From the moment
So with "Carl and Brad" pushing their spat to never-before-seen levels -- their latest wreck prompted Keselowski's father to claim Edwards was "trying to kill my boy" -- this week was about searching for answers. All eyes were on NASCAR officials over what, if any, penalties they would hand down in what clearly sets precedent for conflict at the Cup level. Officials extended their virtual Tuesday deadline for penalties by 24 hours, perhaps to get a better read on public perception, but if the intent was to issue a ruling that pleased the fan base, the verdict seems to have had the exact opposite effect. Now, everyone on all sides has been brought together in anger and frustration toward one source: NASCAR.
It's rare that a decision winds up leaving no one happy. But that's the sense I get from talking with all sides 24 hours after Edwards got socked with a 60-point penalty, $25,000 fine and probation the rest of the year from NASCAR. It's certainly got his camp surprised; supporters will be the first to point out that in turn 1 of the final lap, Keselowski's contact could have caused the situation to flip. Carl has a history of being honest immediately after exiting the race car and this time it seems to have hurt him as he admitted he went after his rival on the race track intentionally. In similar instance back in 1999,
The words "in between" appear to be the perfect description for this ruling, rattling Keselowski supporters looking for a fine, suspension or worse. In the end, 60 points still keeps Edwards' title hopes far within reach in that series. By spinning Keselowski out, Edwards actually gained a total of 19 points over what would have happened had his rival gone on to win, meaning the decision to wreck still helped his bid for the championship. That clouds any message the sport was trying to send to Edwards and sends additional probation Keselowski's way for his role in promoting the rivalry. With Edwards remaining in Chase contention in Cup, the ruling seemed to be another arbitrary add that protects the historically aggressive driver from enacting revenge before September, a move that would cost him a playoff spot.
But these two aren't the only ones scratching their heads over a hard-to-read decision. With point penalties and fines now back in play, drivers now must try and work within a new set of rules just six months after they were created.
"We wanted to do the right thing for the competitors and the right thing for the garage area as far as maintaining law and order," NASCAR Vice President
But wasn't eliminating that gray area the whole reason NASCAR came up with this rule in the first place? The way I see it, now there will be no penalties for aggressive driving unless A) The fans don't like it and B) it crosses some sort of imaginary line. Well, what's that line and how will it be defined? Every contact-based situation is subjective, the same argument that caused NASCAR drivers to protest and eventually eliminate bumpdrafting rules at Talladega and Daytona.
It's why for every Kevin Harvick claiming Edwards stepped over the line, there's other drivers quietly mumbling their support for the other side.
At the same time, you could argue neither side was egregiously hurt by this compromise. When has NASCAR ever made the jump from probation to suspension? If the sport was trying to teach either one a lesson, a pocket change fine combined with minimal impact to their championship battle won't do the trick. So instead of taking a stand here, all Daytona Beach officials seemed to do was muck up the water even more. That's the last thing NASCAR needed on an off week, acting indecisively on a landmark decision that should have gone crystal clear either way.
- Speaking of the Nationwide Series, teams were told in private meetings this week a change to keep Cup drivers from competing for a championship there is virtually assured for 2011. The most likely idea will be a hard cap on the amount of races drivers can compete in elsewhere in NASCAR if they're inside the top-35 in Cup points, rigidly defining a sort of minor-to-major league system. But another interesting option being discussed is making six races on the schedule virtually impossible for Cup drivers to travel to, either putting them on the same day at different tracks or creating more standalone races over 2,000 miles apart each weekend. If that's on the table, chances are the Cup side of the schedule could undergo serious changes for next year as well. Stay tuned.
- Speaking of Hendrick, resigning with Quaker State this week takes Mobil 1 off the list as a possible sponsor for Jeff Gordon. I still hear everything from Wal-Mart to Pepsi, but one thing is clear: his 2011 sponsorship search is holding up