Why ESPN and the Media at Large Should Be Ashamed After Talladega

Mark Eckhart Jr.Correspondent IApril 27, 2009

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 26:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Claritin Ford goes airborne as Ryan Newman, driver of the #34 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet hits the wall at the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 26, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

NASCAR fans woke up shocked after yesterday; NASCAR itself should be embarrassed.

Yesterday was supposed to produce one of the most intense, white-knuckle races of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. Cars running in one big pack, three by three 10 rows deep six inches apart for four hours have provided NASCAR with some of its best and worst moments in its history.

Yesterday might have been the lowest since the invention of the restrictor plate.

In the 188-lap event, NASCAR fans saw a wreck on lap eight that either took out or partially damaged 21 of the 43 cars in the race, another wreck with less than 10 laps to go took out the majority of the remaining contenders, and, coming through the tri-oval headed for the checkered, the unthinkable happened.

Carl Edwards, in an attempt to block eventual race-winner Brad Keselowski, turned his Ford across the nose of Keselowski, sending his car back across the track right into Ryan Newman, who plowed into the side of the No. 99 car, sending it airborn right toward the catchfence. Edwards' car ripped a gigantic hole in the fencing and debris splattered fans everywhere, injuring eight and sending two to local hospitals.

Edwards brought a glimpse of livelihood to the events by running towards the finish line, shades of Ricky Bobby, to "officially" finish the race. Edwards was gracious in congratulating Keselowski on getting the win saying he did nothing wrong, but instead blaming NASCAR for putting drivers in this box.

"Brad was pushing—he's doing everything he can," said Edwards, who climbed from his car and sprinted the last 100 yards to the finish line. "I saw him go high. I went high. He goes low right here. I didn't realize he had got that far, so I went low to block, and I didn't realize he was already there. ...

"NASCAR just puts us in this box. Brad did a great job. Congrats to him on the win. But they put us in this box, and we'll race like this until we kill somebody, and then they'll change it. ... That's what Brad's supposed to do. He's assuming I know he's inside. It was so quick I didn't know he was inside.

"We saw what happened to Regan Smith. You can't go down below the yellow line or you lose the race. [Keselowski] was winning, and I was doing everything I could to keep him from winning. I'm just glad I'm all right. I didn't know if it mattered if I went across the finish line—but I just wanted to finish the race."

Keselowski admitted in victory lane that wrecking Edwards was the last thing he would want to do to him, especially to win a race, but agreed with Edwards' comments that he was put in a very tough position.

"I've got to apologize to Carl for wrecking him, but, man, the rule is you can't go below the yellow line," Keselowski said. "He blocked, and I wasn't going to go below. I don't want to wreck the guy, but you're forced in that situation. There was nothing else that I could do.

When I woke up this morning I was absolutely stunned when I turned on ESPN radio shows as well as SportsCenter. I have never seen them care so much about NASCAR in my life, and try and talk about it as much as they possibly could during a one-hour show. The sad thing here is that a lot of casual NASCAR fans see these highlights and think that this is all NASCAR is about, and it paints a very bad picture for a sport that has so much history.

The NASCAR governing body can't be very happy with the picture this portrays because it took three gigantic wrecks that included over 30 cars in some way just to get talked about on ESPN, and I shudder to think what has to happen to make NASCAR the top story.

It's not about how our favorite driver got caught up in the first wreck and lost a bunch of points or that they couldn't contend for the win. This type of racing is really a game of chance that has already ended with us losing one legend of our sport, and I hope that I'm never able to say we've lost two legends in my lifetime.

Only further NASCAR implications and time will tell us what the future holds for our drivers.