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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: Carl Edwards Just Doesn’t Get It

Carl Edwards just doesn’t get it.

We’ve heard all about last Saturday night’s dustup between Edwards and Brad Keselowski and read all of the stories, so we won’t rehash it at this point in time. Now that the drivers are back at the track and in front of the media, though, we’re getting to hear a lot of the opinions from the drivers on the incident. And to me, the most interesting comments came from Edwards himself as he faced the assembled media and fans during the top 12 driver availability.

Those choice comments carried with them a running theme Friday – no apology. In fact, if anything Edwards seemed more defiant about keeping his personality and driving style the way it is, despite a 60-point penalty, $25,000 fine and probation for wrecking Keselowski on the last lap.

Here’s some quote highlights. Carl noted it’s a fine line between being walked on and being a bully:

“If someone takes something from you in competition, and they take it unfairly,” he claimed. “Then you either accept that and you can go on and live with that, which, Saturday night I couldn’t, or you go get it back.”

Then, he moved on to whether his image has taken a hit over this incident:

“I’m me. I’m Carl. I go out there and I didn’t get here by allowing anybody to run over me. He took the win away from me and I took it back from him. That’s what I said after the race and the only bad part is that other people were involved, and I apologize to those people and I accept my penalty for it. My fans understand me and the people that I’ve talked to – it’s funny how you go around and people – to a person – people felt like that race went the way it should have. Multiple drivers said that.”

When asked if it is not OK to move someone out of the way to gain a position:

“It’s not OK to move me out of the way. If somebody else wants to let people move them out of the way for the win, that’s OK with me. They can do whatever they like, but I can’t allow myself to be run over like that. I’m not gonna win championships like that.”

Talking about whether he’d ever moved anyone:

“Let me put it this way; the times when I’ve moved someone out of the way for whatever reason I thought was OK at the time, I have fully expected retaliation and every driver that’s in here knows that feeling. That’s part of our sport, and NASCAR has said that they believe that’s the best way for this sport to [do it] – and I think that’s true.”

Discussing if Keselowski’s bump and run was intentional, or a mistake, and the wrecks that occurred in the aftermath of his actions:

“I believe he did not make a mistake. That was an intentional… I mean, he moved me out of the way to gain an advantage and it almost worked. NASCAR knows what happened, and he knows what happened, and that’s why they penalized him. I believe he’s not being completely honest that that was a mistake. He’s too good of a racecar driver and I know that. Let me be really clear on this. Our actions are not very different. The outcomes are different. I respect that it is dangerous. I don’t go out and initiate – not anymore. I have before and I’ve learned it’s better not to go out and initiate contact to gain an advantage. It just comes down to, am I willing to accept somebody putting me at risk like that over and over.”

On the public outcry after the race:

“I don’t hear the public outcry. The people who I talked to seemed to think that race went well.”

It seems rather obvious from his comments that Edwards doesn’t see anything wrong with his actions on Saturday night, and feels like they were warranted based on the events that preceded them. It also appears as though the people he is talking to are reinforcing that opinion.

That begs a major question: who?

Clearly, it must not have been the ones running up front every week. Most of the Chase-contending drivers had no comment, but the ones who did were decidedly against Edwards.

Said Ryan Newman, “Have at it boys is not [what happened Saturday night]. Have at it boys means even if we crash each other or get into an accident or lose respect for one another, you go talk about it. That’s the ‘Have at it, Boys.’ You go behind a trailer and you talk about it. We can get in each other’s faces. That’s ‘Have at it, Boys.’ Going out there and purposely crashing somebody; turning right and turning left just to crash ‘em on purpose, whether you’re winning the race or not, is not at all ‘Have at it, Boys.’ Some people have called it manslaughter or attempted manslaughter, but that’s closer to what it is. That’s not ‘Have at it, Boys.’ I’m all for ‘Have at it, Boys.’ Let us race. But that’s not racing. We should paint a No. 99 or No. 88 Chevy Impala for Carl to go race demolition derbies with, if that’s the case. We’re racing, we’re not demolition derbies. Brad hasn’t decked Carl yet. To me, that’s all it is. Brad just needs to go up there and lay one across his lips and everything will be fine.”

Said Kurt Busch, “I think the way that it has played out is that you have someone who is four or five years into the sport and a new guy. Carl has raced a lot in the Nationwide Series, and some of his tendencies are Nationwide-type things. I see that a lot of the time when he races on the Cup side. He’s doing some Nationwide things and until he decides that Cup is where he wants to be, maybe that’s how he’ll drive.”

Denny Hamlin stated, “That was a touchy thing. It’s two guys that I really don’t agree with at all. I think you’re only going to poke the lion long enough before you’re actually going to get bit, and Brad and Carl in my opinion was just way overboard and shouldn’t have gone that far. I don’t agree with either. I think Brad’s going to have to figure out a way to get some attention other than winning a Nationwide race or running into somebody. You look at Brad, he’s always getting into somebody; and then, it’s retaliation when somebody is getting back into him. I think that until he changes, that’s going to continue… [but] then Carl, that was just a bad move. Even though he got roughed up and maybe he got the win taken away, he was going to finish second, he wasn’t going to finish 20th. So I think that was just quite a bit overboard.”

Said Jeff Burton, “I think they didn’t penalize him (Carl) enough. I don’t understand why Keselowski was penalized at all. I’m still confused. And I haven’t read or heard or talked to NASCAR. I don’t know why after that incident that Brad Keselowski should be put on probation. If you drive in the corner on a restart and your car slips and you get into another driver, that’s an occurrence that happens every race. That’s what happened in that race. That’s what happened when I got into Kyle Busch at New Hampshire. That’s what happened when Kyle Busch got into me at Charlotte. That’s racing. There was nothing that was just racing. You could make the case that, yeah, he knocked him out of the way and he did. But he didn’t spin him out. He got into him a little bit. So to me, I looked at that and I said, OK, he got penalized more than I thought he should have gotten penalized. And I thought Carl got penalized less than I thought he should have been penalized.”

It seems quite apparent that the drivers, at least in the top 12 who had opinions think that Carl was the one who was out of line and that Keselowski, while he might have been aggressive, did not deserve the actions that he received.

The bottom line is racing can be a contact sport. For it to be exciting sometimes, it needs to be a contact sport. However, there is a time and place for that contact. Passing people on a short track can be very hard, and sometimes a driver has to push another driver to force their car to handle less than optimally so that they can get by. When done properly, the bump and run is a thing of beauty. The driver following bumps the driver ahead, the car slides up slightly, and the front car has to lift or loses enough grip that the car behind can duck below them and take the position. That action is fine on a short track, and it needs to be executed in the corner, when the cars are slowing down or getting back to the throttle – where the car behind can make contact without causing the other car to completely lose control. Those actions should never take place on a high speed race track, and they should never take place on the straightaway.

What Edwards did on Saturday night wasn’t racing. He didn’t move the other car to gain an advantage. He destroyed the other car to ensure he would get past him, and he’d have no chance to get back to him or win the race. Carl maintains that their actions were the same, but the outcomes were different. There is no way that Keselowski could have saved his car, even if he was the greatest racecar driver to have ever lived, because Edwards did not hit him in the bumper. Edward hooked his car in the quarterpanel and turned the car for Keselowski. When Keselowski bumped Edwards, it was from behind and Edwards continued to have control over his racecar. When a car turns 90 degrees on a racetrack, the driver is no longer in control of the car and it is impossible for him to do anything but hold on. Had Edwards lifted at the moment he made contact, the outcome could have been different, but he stayed on the gas and drove through Keselowski, ensuring that he could not control his car. At that point, Keselowski was just along for the ride.

Burton summed the event up very well in his press conference: ”The proper response wasn’t available to Carl because when they got off the racetrack, the third-place car got there. Now you’ve got the third-place car, or perhaps the second-place car even on the first place car’s bumper. So Carl couldn’t get in the position he needed to get in to give the proper response. The proper response would have been to return the bump and run. That would have been perfectly acceptable. You know, get him in the rear bumper, knock him back off the racetrack. You do it to me, I’ll do it to you. That would have been a perfectly normal and natural response with very little said about it. That wasn’t presented to him, because the second- or third-place car, depending on where he was running, got behind Keselowski and he couldn’t get to him. So that’s what created Carl feeling like he had to do what he did. That’s my opinion. I’m not in Carl’s head, but in watching the race as soon as it happened, I said ‘he’s going to get him back.’ So instead of waiting for three or four weeks, he decided to get it back right then, and the only way to get it back right then was to do what he did. That wasn’t the right response.”

There is moving someone and there is wrecking someone. You move someone when you’re a faster car and you try to get by the one in front for some time and you can’t, or it is the last lap and you’re going for a win. You bump their car and you drive underneath them. You do not pull up next to them part way and then turn into their bumper. That is wrecking someone, which is exactly what Edwards did Saturday night, and wrecking someone is unacceptable. There are hundreds of people working on these racecars every week, putting in tremendous hours and trying to get it all done on a budget. When you wreck someone, you increase the workload for the people working on the cars, not to mention causing them to lose a car that is pretty good or it wouldn’t be at the front to begin with. So no matter how long Carl denies it, or how many of his cronies tell him he did a great job winning the race, he stepped over the line and went from racing to wrecking. There’s no place in the sport for that, and he needs to understand it. Maybe Keselowski or someone else really does need to sock him in the mouth to drive that point home.

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