NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Edwards, Keselowski & the Fan Fallout

I’m guessing you all know what you’re in for by reading Fanning the Flames this week. Yes, it’s all Carl, all day. So if you’re tired of the coverage, I’m giving you permission to hop on over to McLaughlin’s or Vito’s piece now.

Go ahead. I won’t be mad.

OK, now that I’ve committed writer’s suicide by fending off the lifeblood of the column, I’ll reward those that stuck around with this little jewel which attempts to answer the age old question of what drivers do when they have to go to the bathroom during a race.

I have a few more questions in R&D mode than usual this week, but under the circumstances that’s to be expected. Be patient, for an off-week is a good week to clean out the inbox.

And now, on to the Ballad of Carl and Brad…

Q: Let’s look past the Carl/Brad nastiness for a moment. That damn wing can’t be gone fast enough. If NA$CAR was as serious about safety as they want us to believe they would have put the spoilers on in the offseason after [Ryan] Newman and [Carl] Edwards took off at Talladega last year. Craving ratings is understandable but not at the expense of driver and fan safety. And I can’t resist, Carl should be ashamed. – Peter Byrnes

A: I tend to agree with you, although I’ve heard whispers that NASCAR’s techies have said there are vents of some sort under the car – or openings that act as vents – that are aiding in flight. I’ll look into that and see what else I can dig up.

Of course, the spoiler is coming in a few weeks, but in the meantime we’ll hear the same mouthpieces that trumpeted the wing as the be-all, end-all just one year ago shill for the spoiler now that it’s NASCAR-approved. You know who you are, TV guys.

Q: What kind of message is the sport sending when it gives Edwards only three races on probation? Carl deserved to be parked for Bristol and maybe Martinsville. I was horrified watching that and it only got worse with every replay.

To think a man would sit in the garage for two hours and plot that course of action out is disgusting. And for NASCAR to condone it and encourage it with their silly “penalty” is plain wrong. Carl lost a fan on Sunday. I’ll take my disposable income to someone else’s trailer. – Maggie Herm, Houston, Texas

A: The message conveyed was that since NASCAR’s baseline probationary period has traditionally been levied through the end of the calendar year, the boys are now free to run rampant. NASCAR made just as much a statement with that as Edwards did with his front bumper. You and I don’t share the same opinion on how this should have been handled – and that’s fine – but even with my tempered expectations, I fully expected something north of a three-race probation.

If anything is to be gleaned from this ruling, it’s that NASCAR has set a new precedent: Blatant retaliation will get you a three-race probation. No points docking, no fine, no suspension. And if that’s the way NASCAR wants it, fine, but it’d be wise to not reverse stance in two months when someone pulls a stunt half as egregious.

By the way, Robby Gordon and Ted Musgrave must be throwing an absolute fit right about now. More on Robby in a moment.

Q: I’ve heard every media member’s reactions to the Carl vs. Brad battle royale but I haven’t heard what Brad [Keselowski] has said since Helton’s announcement. Has he said anything? I’d be pissed to all hell! – The “Original” Junebug

A: Wanna go fishing with me ‘Bug? Keselowski’s reaction on FOX immediately after the incident went like this:

“It will be interesting to see how NASCAR reacts to it – they have the ball. If they’re going to allow people to intentionally wreck each other at tracks this fast we will hurt someone either in the cars or in the grandstands.”

The most we heard out of him after NASCAR’s Tuesday ruling was, well, it wasn’t him, but his PR person:

“I support NASCAR in the decision they communicated today. They are not in an enviable position when it comes to these matters, but they do an outstanding job. The unfortunate part about what happened on Sunday is that is has overshadowed a win by the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge and an overall solid performance by Penske Racing at Atlanta.”

‘Atta way to be a team player, BK. Sounds like he expected more of a penalty but didn’t want to cross NASCAR with any lip. I’d like to know what he’s saying to his buddies while they’re kickin’ it with some cold ones.

While we’re on this topic, I gathered up some Twitter comments just moments after Mike Helton made NASCAR’s decision public on Tuesday. The beauty of Twitter is that it’s unfiltered. And in this case, it was these drivers’ first, and most telling reaction:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Let the boys be boys. Well that didn’t take long. Be careful what you wish for NASCAR, you just might get it. Good luck cleaning up that PR mess. – Brad Davies, North Carolina

A: This isn’t a PR mess. A PR mess would have been if one of the clean-cut, all-American boys with a toothy grin and aw-shucks attitude that was running 150-some laps down had seriously injured a rookie driving his heart out for a top-10 finish. Or worse, if the car had found its way beyond that catch fencing. That’s the nightmare scenario, you know. They’ve got to keep those machines on the ground.

Q: I’m OK with a non-penalty. As a long-time fan that often longs for the “Good old days” (yeah sometimes they weren’t always that good, but don’t tell anyone!) I understand a certain code these guys live by.

Cale and Bobby and The King and all the guys they raced with understood and lived by an unspoken creed that you had to stand your ground. If you let yourself get pushed around they’ll continue to. At some point the other guy has to be straightened out. Carl simply had had enough and it was time to act. From what I gather there aren’t many in the garage that mind the decision by NASCAR either. Brad learned an important lesson Sunday. – Charles Thomas, a 40-year fan

A: Lesson learned: If a guy whose day you’ve ruined (whether intentionally or not) takes an actual swipe at you with his car, pull a Maverick:

“I’ll hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by me, Goose.”

Another lesson learned: Sometimes the guy you peeved off won’t wait for the optimal time to get his vengeance. I don’t have a problem with “the code” and its repercussions – yeah, sometimes you have to put a rookie in his place. I did think the best way to handle it was to wait for Bristol, though.

Think about it, Carl could’ve called his shot on that Facebook page he’s so fond of, given Brad a couple weeks to fret over it and given everyone a good show at Bristol. The only reason the Homestead Nationwide race got any play last year was for the same situation, after all.

Spinning a guy intentionally at 190 mph doesn’t fly in my book. And yes, I realize he didn’t know Keselowski would take flight, but that’s inconsequential. There’s a time and a place, and Carl was wrong on both accounts.

With that we’re done. Thanks for hanging around until the end.

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