Commentators were unsure, teams were angry, and fans were thrilled. After tonight's Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway, even NASCAR is unsure of whether the last-lap incident was intentional or just hard racing.
It seems that tonight's altercation went beyond just NASCAR and its fans as Carl Edwards was the number one trending topic on twitter.com--which I personally have never seen. As I was reading tweets about Carl and the incident, I realized most people either felt that Edwards did what was within his limitations in regards to NASCAR's rules--or they felt that Edwards had inadvertant plans to kill Keselowski. Brad's father, Bob, felt that the latter was true. I believe that Brad's father and fans have no right to blame Carl. Bob Keselowski made the comment that Carl nearly put Brad into the grandstands in Atlanta--but what about Talladega when Carl literally had pieces of his car fly into the grandstands? If Bob Keselowski wants to preach about safety and "killing" other drivers, he may want to direct his comments towards his son, Brad, as well.
The fact that fans can casually make comments about a professional racecar driver wanting to kill another is preposterous. No one driver wants to kill a colleague. Do they want to win races? Of course! The point of being involved in one of the most watched racing series in the world is to win races and win championships. If Brad had been nose to bumper with Carl leading coming out of turn 4, he wouldn't have budged. He may have made an even more controversial move, if you can imagine what that would be like.
If anything, Brad came out of turn 4 hot and trying to get everything he could--so he slid up and the back of his car slid against the left front of Edward's nose, sending Keselowski sailing--and Edwards to the front. It was the end of the race, it was to be expected. But no fan, no commentator, no driver could have expected the brief race on the front-stretch to the checkered flag to be so divided and controversial.
Tonight's incident would have been minute if the incident had happened further back in the pack instead of being at the very front. I've heard people say that the hit Keselowski took was what made Carl's controversial move "bad." Was that not the exact case last fall at Talladega? Not only did Keselowski take Edwards out, Ryan Newman got the brunt of it as well. There were drivers who were innocent bystanders in tonights race which made the incident all the more "horrific," but don't forget about last fall. In my mind, last fall was more horrific, considering fans were injured in the process. Atlanta was between Edwards and Keselowski, and although that was pure pay-back for Talladega--the fact that no fans or other drivers were involved was a blessing.
The incident at Talladega left Edward fans
in shock, and others notice Keselowski.
I will admit, I'm not the biggest fan of Keselowski--and am quite the ed-head... but putting my personal feelings aside, I will say that I think Carl's last-lap move was half desperation to win, and half payback for Keselowski's nudge on the prior turn. Everyone knows of the prior Edward/Keselowski incidents--first at Talladega, and then payback at Atlanta. I believe that both drivers put their differences aside following the horrific accident at Atlanta where Edwards intentionally wrecked Keselowski and sent him into the air. Of course this was prior to the spoiler being re-introduced into NASCAR... but nonetheless both Edwards and Keselowski have been sent sailing into the air by one another.
Carl's move was a black or white move. There was no gray area in it. He abided by the rules put before him and then got scolded. If NASCAR penalizes him for the incident, they will be setting a horrible precedent for races to come. Dave Burns, Rusty Wallace, and Ricky Craven, the commentators in the booth for the Nationwide Race, were unsure of whether or not the incident would be perceived as NASCAR getting back to it's roots, or just dirty driving. Some may say that in the past, Carl has made some dirty moves--but what driver hasn't? Earnhardt was known for his "Intimidator" persona, and applauded for it. Guys like Stewart and Harvick are known for their no bull attitude on and off the track... but they all do it within NASCAR's ruling.
There is no doubt that Carl is not 100% right in every move he makes on the race track, but is it not obvious that neither is Brad? The Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway was definitely a race fans will remember, but if NASCAR were to deprive Edwards of the win or points, they would be going against everything they've been preaching since February; Pre-Daytona 500 and Pre-Budweiser Shootout. By letting the boys race, you're giving them free reigns to make last-minute decisive moves such as the one that was made tonight. NASCAR was made famous because of the 1979 Daytona 500 fight--and for all we know, tonight's drama could be the next big incident to publicize why NASCAR racing is as intense as it is. And as with all other sports--by Wednesday, Keselowski and Edwards could have buried the hatchet.
The opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect upon Skirts & Scuffs or other contributors.
Photo Courtesy NASCAR.com, Sports Illustrated, and PitRoadScene.com