Five things we learned in Atlanta
The Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski crash overshadowed Kurt Busch's win
Edwards' bump of Keselowski was payback for an earlier crash
Keselowski has been involved in several wrecks and angered other drivers before
ATLANTA -- Kurt Busch may have won the race Sunday, but he went from the victor to a footnote the second his teammate's car turned on its roof. Instead, the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski incident (and the wild aftermath it caused) will be the talk of NASCAR nation for much of the next seven days. Their on-track feud, and what we've learned from it, leads off the Five Things We've Learned From Atlanta:
1) Brad Keselowski's reputation finally caught up with him -- but NASCAR made the right call in parking Carl Edwards.
The Sprint Cup world turned upside down the second Keselowski's Dodge did the same. With three laps to go, the No. 12 Dodge was heading towards a top 5 finish when Edwards, 156 laps off the pace, clipped his rear bumper and sent him airborne. In a wreck eerily reminiscent of Edwards' flip at Talladega last April -- where the roles were reversed -- Keselowski hit the wall in the air, roof on the ground, before coming to rest towards the entrance of turn 1.
In his opinion, Edwards became a patched up mess after Keselowski left him no room during a restart on Lap 40. Tapping the No. 99's rear bumper while blocking his line, Keselowski sent Edwards crashing out at a track he's dominated in recent years. Add in several other wrecks where Keselowski has gotten others in the garage angry at his aggression (see: Hamlin, Denny; Montoya, Juan Pablo) and it seems a driver who pulls no punches on the racetrack finally ticked someone off enough to punch back.
Officials' initial reaction to the incident was to park Edwards for the rest of the day, the right call considering there were only three laps left in the race. But considering the circumstances, will further penalties ensue?
"It looked like it could have been a payback from the No. 99 on the No. 12," said NASCAR VP of Competition Robin Pemberton. "We talked with Carl after the race and we have an understanding about it and we will talk internally again as a group Monday or Tuesday of this week and make any decision on if there will be any other actions that we will take."
It's a tough position for the sport to be in just two months after saying they'll allow drivers to self-police themselves on the track. The wreck happened at the circuit's fastest speedway, causing some to question whether retaliation gets too risky.
"It was a wild ride, and one that was uncalled for," said Keselowski, calling for a one-race suspension. "To intentionally wreck someone is not cool, and he could have killed someone in the grandstand."
"You can't just have people, go nuts, get people hurt, all that kind of stuff at 200 miles an hour," added Edwards' teammate Matt Kenseth after the race, who's had an off-again, on-again relationship with him through the years.
But not everyone was anti-Edwards, as several drivers claimed on or off the record a take-no-prisoners attitude has left Keselowski long overdue to get dumped.
"He['s] wrecked a lot of people," said Montoya. "I'm sure a lot of people wanted to pay him back. Looking at the TV, somebody did."
"Brad knows the deal between him and I," says Edwards, who's been on the short end of the stick with Keselowski multiple times -- most recently a wreck at Memphis last October. "The scary part was his car went airborne, which was not at all what I expected. At the end of the day, we're out here to race and people have to have respect for one another and I have a lot of respect for people's safety. I wish it wouldn't have gone like it did, but I'm glad he's okay."
Several off-the-record conversations have me confident NASCAR will not announce additional penalties Tuesday for Edwards -- perhaps a fine and probation at most. Some will be angered by that, but I'm in agreement for three reasons. One, NASCAR needs to live up to their call to "let the boys be boys." If you start picking and choosing where drivers can spin each other out, how is that policy effective? Two, the argument Edwards made things more dangerous by spinning Keselowski doesn't hold up. Anytime you spin a driver, there's a risk of serious injury: just last fall, Joey Logano's car went airborne at a short track in Dover, where speeds are 50 miles an hour less than Atlanta, and multiple drivers have been killed at New Hampshire's one-mile short track. Nobody complains when people beat and bang on the "slow" half-miles like Bristol, but those little wrecks could always get someone killed.
Which brings me to my third and final point: what Edwards did was no different than what any other driver has done through the years in retaliating for a wreck that took him out of contention. There was no intent to injure, and both drivers understand what happened and why. When the smoke clears, people need to realize this incident was "just one of those racin' deals" and move on.