Now, that looked like it was shaping up for an exciting finish to the race. Tony Stewart (he’d been putting a whooping on the field), followed by an antsy Mr. Five-Time and then came the interesting part. Roush Fenway sat there all lined up ready to steal away Smoke’s thunder… 3-4-5, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.
Yes, the season really was heating up for The Cat in the Hat’s trio. Edwards finished 2011 just inches away from a championship, Kenseth opened the year by adding the 2012 Daytona 500 to his trophy shelf and oddly enough Biffle had been regularly appearing in camera shot near the very front of the field. Was there a chance that one of the Roushketeers could silence those doubting the team’s prospects for the year, after downsizing to three cars and piecing together sponsorship for the remaining rides like a crazy quilt?
Not to be. Not at all. The checkered flag dropped, the No. 16 and No. 17 followed side-by-side as Stewart and Johnson tried to fool one another coming up to speed. Edwards decided that nobody was moving fast enough, dove to the inside, going three-wide with his teammates. Whether Kenseth lifted so he wouldn’t wreck with Edwards is anybody’s guess. Cousin Carl then slid up and closed the door on the No. 17, even while Biffle chose to dive a little lower into turn 2. Matt was left to try and find his line behind those two – drifting up the banking ever so much – when Kasey Kahne surged by and pulled the air off Kenseth’s rear fender.
The result? One crunched and well scrubbed Zest Roush Ford. Kenseth limped home in 22nd, a crushing end to what otherwise was a very promising day. At the moment, I was listening to PRN and the immediate reaction from the booth was that teammates had wrecked one of their own, as in intentionally. Post-race interviews followed this line of thought. Edwards was stopped in the garage area on his way to find Kenseth, purportedly to apologize. Biffle sounded contrite and worried that anything he had done on track resulted in his teammate hitting the wall.
Awww, isn’t that nice? It’s all one big family working hard to make sure everybody’s happy.
Hey! What is with that? Locked in my car, I pictured the referenced wreck complete with angry drivers, fenders positioned to hold off a charging friend, pushing one another out of the way. You know, the hard-hitting driving style that makes NASCAR what it is. Once I got home I ran the DVR and found the restart.
Are you kidding me? The restart was just that. It was clean. Nobody did anything to anyone else that wasn’t warranted. Yes, those may have been three cars from the same garage hammering at the tailgates of the leaders, but they were doing what needed to get done. Edwards saw a chance and went for it. Biffle protected his line. Kenseth tried to recover the inches he lost. It just went bad, that’s all.
In other words, no apologies should have been expected. Certainly no reporter should have been looking to make more out of the moment. Now, if Kenseth had climbed from his car and went for somebody’s throat, the flurry of, “Oh man, did you see that?” may have been warranted. But he didn’t. He shrugged it off and went for the shower. Bad day. Plain and simple.
And that, my fellow fans, is why we watch this crazy sport; moments of anticipation, followed by disbelief, soon to be replaced by anger, consternation, humor, and finally acceptance. One never knows what to expect come Sunday afternoon. Sometimes a teammate might push your driver to the front of the field, block on-coming traffic and generally help to make your day better. And then some days they just want to win and woe to the driver who thinks that should be him instead.
Unpredictability beats as the heart of NASCAR. One never expected the Roush boys to come home 1-2-3, but then again we didn’t expect they’d wreck each other, either. And somehow, that final altercation made the afternoon a little more worthwhile.
So to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pilots I ask this one little thing: hammer down, fender to fender and never let off. Thanks for listening.
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