NASCAR has decided not to suspend Carl Edwards for the incident with Brad Keselowski in which Edwards made contact with Keselowski, sending his car airborne. NASCAR did, however, put Edwards on probation for the next three Sprint Cup races.
The penalty is less than I expected, but probably on point given the circumstances. Had NASCAR decided to suspend Edwards for Keselowski’s car flipping; that would have been unfair. Yes, Edwards made the decision to retaliate against Keselowski. Yes, he knew or should know that there’s a chance that the car would flip. But, the fact that it did was beyond his control so he should not be penalized for it.
If NASCAR always suspended drivers for retaliation, then I would agree that would be a fair penalty for Edwards. But, because they do not, I don’t think they could suspend him for intentionally wrecking Keselowski.
That said, penalizing him for driving the wrong way on pit road would have been fair because he could control whether or not he did that. Granted, he could have controlled himself and not hit Keselowski. But, that’s not the point. The point is that NASCAR needed to penalize on the basis of the retaliation, not the car flip.
If Keselowski spins, but never flips, we’re not still talking about this. So, I believe NASCAR had to look at the incident as it would have if Keselowski never flipped. NASCAR President Mike Helton indicated in as much in the press conference. NASCAR chose to separate the retaliation from the car flip and penalize accordingly. So, in that case, I believe NASCAR got it right.
Helton also said that NASCAR would meet with the drivers and their owners to discuss the matter further, in hopes of getting it resolved.
I still think Keselowski’s driving style caught up with him. In the Sprint Cup, the drivers expect a level of respect. And, if they feel like you’re not giving respect — especially if you’re a rookie — they’re going to take action.
That doesn’t mean drivers are hunting for Keselowski. But, it does mean that when racing incidents occur, Keselowski will not get the benefit of the doubt that he tried to race clean.
Maybe seeing Keselowski’s car flip on the front stretch will be an eye opener to all drivers of what can go wrong when you don’t respect each other and retaliate.
Following the announcement, Brad Keselowski issued a statement:
I support NASCAR in the decision they communicated today. They are not in an enviable position when it comes to these matters, but they do an outstanding job. The unfortunate part about what happened on Sunday is that it has overshadowed a win by the #2 Miller Lite Dodge and an overall solid performance by Penske Racing at Atlanta.
Carl Edwards responded via a Facebook posting, saying:
I respect NASCAR’s penalty and look forward to our meeting in Bristol. I’m ready to put this behind us and get on with some good racing.