This weekend, while the majority of the Sprint Cup guys enjoyed some much needed time away from the race track, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards renewed their heated rivalry at Gateway International. The two raced each other hard for the win during Saturday night’s Nationwide Series event, and as the checkered flag was thrown in the air it was Keselowski that was wrecking wildly and Edwards that was taking home the trophy, and a firestorm of reaction throughout the sport ignited.
Here’s what happened, as they came to the white flag for the last lap, Edwards was leading with Keselowski tucked under him poised to make a move. As the two drove into the first corner, Keselowski made a move to the bottom and slid up the track. The No. 22 Dodge got into the left rear of Edwards’ No. 60 and allowed Keselowski to get the position heading into the final corner. As the two cars come off the corner coming to the checkered flag, Keselowski had made the move work; that is until Edwards turned down into Keselowski sending him into the outside wall and out of contention. Keselowski then shot back across the track and was hit by numerous Nationwide Series regulars.
While many looked at Edwards’ move as cheap or unwarranted, for him it was nothing but retribution for the contact made earlier that lap.
"The way it went, he bumped me and he finished wherever he finished and I still won the race," Edwards said. "That's the only way I could see the race turning out fair."
Now, this is obviously not the first time these two have stirred up controversy with their rivalry. They provided NASCAR with one of the most spectacular finishes last year when they tangled on the final lap at Talladega. Their rivalry continued throughout the year in the Nationwide Series and back in March, Edwards felt he was wronged by Keselowski early in the going in Atlanta. The two had made contact in the opening laps that sent Edwards into the wall and out of contention for the rest of the day. Racing multiple laps down, Edwards found Keselowski on the track and tried for a number of laps to pay the Penske Racing driver back. Eventually, he succeeded with frightening results.
Following that incident, NASCAR stepped in and held a meeting with both drivers and their owners at Bristol Motor Speedway. The two walked away saying they would have a better understanding of how to race one another going forward, but obviously that was not the case.
"I'm sure he'll say how sorry he is, or how cool he thinks he is or how great of a guy he is in his own mind," said Keselowski, "But that's not reality."
"The deal is he'll eventually learn he can't run into my car over and over and put me in bad situations," Edwards said. "In every situation, there's an aggressor and there's someone who reacts.
"I was not the aggressor in this situation."
While he claims he was not the aggressor in this situation, Edwards has shown in the past to be quite aggressive both on and off the track. Not only has he tangled with Keselowski on the track, he has also been in a shoving match with Kevin Harvick and threw a fake punch at teammate Matt Kenseth as he was giving a televised interview following a race in Martinsville.
For many, the question is now whether or not NASCAR will turn a blind eye to this incident or hit Edwards with a penalty, fine, probation or some combination of the three. Following the incident in Atlanta, Edwards was hit with a three race probation for intentionally turning Keselowski. Whether or not NASCAR will penalize Edwards is unclear, but we have to ask the question "What would Dale do?"
When you look back through the years, this problem is nothing new. Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and David Pearson battling on the last lap of their respective Daytona 500s, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip getting together in Richmond, Rusty Wallace turning Waltrip in the All-Star race, these things happen and the fans eat it up. When Dale Earnhardt turned Terry Labonte on the final lap in Bristol, some fans booed, some cheered, but nothing more was made of Earnhardt for "rattling Labonte’s cage," it was just hard short track racing.
There is not a major difference with the case of Edwards and Keselowski. Sure, the incident in Atlanta was dangerous and uncalled for, but this weekend’s drama was the result of hard racing between two drivers that do not particularly like each other.
Out of this entire deal, the ones who took the brunt of the blow and suffered the most were the other cars caught up in the wreck. Once Keselowski shot back across the track, he was hit violently by Shelby Howard. Other Nationwide regulars that also left Gateway with torn up equipment included Steve Arpin, Tayler Malsam, Jason Leffler and others. The contact between the No. 22 and No. 60 led to ten torn up race cars.
While Edwards and Keselowski have backing from Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing, their squabbles on the track are costing these underfunded Nationwide regulars countless hours of repairs to cars that cannot afford to be wrecked. By wrecking each other on this side of the garage, these two are putting on a good show for the fans, but hurting the series at the same time. If they want to tear each other up and beat and bang every weekend, they need to do so on the Cup side of things and leave the Nationwide regulars out of it.
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