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Jeff Gordon too says drivers are worried NASCAR has let this Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski 'Boys, have at it' get a little out of hand

  Jeff Gordon isn't the only driver with questions for NASCAR about its handling of the continuing Edwards-Keselowski feud (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Cheat neat.
   Well, that old racing adage has a corollary: Wreck 'em neat.
   And whatever you might want to say about Carl Edwards and his run-ins with Brad Keselowski, well, the most obvious thing about Carl is that subtlety is not his greatest asset.
   So, yes, the big race this weekend is right here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway....but you'd better believe there will be a lot of eyeballs on what goes on up the road at that Saturday night short-track race at ORP...a nice place for these two guys to settle their differences....again.
   To be honest, there is no reason in the world why Edwards and Keselowski won't be in each other's face again.
   They're not only two of the top drivers in the Nationwide series, and dueling for the championship, even flying cross-country from Sprint Cup events to make the fields. But they're also showing an increasingly disturbing storyline: Keselowski keeps getting under Edwards' skin, and Edwards in return just blasts right back.
   It's all great drama in this year of what NASCAR executives have tagged as 'Boys, have at it.'
   But rival drivers aren't very happy with what they're seeing....or with NASCAR's relative inaction, or disinclination to do much about all the crashing on the tours this season.
   After the Edwards-Keselowski incident at Atlanta in March – where Keselowski pushed Edwards out of the way in an early pass, and where Edwards, after lengthy repairs, deliberately wrecked Keselowski in return, and nearly sent Keselowski's car into the grandstands.
   Fortunately no one was seriously injured or killed.
   NASCAR put Edwards on three weeks probation, and Mike Helton said he was sure Edwards got the message that wasn't playing nice.
   Saturday at Gateway in St. Louis, Keselowski again pushed Edwards out of the way in a pass for the lead late, and Edwards again responded by crashing Keselowski...which led to a huge pileup on the track.
   Again NASCAR's response was rather mild – a 60-point penalty (the difference between winning and running 11th, in practical terms) and a $25,000 fine, and probation – with probation a long-standing joke in the NASCAR garage ever since the time Tony Stewart, while on 'probation,' got into another fracas, and NASCAR's response was merely to extend Stewart's 'probation.'
   Probation in NASCAR country is typically just for the headlines.

   Are NASCAR officials waiting for someone -- drivers or fans -- to get seriously injured before reacting to this feud? Or are TV ratings driving this increasingly wild and dangerous 'Boys, have at it' thing? Keselowski crashing at St. Louis, Keselowski flipping at Atlanta, Edwards flying at Talladega? (Photos: Getty Images for Nascar, and Atlanta Motor Speedway)

   So what to expect at ORP?
   Well, how about another Edwards' win. He's won there in Baby Grand, USAC Silver Crown, NASCAR Truck, and Nationwide.
   And how about another Keselowski charge.
   And maybe another run-in?
   Edwards, just a couple of weeks ago, was seemingly at peace with Keselowski. 'We're even,' he would explain.
   Well, are the two still even?
   Does NASCAR care?
   Are TV ratings and crowd appeal more important that driver safety?
   Do France and Helton really like the NASCAR 'gladiator' image?
   Or is NASCAR racing simply going to go the way of goon-squad hockey?
   Are some of these NASCAR drivers feeling a little too bullet-proof?
   Jeff Gordon weighs in on the Edwards-Keselowski issue: "Well, the cars are extremely safe today, I will say.
   "But there's no guarantees. Things can fly through the window, through the side window.
    "That's the thing I saw with what happened this past week -- was it was a lot more than just turning the guy coming to the start-finish line? There were 15 or 20 cars behind that had nowhere to go that started bouncing off of Brad. That made for some really hard hits.
    "You're not considering that when you're out there racing for the win and you make a choice like that.
    "But that sometimes can be the outcome...and it can be one you could regret later."

  Chip Ganassi, who has won both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 this season, says drivers shouldn't be allowed to use their cars as 'a weapon' (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Car owner Chip Ganassi weighs in too and says his philosophy for drivers on the track is simple: "You should be allowed one move. Each guy should be allowed one move.
    "But I don't think you should be allowed to use your car as a weapon.
     "I just thank God nobody gets hurt in any of these things....
      "I don't think that's what NASCAR had in mind they said 'Boys, have at it.' They certainly don't want to hurt anybody.
      "I would certainly like to see more good driving, and driving we can respect; not having to crash a guy to win.
     "The greatest drivers in the sport were known for their great driving more than they were for how many guys they took out."
      NASCAR drivers, Gordon concedes, do get more than little pumped up with adrenaline at times. And that can take things over the line. He's done that himself, in just the past few weeks.
    "When you see things like what happened this past weekend -- things we've seen throughout this season -- that shows a lot about character as a driver...personality inside the racecar," Gordon says.
   "Sonoma: I made a mistake when I got into Martin (Truex Jr.). But the other ones (mistakes Gordon himself made) were just a little bit of frustration, a little bit of the-heat-of-the-moment, from the double-file restarts.
    "These double-file restarts are crazy. You talk to any driver after a race -- if there's a green-white-checkered, it doesn't matter if it's Daytona or Martinsville, guys get out of the cars and 'Man, that was just insane.'
   "It makes you do things you otherwise really wouldn't want to do. But you don't have a choice."
   But of course drivers do have a choice, as Jeff Burton will point out. Cars don't wreck; drivers wreck.
   The tension, the high drama, Gordon says "isn't necessarily a bad thing for the sport.
   "We're not out there to all be Buddy-Buddy.
    "We're out there to race hard.
     "If that puts on a great show for the fans, it's a win-win.
    "But it's also going to make some enemies for you, that you're going to have to deal with."
    Certainly for Edwards and Keselowski.
    Is NASCAR right to just slap wrists? Should officials put their foot down and mark a line...before this sport goes the way of professional wrestling?
     Gordon, after looking at the St. Louis tapes, and considering his own hotly criticized actions at Sonoma and elsewhere, says "There's a big difference between deliberate and an accident.
   "There's hard racing, and there's 'a mistake.'
   "Then there's stupidity, like my thing with Martin.
    "Racing hard, you push the envelope, get into a guy...which is what I saw in Brad's move going into turn one (on the inside of Edwards at the end of the race, sliding up the track and pushing Edwards higher).
    "It's hard when you're inside the car (like Edwards) -- All you feel is the guy hit you. You don't know if he did it because he slid a little bit and slid up into you, or because he just deliberately tried to knock you up out of the groove.
    "I'm sure that played a big factor in Carl's move coming back."
    And now what to make of NASCAR's modest reaction?
    It's not the first time, or the second time, or even the third time the two have gotten into each other.
   And to judge from NASCAR's modest reactions, officials in Daytona are apparently not only condoning this increasingly dangerous tit-for-tat but in fact encouraging such.
    Gordon says "I'm just glad I'm not the one making those decisions.
    "It's been well-documented this year NASCAR is allowing the racing to be more in the drivers' hands....to try to stay out of some of those incidents that are judgment calls.
    "It's hard to really say (about Saturday's run-in), because there is a little bit of history with those two.
    "You don't really know what all has gone on over the years with them that has brought it to this point."
    However it would appear that NASCAR officials see no need to talk to the two and calm things down.
   Gordon's judgment:
    "Looked to me like Brad got into him a little bit getting into one...but just racing hard for the position, for the win.
    "Then what Carl did, I felt, was definitely out of line. I felt it was over and above what needed to be done."
    Maybe Gordon and some other drivers need to talk to these two, if NASCAR shows no interest in resolving things....
    "Two, three, four, five years ago I would have thought absolutely they (NASCAR) would have done something," Gordon says. "Maybe taken the win away....
    "Today it's 'letting the guys race.'
    "That means I'm sure you'll want to watch the future Nationwide races and those guys battling one another, and in the Cup Series as well.
    "You just know there's going to be more to come."

    Well, it is the season of 'Boys, have at it.'
    "I'm anxious to see how far it's going to be taken before they do step in, or if they step in," Gordon says of NASCAR.
    "It's a question on a lot of people's minds – 'This is great...but what's too much?'
     "What I saw happen Saturday night, to me, was right there on that edge of crossing the line, if not possibly crossing the line.
    "So it's kind of a new era now."
    Maybe it's time for Gordon, a four-time champ, and teammate Jimmie Johnson, a four-time champ, and Tony Stewart, a two-time champ, to take matters into their own hands.....
    "The drivers have always taken care of these things on track...whether you knew about it or not," Gordon says. "They just weren't maybe as much out in the open.
    "So you thought, from an outsider's standpoint, 'That's over.'
    " But -- trust me, as a driver -- that was not over. That was not the end of it.
    "They log that in the back of their mind, and there's going to be a time and a day...
    "The payback might not necessarily be the same thing that was handed down to you. It could be something different.
    "You're usually going to try to make life miserable for them, or do something that is considered necessarily payback, that takes away either points or a good finish or makes for a bad day or tears up a racecar.
    "Could be a lot of things.
    "Who's to say where that line is at right now.
    "But I definitely have some questions when I get to the track to kind of try to clarify that a little bit for myself."

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BK didn't push Carl out of

BK didn't push Carl out of the way at Atlanta... Watch the replay; BK was right on the white line and Carl came down on him. You make it sound like BK jacked Carl up at Atlanta.

"You're usually going to try

"You're usually going to try to make life miserable for them, or do something that is considered necessarily payback, that takes away either points or a good finish or makes for a bad day or tears up a racecar." - Jeff Gordon.

Nice article. I was thinking the same thing. Gonna be interesting to see if Carl even makes the Chase this year with Watkins Glen, Bristol and Richmond in waiting in the wings. It may not be Bad Brad to deliver the punishment but Happy Harvick from that episode in the Charlotte garage and from talkin' smack on Twitter.

I think Gordon makes a lot of

I think Gordon makes a lot of good points. Plus, I like that from how I read this that Gordon isn't taking the whole, 'Somebody is gonna get killed' route that many are taking. I don't want someone to get killed either, but the way people are saying it and using it as a condemnation against Edwards is like the overprotective mother at the playground. "Let the damn kid play on the monkey bars already lady!"

Racing is a dangerous sport. The cars are safer then they have ever been and other features like carbon fiber seats, HANS device, the fuel tank cell, etc are mighty good safeguards to protect drivers.

I am a racing fan. Have been my whole life from the local tracks and now the last decade in NASCAR. I can't believe when people say they don't anticipate seeing the Big One or any other spectacular wreck though. That is a part of the allure of racing. I love hard rubbing and racing too. Busch and Craven at Darlington. Burton and Kyle Busch a few years ago at Bristol. Hell, most every week we get to see the best stock car racing in the world. But like Gordon said...from Carl's cockpit Brad was rubbing him hard and pushing him up the track. I appreciate that Edwards didn't say, "yeah...I sure hate it for those guys...blah, blah, blah...didn't mean to get into him like that." No, Carl admitted he wasn't gonna let Brad take the win from him and that is exactly what he would have done.

This isn't the result of NASCAR letting the 'boys be boys'. That's a load of pc crap too that people are throwing out there. This is racing. It is a part of the sport. Let's stop being a bunch of crybabies about it and appreciate the excitement. If Brad or Carl or any other driver thinks it is too dangerous then they can decide to forego their millions they make each year and turn a wrench at a Kwik Tune and Lube.

Great article. Glad I found your site. Check out my fantasy NASCAR site if you play.


I'm not against payback for

I'm not against payback for someone wrecking you, but Carl cut Brad off at Talledega last year and at Atlanta this year. Neither warranted payback. The deal at Gateway last Saturday might have warranted a little shove and run from Edwards, but not a clip and wreck with the entire field coming full bore right behind them. Somebody needs to explain to Carl that you don't give payback for things that are YOUR fault.

Well we shall see. I

Well we shall see. I personally hope a few of the drivers who were caught up in the wreck decide to seek some revenge on Carl...after all they aren't on probation..and hopefully they will be able to execute their dump of Carl a little bit better then Carl... With Carl's temper it shouldn't take much to rattle his cage.. I think the downfall of Carl will be Carl himself. Or we could take it to the CUP Series...Harvick does come to mind..and I believe two of his own team mates "owe" Carl...and then there is Stewart..he..as well as his pit crew have been on the receiving end of Carl's temper..and then we have Junior..now that would be a popular "payback"....There are just so many scenarios...at this point I wouldn't want to be Edwards...but then again..I'm not an idiot so I don't qualify for the role.

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