers can’t be seen on the racetrack… they do race hard, make contact and they don’t always make friends. The difference is in the attitude they take towards it. While Keselowski has polarized fans and drivers alike with his no apologies outlook on hard racing, Hamlin and Edwards are both students of NASCAR’s new school. Thanks to equipment, they’ve run up front since the first time they got behind the wheel. They’ve become accustomed to success far earlier in their careers than drivers from years past, and as such they really seemed to have struggled with the change drivers like Keselowski, who threaten to bring to a sport fans that want to see a turn back to the old-school days. They’ve put themselves and their peers on a plane not to be touched or disturbed, and if Edwards’s justification for his actions Sunday were any indication he felt that he had been sufficiently wronged to stage yet another brazen attack on a fellow competitor.
The record really doesn’t manifest that. But hey, spinning a driver in an attempt to teach a him a lesson is, well, within Edwards’s right, as well as it was for Hamlin at Homestead last year.
What it also does is to portray these critics of Keselowski for being the hypocrites they are. Both Hamlin and Edwards have scored numerous wins and enjoyed tremendous success because they are talented drivers, but also just as much because they’re raced aggressively, in the exact same manner they’ve now turned to chastising a fellow competitor for using. All three of these guys have wrecked drivers, started conflicts and gone over the ragged edge to take the checkered flag. Only difference is two out of three consider themselves above the other.
In the end on Sunday, be it the drivers or the sanctioning body, hypocrisy was on display at Atlanta Motor Speedway. No wonder all those race fans still aren’t sold on this whole “NASCAR is on its way to resurgence” bandwagon.