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Edwards vs Keselowski: The view from outside NASCAR...as well as inside

  Brad Keselowski (L) talking with Carl Edwards (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern


    So, did Brad Keselowski get what was coming to him?
    Did Carl Edwards get off with just a slap on the wrist, with that three-race probation, for Sunday's wild crash at Atlanta?
    The real question here is this: What does NASCAR's decision -- its 'no-call' -- in the latest Edwards-Keselowski dust-up say about NASCAR's avowed commitment to safety first?
    A 3500-pound block of steel flying uncontrollably at nearly 200 mph toward a grandstand full of people?
    The driver landing smack on his roof?
    How much different was all this, really, from what happened twice last year at Talladega? Remember how long it took safety crews to cut Ryan Newman out of his car? Remember how he was wedged in there so tight that he couldn't even get his helmet off?
    And what does all this say to the American public at large about NASCAR and its racing?
    Safety should be NASCAR's Prime Directive, not selling tickets or boosting TV ratings.
    So let's ask how NASCAR's latest decision in the Edwards-Keselowski issue -- long running -- deals with the issue of safety, the safety of NASCAR's fans and the safety of NASCAR's drivers.
    Perhaps that's where the focus should be.
    That 'Have at it, boys' doesn't look like such a great idea now, does it?
    It may be time to rethink that idea.
    NASCAR appears on the precipice of letting this sport devolve into simple goon-squad hockey.
    Anything goes.
    Perhaps Edwards did put NASCAR officials in a no-win situation with his late-race move:
    Suspending stars is not something NASCAR officials do, no matter what the provocation. And you don't have to look very far to find evidence of a double-standard of justice. Just ask Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon and Carl Long.
    Yes, a major question is why are NASCAR's Sprint Cup cars still flipping and flying through the air? Ryan Newman, twice an innocent victim last season, has repeatedly called on NASCAR to take steps to keep these things on the ground, and Elliott Sadler, another driver who knows too well the frightening feeling of flying uncontrollably through the air, is now repeating that call.
    Too bad the stock car tour has a week off before heading to Bristol.
    Despite good racing during the new season's first month, there wasn't really much buzz about stock car racing.
   Can't say that now.
   You've seen the video. http://bit.ly/9mQHtG
   Here are a few random observations and opinions from media around the U.S. about 'the new NASCAR,' and about the latest Edwards-vs-Keselowski incident and NASCAR's official reaction.

   -- "That wasn't a slap on the wrist that NASCAR gave Carl Edwards, it was a pat on the back."

   -- "If you were angry with NASCAR before last Sunday's race at Atlanta, you’re more than likely furious now."

   -- "Imagine for a second if it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. flying through the evening Atlanta air Sunday night instead of Brad Keselowski. Imagine if it was a start-and-parker who sent Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson airborne with a deliberate tap to the bumper...."

   -- "Placing Edwards on probation for three races after he wrecked Brad Keselowski at Atlanta Motor Speedway is a joke."

   -- "Three-race "probation" for a clear case of on-track road rage doesn't send much of a message. Intentionally chasing down and crashing Brad Keselowski after coming back into a race just to get revenge is going entirely too far.... Honestly, I'm expecting someone to be killed before the season's over."

   -- "This is the dark side of 'Boys, have at it.' So what would it take for a driver to actually get suspended for a race under the "boys, have at it" rules?
I have two guesses. Either you seriously maim or kill somebody. Or else you punt Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car into the air instead of Brad Keselowski's."

   --  "Not suspending Carl Edwards after Sunday's race was a correct, if surprising, decision by NASCAR. They wanted emotions played out on the track. This is the result."

   -- "On the surface, NASCAR's three-race probation for Carl Edwards for intentionally wrecking Brad Keselowski might look too light. But the penalty was just right when one considers the statements made by NASCAR officials before the start of the season.... What Edwards did Sunday forced NASCAR to stand behind its words."

   -- "Brad Keselowski likely would disagree, but the penalty was right - for the sake of consistency. If NASCAR had suspended Carl Edwards, it would have diluted the whole point of NASCAR's pronouncement over the winter that it would let drivers race more aggressively."

   -- "Edwards' actions could have resulted in debris hitting, maiming and even killing spectators seated in the grandstands near where (Keselowski) hit the wall.
Yet there was (NASCAR president Mike) Helton telling the media via a teleconference call Tuesday that he considered the penalty apt for the infraction.
Please, what penalty?...This sounds more like an old-time western movie than it does a 2010 major professional sporting event."


  Look carefully at the area of the car around the driver's window, where Brad Keselowski's head was during his flip and roll (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   -- "After imploring drivers to be more aggressive on the racetrack this season to help rebuild fading fan support, NASCAR reinforced that message Tuesday by issuing a slap-on-the-wrist three-race probation to Carl Edwards for deliberately wrecking Brad Keselowski on Sunday at Atlanta..."

  -- From Kyle Petty, whose son Adam was killed at a race track in 2000: "To me, it's just another inconsistent ruling that makes no sense. I think we took ourselves away from just being a sport to being a sideshow in some ways. We're not a sport. Sports have rules."

   Clint Bowyer: "there's a too far in everything, and that was too far..."

   -- One called NASCAR now "something more like a Saturday night demolition derby than a professional racing series."

    And the two antagonists themselves:

   Keselowski issued a statement: "I support NASCAR in the decision...They are not in an enviable position when it comes to these matters, but they do an outstanding job." 
   Edwards: "I respect NASCAR's penalty and look forward to our meeting in Bristol. I'm ready to put this behind us and get on with some good racing."
    Edwards' car owner Jack Roush: "We are satisfied that NASCAR fairly considered all the circumstances in its decision to discipline Carl.
   "We look forward to meeting with NASCAR, Roger and Brad in Bristol next weekend, and it is our hope to put this behind us at that time.
    "Missed in all of this was a really strong performance by Roush Fenway - and the Ford teams in general - at Atlanta last weekend, and we are eager to continue to build on that moving forward."
     Indeed Ford and Dodge at Atlanta stopped the Chevy charge, Dodge's Kurt Busch winning the 500, and four Ford drivers finishing in the top-six.
     Ironically, the focus after Sunday's 500 was about Roush's Edwards, rather than second-place finisher Matt Kenseth, and about Penske's Keselowski, rather than winning teammate Busch.


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   Maybe with all this protective gear -- NASCAR certainly gets kudos for its safety work following Dale Earnhardt's death -- drivers today just feel invincible. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

If Brad Keselowski had

If Brad Keselowski had suffered a fatal head injury from that crash? Would Carl Edwards been pursued by the police for manslaughter charges of his "intentionally" wreck? Would NASCAR stand in the way? So, now that precedent has been established, if this happens again and God forbid a death occurred on the track or in the stands could NASCAR be tried & sued for "wrongful death"?

Just because NASCAR sez it's okay, doesn't make it lawful....

WScott34, good point. The

WScott34, good point. The intent to cause harm is the crux of the matter.
I'm with Robby Gordon on this - his twitter about playing favorites rings true. Ricky Craven also is right - take the beef to the hauler and have at it where no fans or crew members can get hurt.

It appears to me that NASCAR

It appears to me that NASCAR has failed again in its ever-changing infraction policy.
This doesn't smell like "Teen Spirit" to me......I smell a "Big Ol Rat", after this latest incident, of a Very Very Desperate Nascar intent on getting its ratings up!!!!
It would not surprise me one bit if Nascar didn't have a hand in this.....and it blew up in their face!! Everyone knows that Nascar has its favorites and Koolade drinkers..."scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"..list. There I said it!!! It's not hard for the average fan to see what's going on, and who is on board with it. They are all afraid of France...including most of the media!

Kyle Petty is correct in stating that Nascar has turned this into a sideshow!
How much lower will Nascar Go? We will see...what few of us that is still watching.

The only way to solve this is

The only way to solve this is to abandon the hands-off approach - Edwards and Keselowski need to be benched with their cars for at least three races apiece. NASCAR has to stop playing favorites.

I completely reject the idea

I completely reject the idea that the "boys have at it" pronouncement and suspending or fining Edwards are incongruent. All contact sports have a line which cannot be crossed. Basketball has flagrant fouls. Football has unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls. Hockey has misconduct penalties. Players committing these fouls are subject to in-game penalties, ejections, fines and/or suspensions.
I think it's perfectly reasonable for NASCAR to tell its drivers to drive more aggressively and still say that certain behavior, like a driver dozens of laps down taking out a top-10 driver in the frontstretch, is completely unacceptable - even if no participants or spectators are injured.
NASCAR can suspend Edwards for a race or fine him 100 points for this offense and still encourage drivers who are racing for position to race aggressively, not dangerously.

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