Payback at Atlanta Motor Speedway: "Have at it boys,” Gone Wrong

Angie CampbellContributor IMarch 8, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 05:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Scotts Ford, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5, 2010 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

At the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Media Tour earlier this year, Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton, indicated they would give drivers more leeway on the racetrack.

“We will say boys, have at it and have a good time.”

The incident on Sunday between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski was probably not what he had in mind.

It began on lap 40 when Edwards was tapped by Keselowski on the restart sending Edwards up the track, into Joey Logano, and into the wall.

Late in the race on lap 323, Carl Edwards, who was over 100 laps down, hit Keselowski sending him into the wall. Keselowski bounced off the wall, went airborne and onto his roof. This dramatically ended Brad’s day and his shot at a sixth place finish.

The shaken Keselowski was helped from his car and eventually cleared by the infield care center.

At first, Carl didn’t come right out and admit that the hit was intentional but he later made the following statement on his Facebook Fan Page.

“My options, considering that Brad wrecks me with no regard for anyone’s safety or hard work, should I: AKeep letting him wreck me? BConfront him after the race? CWait ‘til Bristol and collect other cars? or DTake 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.”

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Not surprisingly, Keselowski has a different point of view.

"To come back and intentionally wreck someone, that's not cool," he 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 worse, Edwards probably only meant to cause Keselowski to spin out. He obviously didn’t anticipate that he would send him flying through the air. But does this relieve him of responsibility for his actions?

NASCAR now finds itself in a difficult position. Where do they draw the line between aggressive driving and blatant retaliation? Do they let this continue until someone gets hurt or worse?

After the accident, Edwards was immediately black-flagged by NASCAR and called into the hauler.  Robin Pemberton, Vice President of Competition, said there would be no announcement of any possible penalties until Monday or Tuesday.

NASCAR is right to take some time to consider their options carefully. This decision may very well set the tone for the remainder of this racing season.