The incident between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski has been a major focus of fans and national media attention for the past two days. With much anticipation, everyone was waiting to see what the reaction would be from NASCAR. In today’s press conference, Mike Helton announced that Carl Edwards would be placed on probation for the next three races…period.
A large segment of the NASCAR community was expecting a fine of at least $25,000 and a loss of driver and owner points. That didn’t happen, and rightfully so. Similar incidents in the past were dealt with in similar fashion with drivers being black flagged for a lap, and on a couple of occasions drivers have been parked.
The only example I can think of where drivers have been fined and docked points for retaliation incidents is when those incidents took place on pit road, placing crew members and officials at risk. I can’t think of a single case where someone was fined for intentionally bumping or spinning someone on the track under green flag conditions, like the incident on Sunday.
The only reason the Edwards/Keselowski incident has generated any interest at all is because Keselowski’s car went airborne. Helton did go on to say that NASCAR takes the incident seriously because the car went airborne and would be evaluating the conditions and taking steps to make sure that it never happens again.
There are precedents for the action NASCAR took with Edwards. In 1992, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. intentionally spun Rusty Wallace at Talladega and the result was Wallace tumbling end over end down the track. NASCAR took absolutely no action against Earnhardt after that incident. He was not parked, fined, placed on probation, or anything else.
The one thing that fans have been screaming for from NASCAR is a consistent application of the rules. In this case, I think they got it right. Unless the response for intentionally spinning another competitor is going to always be a fine and loss of points, or even a lengthy probation, we can’t expect them to do so with Edwards. A suspension, based on previous history, is absolutely out of the question.
There are those that will say that this was a special case because of the speeds at Atlanta and the fact that Edwards was over 100 laps down from Keselowski at the time of the incident. It is absolutely impossible to know with any certainty what is going to happen when cars get together at any track, so there really is nothing special about Atlanta.
Last year at Darlington, Joey Logano got upside down and rolled several times. New Hampshire does not have any where near the speed of Atlanta, but two of NASCAR’s brightest stars at the time lost their lives there. Edwards had no intention to put Keselowski on his roof, and to penalize anyone in Motorsports because of what might have happened makes no sense.