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Edwards' rough play puts NASCAR in bind

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports
Edwards' rough play puts NASCAR in bind
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Brad Keselowski's car was destroyed after spinning in front of onrushing traffic

Here's the dilemma NASCAR faces:

Do they punish Carl Edwards for purposefully wrecking Brad Keselowski in Saturday's Nationwide Series race in suburban St. Louis?

In a by-the-book world, they absolutely should. This is the second time in four months that Edwards could have caused Keselowski serious injury, if not worse.

But NASCAR doesn't always go by the book, especially when you're in the no-holds-barred business of entertainment and you're battling for cooler-talk time against "The Bachelor," The Situation and The Decision.

No, you may not have liked how LeBron James decided to decide, but you've talked about it. Don't deny it. You know you have.

Controversy creates conflict, conflict generates conversation. And if not for Edwards wrecking Keselowski just a few hundred yards from the finish line, no one is talking about a Triple-A race on a Saturday night in the middle of July.

So what's NASCAR's front office to do? Punish the guy who has gotten people talking about their sport?

In reality, this dilemma is much bigger than Edwards. It could, in fact, be anyone. As Denny Hamlin recently lamented on Twitter, "SportsCenter" gives a NASCAR race "about 20 secs worth of mentioning.. about the same as 1 baseball game or less." Usually that 20 seconds consists of a wreck followed by another wreck followed by a car crossing the finish line. And that's only if there are two wrecks worth showing.

In other words, no wrecks, no interest. Or at least not as much.

The bottom line is NASCAR has a relevancy issue, and the only thing elevating its relevance is when something spectacular happens. And apparently spectacular doesn't mean Jimmie Johnson winning four straight championships.

So NASCAR has a choice to make: punish Edwards for putting a driver in harm's way and risk losing fan interest, or allow that sort of thing to happen knowing that one day it could lead to a driver paying the ultimate price.

Either way you cut it, it's a life-or-death decision. It's just a matter of whose life NASCAR values more – its own or the drivers'.

Now, let's get to this week's mailbag and your thoughts on the situation:

I don't really have a particular rooting interest for either Carl Edwards or Brad Keselowski, but after seeing the end of the Nationwide race at Gateway, I have to say that NASCAR really needs to yank Edwards out of his seat for awhile – maybe even the rest of the year.

I know sponsors will have their say, and I know both drivers have been at fault in their ongoing feud. But the extreme hazard that Edwards put Keselowski in at both Atlanta and tonight at Gateway – followed by Edwards showing no remorse (tonight) – tells me as a racing fan that he needs to sit for awhile before he kills Keselowski or any of the other drivers.

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Tonight's wreck could have been absolutely horrific, and thank God that no one was hurt. It's just getting asinine and dangerous for everyone in the race, and needs to stop immediately.

Jon Davidson
Redmond, Wash.

There was plenty of reaction to the Edwards/Keselowski incident at Gateway. I'll give you my take after we hear from more of you.


Anyone watching the race tonight has to agree that Carl Edwards is the dirtiest racer out there. NASCAR needs to park his ass for the rest of the Nationwide races. This not only was nasty, but the moron admitted to doing it.

Not to jump on a bandwagon, but park him for the remainder of the season. Hope Jet-ski is alright.

Steve
Maxwell, Iowa


Does Carl Edwards really have to kill somebody before NASCAR finally bands him from racing? How can I contact NASCAR to let them know that I will be boycotting all NASCAR events until Carl Edwards is removed from the sport? Where can I get a list of sponsor for NASCAR racing so that I can send them all letters announcing my boycott of their products?

Paul
Houston


I don't think that Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski should be allowed to race on the same track at the same time. Brad is agressive and Carl is an idiot. Over the past 2 years I went from semi liking Carl to loathing the guy. I suppose NASCAR is content on letting this feud play out until someone is killed.

Scott Nalley
Nashville, Tenn.

As you can see, the reaction is running overwhelmingly against Edwards. In fact, I didn't receive a single email supporting his actions at Gateway. Considering that Keselowski isn't one of those drivers who fans tend to give the benefit of the doubt, this is a pretty damming indictment (at least in the court of public opinion) of Edwards.

After watching video of the incident a number of times, it's clear to me that Keselowski does use an aggressive move going into Turn 1 of the White Flag lap. I don't have a problem with aggression, but if your aggression is going to come at someone else's expense, you should expect some sort of recourse.

This is where it gets difficult.

It's easy to say from the seat on your couch that Edwards crossed the line in wrecking Keselowski, which Edwards absolutely did. But put yourself in his shoes. What would you do if the driver who'd nearly wrecked you with an overly-aggressive move while you were leading was himself about to win the race?

The problem Edwards has is that this is now the second time this season when, justified or not, his retaliation has put Keselowski in serious danger. Just as he didn't mean for Keselowski to go airborne at Atlanta, he didn't mean for him to get t-boned by an onrush of cars at Gateway.

But as George Costanza would say, Edwards can put his sorrys in a sack.

Is it frustrating to have a win stolen from you? Yeah, it is. But Edwards has now proven twice that his method of law enforcement can't be trusted. NASCAR must let him know that he's out of chances, and that if something like this happens again, he will be parked.

But Keselowski can't be let off the hook, either. NASCAR must let him know that he can't just ram his way to the checkered flag, and that if he does there are going to be consequences, namely a severe points penalty.

There's going to be a lot of talk about these two this weekend at Indianapolis and beyond. I don't subscribe to the belief that Keselowski will exact his revenge in the form of trying to keep Edwards from making the Chase. Wrecking a driver in a Nationwide race is one thing, but taking him out of Chase contention is a much, much bigger deal, even if Keselowski is racing for a Nationwide title.

If Keselowski does have intentions of paying Edwards back in one of the next seven Cup races, he better make sure no other Chase contenders are within a full straightaway of them, he better be sure team owner Roger Penske is on board with his decision, and he better be prepared to watch his back for the rest of his career.


More Chase talk

Jay, can NASCAR's championship contain any level of legitimacy with the changing it so much? We had a system in place for 30 years that worked. Now we have this farce called the chase that supposedly determines the champion. Since they are talking about changing it for the third time in 8 years now isn't this turning into a joke?

Also, how can the Brian France call this thing a success? It was put in place to generate TV ratings. In that it has failed miserably.

Tom Wagner
New Haven, Ind.

If and when NASCAR alters the Chase again, this has to be it for a while. The Chase already lacks credibility from a very vocal segment of the fan base, and continuous tweaking only validates that criticism.

Though TV ratings are down, I don't think that's the only indicator of whether the playoff format is a success or not. Ratings are down across the sporting world, so if the Chase is minimizing NASCAR's dip then it's doing its job, at least partly.


Jay, the problem everyone sees with the chase format is because people see it as an extension of the point standing. It isn't, it's a playoff format. Just like the stick and ball sports, it's a playoff using the last ten races of the season.

In the NFL, NBA, or MLB the teams with the best record may get home field advantage or a bye weekend, but a team with the best winning record doesn't get any extra points once the game starts. A low record team could beat out a higher record team in any round of the playoffs.

Sure Jeff Gordon could slide down the standings once the chase starts, but then some driver who has 6 wins, but a lot of poor finishes could find himself out side of the Chase too.

NASCAR rewards consistency, but in a playoff system everyone that makes the Chase should have their points reset to zero and start from there.

John Cappi
Reseda, Calif.

The regular season has to mean something besides just qualifying for the postseason.

As you mentioned John, in other sports the regular season determines homefield advantage or even a bye. Since there is no homefield advantage in NASCAR, we have to get creative. Some have suggested giving the regular-season points leader the No. 1 pick when it comes to pit stall selection, the second-place finisher the second pick and so forth. I'm not in favor of this because it diminishes the importance of qualifying.

I'm more in favor of a points bonus to start the Chase. No, the home team in stick-and-ball sports doesn't get extra points once the game starts, but bookies in Las Vegas essentially spot the home football team three points when setting the line.

Last year, NFL teams scored an average of 21.5 points a game, meaning homefield advantage was worth a 14-percent boost. What's a 14-percent boost in the Cup Series?

On average, each driver earns 99 points per race (not including bonus points for leading a lap, which should be done away with anyway), meaning a 14-percent boost equates to about 14 points. I wouldn't go with a 140-point bonus (14 for each of the 10 Chase races) heading into the Chase. But I would give a 100-point bonus to the regular season winner, with the second-place finisher getting a 50-point bonus, third 45 points, all the way to 12th place, which receives no bonus.


Mr. Hart, There is a lot of debate about this points system and how it needs to be tweaked. You have made a point for awarding wins in the Chase with more points. Why not award wins all year long with more points?

If someone like Denny Hamlin gets five wins, he gets more bonus points than they do now for winning. If a guy like Jeff Gordon, (this year's model), gets a lot of top fives, then those would reflect in a high standing in the points going into the Chase like they already do.

But you make guys race for wins, not just to have a "good points day". Giving more weight to wins all year long would do that, it would make racing more interesting, and we wouldn't need a reset going into the Chase. In fact, I'd award wins in the Chase with even more points. (It's supposed to be a "big deal", right?)

Mark Stevenson
Waterloo, Iowa

I am in favor of awarding more of a bonus for wins all season long, not just in the Chase. As I've said before, I'm not against the theory in which NASCAR resets its points. Wins are important. But I don't think they should be the single determiner in how the points are reset. Consistency still needs to count for something.

By awarding more of a bonus for wins during the regular season AND resetting the points standings according to where you finish in the regular season, you reward both wins and consistency.

Seems pretty cut and dried to me.


Since NASCAR is trying to change things why not think about this, "Choose a site, for the final race at different venues each year, like the NFL chooses a site." Just a thought …

Rick
Marshfield, Wisc.

And a good one. I'm in Miami every year for the Chase finale and guess what? The city doesn't seem to care much about what goes on in Homestead (maybe because Homestead is about 30 miles from Miami).

I'd love to see championship weekend rotated between Homestead-Miami, Daytona, Texas, Las Vegas, Phoenix, maybe even Darlington. They could even try Auto Club Speedway, though that's a bit of a gamble.

Moving the finale around keeps it fresh and new. As it is now – with its rigid schedule – the Chase has become routine.


This and that …

Mr.Hart, I spent Saturday evening keeping track of the commercials during the NASCAR race at Chicago. Here are some stats for you. Keep in mind these are not 100 percent accurate but close.

Total laps of race 267; laps aired on TNT161; laps ran during commercials 106.

We came back from commercials 2 times and were under caution. 1 time they did not even bother to show a replay of what happened. Went to commercial on average about every 8-10 laps. Last 50 laps went as follows: 46 to go commercial; 39 to go back to race; 32 to go commercial; 25 to go back to race; 20 to go commercial; 15 to go back to race and finish.

My question is do u think this is a bit much? Really when things get really exciting towards the end of the race they go to commercial a lot and we miss out. I understand the need for commercials but man tone it back some!!

Anthony
Byron, Ga.

The obvious answer is yes, there are too many commercials. As Jenna Fryer and I debated, I think the networks need to get more creative when broadcasting NASCAR races. Run commercials during caution laps, but go with the side-by-side format during extended green-flag periods.

The argument from the network's standpoint against the side-by-side format is they can't sell the ads. Well, here's a question for you fans then: if the networks must incorporate more side-by-side commercials to make up for the difference in revenue (assuming a side-by-side ad generates less revenue than a full commercial), would additional side-by-side ads be worth seeing every lap of green-flag racing?


If [fans] they want totally commercial free racing, turn off the tube and go to the dang race!

John Ness
Channelview, Texas

Tell that to the fans struggling to pay their mortgage, John. Attending a race isn't cheap, especially if you need to stay overnight. For a lot of fans, television is the only option.


Jay, How can Toyota get away with running in NASCAR with a V-8 when you can only buy it with a V-6. Thought you can only run what you can buy at a Dealership and how do the Chevy Driver feel about running with cars that have the Chevy drive line? To me it is like a player that's on steroids isn't it?

Craig
St. Paul, Minn.

You must be thinking of something called "stock car racing," which the National Association for Stock Car Racing is in name only anymore.

Is running a V-8 tantamount to taking steroids? Only if steroids were legal, because there's nothing illegal about racing something that isn't on the showroom floor. If you're looking for a comparison, I'd go with a McDonald's ad where the ketchup and mustard flow in thick, colorful streams from underneath the bun, only when you get the actual burger it looks nothing like that.


Last call …

just one question, who the hell is richard childress?

William
Parts unknown

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