The pyrotechnic show at the conclusion of the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway International Raceway wasn’t the only fireworks display in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski came out of Turn Four on the last lap side by side, but at the finish line, it was Edwards getting the checkers and Keselowski needing the wreckers.
The wreck became even scarier when Shelby Howard, with nowhere to go, smashed into the helpless Keselowski at full speed.
Edwards and Keselowski had swapped the lead back and forth in the remaining two laps and it was coming out of Turn Four when contact was made, putting Keselowski into the wall and creating a massive pileup.
Even though Edwards said he meant no harm to Keselowski, that didn’t sit too well with the fans, who were already crucifying Edwards before he had a chance to do his signature back flip.
Edwards felt that he deserved the checkered flag just as much as Keselowski, and did what he felt any other driver would have done if put in that same situation.
The only difference is that Edwards and Keselowski already have a past, and what happened Saturday evening did not make matters any better.
Edwards said that, "We had a great restart,” when talking about the caution on lap 196 which involved Justin Allgaier after a four-minute delay to clean up the debris.
“My guys built me a great car. We came to the checkered flag, and I hate to see stuff tore up, but we came here to win and he took it from us there in Turn One,” said Edwards during the post race press conference.
Keselowski had mixed emotions when he talked about what happened on the last lap.
“I was really proud how we were racing each other,” Keselowski said after the race.
Keselowski also added that, “He was holding me tight and getting me a little loose which was cool. I was rubbing on him a little bit. It was just great racing.”
It wasn’t long before the truth came out, and Keselowski didn’t hold back when he said that, “I figured out a way to beat him. He wasn’t happy with me, so he wrecked me.”
Keselowski who was obviously not happy added that, “Wrecking down the straightaway is never cool whether it’s at 200 mph or 120. I’m sorry that’s the way it had to end.”
So here we are back at square one again, and what we have here is two drivers who both feel the other was in the wrong.
Edwards saying had Keselowski not bumped him earlier on the final lap, he would have never been in a position to win.
"I just couldn't let him take the win from me. That's my job, to win the race. My guys work way too hard for that,” said Edwards.
Keselowski on the other hand felt that Edwards’s actions were intentional, and since he was on the receiving end it only makes sense that he would feel this way.
"He turned left into me and wrecked me on purpose," said Keselowski.
Keselowski also added that, "I gave him the lane, and he still wrecked me.” The outcome of the race has already been decided, and NASCAR credited the final-lap crash to hard racing.
"I think at the last lap there was a lot of hard racing going on," said Nationwide Series director Joe Balash. "There was some movement on the racetrack. It was a tough finish for a really great race.”
Pandora’s Box has once again been opened, with most of the hate being spewed at Edwards for his controversial win.
On one side of the spectrum you have the fans who feel his actions are justified, and why put the blame on a driver who was only doing what he gets paid to do, win races.
After all, this is the type of racing that NASCAR was built on, and all you have to do is look back to the pioneers of the sport and realize they also played for keeps.
There is a lot of truth that went into this statement at the beginning of the season, “There's an age old saying that in NASCAR, if you ain't rubbing, you ain't racing,” NASCAR President Mike Helton claimed.
Helton also added that, “I think that's what the NASCAR fan and NASCAR stakeholders all bought into and all expect.”
Now that the age old saying has finally come into play, look around at all the negative responses because two drivers have decided to play bumper cars at 200 mile per hour.
Of course with that said, there are the fans who feel Edwards should be parked, kicked out of the sport, and some have gone to great lengths to call him a thug, along with putting him in the same class as a mafia hit man, while using his car as a weapon.
Think back to February, and wasn’t it Keselowski who said, "I am not afraid to fight, or afraid of anyone. Carl Edwards seems to be a pretty tough guy. But, in my car I weigh 3500 pounds, and with that, I can kick some ass."
How quickly we forget that it was Keselowski who first opened the box, and now that his competitor takes matters into his hands the same way Keselowski did, a red flag goes up and the fans want action.
What happened on Saturday is guaranteed to happen again whether it involves Edwards and Keselowski again, or another set of drivers.
So maybe next time before the complaining goes to the powers to be in our beloved sport, be careful for what you wish for because it just may come true.