NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton may not have coined the saying "have at it, boys," but Sunday he was asked to explain the limitations of those words. Over 150 laps down and upset with Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards spun the No. 12, who then lifted into the air, hitting the wall with the driver’s side window. The wreck was eerily similar to the wreck these two were involved in last April on the last lap at Talladega.
Keselowski climbed from the car and NASCAR ordered Edwards to park his car and meet in the NASCAR hauler. Fulfilling its request, Edwards turned and drove down pit road backwards to the garage.
“Brad knows the deal between him and I,” Edwards said. “The scary part was his car went airborne, which was not at all what I expected. At the end of the day, we’re out here to race and people have to have respect for one another and I have a lot of respect for people’s safety. I wish it wouldn’t have gone like it did, but I’m glad he’s okay and we’ll just go on and race some more and maybe him and I won’t get in anymore incidents together. That would be the best thing.”
Lucky to walk away from the wreck, Keselowski said the ball is in NASCAR’s court.
"To come back and intentionally wreck someone, that’s not cool," Keselowski said. "You could have killed someone in the grandstands. I know that it’s a little ironic that it’s me saying that, but at least I didn’t do it intentionally (when it happened at Talladega.)
"It will be interesting to see how NASCAR reacts to it. They have the ball. If they’re going to allow people to intentionally wreck each other at tracks this fast, we will hurt someone either in the cars or in the grandstands. It’s not cool to wreck someone at 195 mph."
Neither NASCAR president Mike Helton nor Edwards would comment after their meeting in the truck, but Pemberton did his best to explain NASCAR’s initial position.
"It was the same two cars, we know that,” Pemberton said. “I would say there seems to be a history between those two drivers … It’s always a concern when you see retaliation and there are different levels of it. Like I said, we will discuss it further at the (NASCAR Research & Development Center) early this week.
"We don’t rush to judgment on Sunday nights and make penalties. That’s why we take our time and go back and talk about it some more."
Edwards posted his reactions on his Facebook page:
“Considering that Brad wrecks me with no regard for anyones safety or hard work, should I: A-Keep letting him wreck me? B-Confront him after the race? C-Wait til bristol and collect other cars? or D-Take care of it now? I want to be clear that I was surprised at his flight and very relieved when he walked away. Every person has to decide what code they want to live by and hopefully this explains mine.”
NASCAR will have to determine whether the severity of Keselowski’s wreck should be taken into consideration with their decision on the incident. Had this taken place at Bristol or Martinsville, Edwards would most like have been held a lap for aggressive driving. However, the high speeds in Atlanta – the highest at an unrestricted track – and perhaps the wing on the back caused the car to lift off the ground.
Had Keselowski not flipped, would the incident have gathered as much attention? During last year’s final weekend in Homestead, NASCAR sat Keselowski down to discuss his driving style and after numerous run-ins with Denny Hamlin. That weekend, Hamlin repaid Keselowski by spinning him and was penalized for a lap for aggressive driving.
In that case Hamlin was given a slap on the wrist and the situation worked itself out. In Edwards’ eyes Sunday’s incident was no different. NASCAR has talked all winter about letting the garage police itself and now it is forced to live up to its promises. As Keselowski said, the ball is now in NASCAR’s court.