Brad Keselowski speaks frankly about Carl Edwards wreck
I was sorry about the initial wreck with Carl Edwards, but he continued to retaliate
I agree that the sport needs action, but it does not need intentional wrecking
To those who think I needed to be taught a lesson: wrecking me won't work
One minute Brad Keselowski was headed towards his best finish with Roger Penske's team, the next he was heading towards the wall upside down. His harrowing experience became a national story, leading to three weeks of probation for the driver who caused the mayhem: Carl Edwards. Does Keselowski agree with the punishment? Will he change his driving style in the wake of many drivers claiming he needed to be taught a lesson? Brad answers those questions, describes the scenario in which he thinks Carl would be in jail by now, and discusses his planned retaliation in the fourth installment of his SI.com Driver Diary.
Before the wreck, you were having a good run at Atlanta. Despite smacking the outside wall early, you recovered nicely and seemed on track for a possible top-five finish.
Well, we really struggled most of the weekend, and we were very unhappy with our car. As the weekend progressed, we were in a bit of a panic, so we took some stuff that we learned from [teammate] Kurt [Busch] and applied it to our car. We just kind of started the race out somewhat blind, which was strange... but our car, as the race progressed, took off. That's something I'm very proud of within my team, being able to work together with my teammates and make something happen. As the race progressed, we made our car better and better.
All right, take us through the first wreck with Carl Edwards on Lap 40 that would wind up ruining your day. You're on that restart, on the inside line and have somebody directly behind you. You see Edwards [in the No. 99] move down ... what are you thinking?
As we approached the corner, Carl was to my outside, and he made a maneuver to the middle of the track when I was on the bottom. When he got to the middle, he stopped turning down, and gave me the international signal for "I'm going to run the middle groove through [turns] 1 and 2." Which was fine ... I was planning on running the bottom, and it was going to make things a little tighter than I wanted it to be, but that's all right. He could run the middle and make it work.
But then, as he started to turn down to the very bottom, I had a run on him because the inside line is the shorter distance. So I was gaining ground on him and my momentum was carrying me towards him as he was turning down. As he turned down, I was inside of him by maybe a foot, so as he turned the middle to the top lane, I could see his trajectory... and I lifted.
The problem was, he turned down, and I was still there. It was too quick, and my maneuver to slow it down was not quick enough. I probably could have slowed down quicker, but to do that would have required an extremely aggressive maneuver on my end, which would have probably caused a wreck somewhere else.
So, I really felt boxed in...like there was nothing I could do in the situation. If anything, I was being underaggressive, and the aggressive one in the matter was Carl. I feel bad about the accident, but I also feel like it was not preventable from my end at all. I communicated that to my spotter, told him to apologize, and tell [Carl] I didn't know what else I could do -- which he did, and confirmed that Carl said it was his fault and not to worry about it.
That was obviously backed up by the TV comments later [where Carl took responsibility].
Well, because Carl wasn't up front about how he was feeling ... were you even thinking about it? Did you have any warning or did you expect Carl to come after you?
Nope. The only warning I had was when I caught him, with five laps to go. He swerved at me immediately. At that point, I was challenging for fourth position, so I lost contact with fourth and lost the fifth position because of him. So I thought, "All right, he's trying to make his point that he's not happy, and that's it. That's what he's trying to say." And he's done his damage... he cost me a spot or two. That's his point.
That was somewhat justifiable that he would be mildly upset ... and I can't say I wouldn't do anything differently there. So I wrote it off and attempted to pass him again... and he swerved at me again in an attempt to wreck me off the corner. I saved the car and let him by the next corner, and let him by the whole back straightaway thinking, "Man, that's uncalled for. Maybe I should wreck him going into 3 so I don't have to worry about it."
But as I went down the straightaway, I thought about it and said, "Nah, I can't be doing that. He's just angry. He's smart enough to know you don't need to be wrecking people going this fast."
So I passed him in turns 3 and 4... and he drove right underneath me and wrecked me in the fastest part of the racetrack, down the front straightaway. It's ironic, because it's what I chose to never do to him out of respect for him. So the anger or disappointment I feel is somewhat at myself for being too nice.
Were you surprised he was able to keep up with you, being so damaged?
No, because the discrepancy in tires at a place like Atlanta more than makes up for the damage. And he had just pulled off pit road with new tires.
What was it like to be launched up in the air?
My first thought, as always when I'm in any kind of accident, is how am I going to save this? Because I never believe that I can't save my car. I'm not willing to give up on it. And I made a move to get on the throttle, to accelerate the car downward down the race track to get from the outer lane to the dogleg, where I would have room to spin without making contact.
When I did that, the engine revved up extremely quick -- quicker than it should have. So I was kind of like, "Huh? What does that mean?" And the next thing I knew, I was pointed at the ground. At that point, I knew off my trajectory I was going to hit the fence in the dogleg, probably rear end first.
So I closed my eyes, because there's probably nothing I could do at that point. I hit really hard and as I was landing I felt the car land back on its wheels. I opened my eyes and I was pointed straight towards Turn 1. I looked up in my mirror, grabbed back hold of the steering wheel, saw that there were cars coming and did everything I could to minimize my next impact and to make sure I did what I could to keep other drivers from hitting me as I was coming back across the race track. That was pretty much my moment.
At what point did you look up at the roof and see just how far the driver's side caved in? Was that a scary moment for you?
Probably at the point where I came to a stop and I saw there weren't any other cars about to hit me. You know, I think there's a lot to be said for the CoT car and safety, but there are things we can learn from this to make it better. Getting out of the car was not a lot of fun.
Describe the emotions as you were getting out. Here you are -- with the best run of your career with Penske -- and all of a sudden a guy 156 laps down puts you on your roof.
The biggest thing going through my mind is, "Man, this is not a cool thing to do." I was angry at myself for not just wrecking him down the straightaway and doing to him what he did to me. I thought to myself, "Well, apparently honor is out the window." So then I was kind of curious to see the replay of the lap 40 wreck to make sure that my version of events was right and that he didn't have something to be legitimately upset about.
Once I saw that, I felt better, and you move on pretty quickly -- or at least I do, because it's important to move on. You're not going to be successful in this sport when you're thinking about the moment before. You've got to think for the next moment. Not that this makes it all better, but it sure did make me feel good to know that we ran as well as we did.