Ever since their Atlanta feud, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski had been playing nicely. Edwards was put on probation for his payback at the Kobalt Tools 500 that sent Keselowski flying through the air.
Since then, Edwards and Keselowski had been on their best behavior in not only the Sprint Cup Series but also the Nationwide Series, where the two are one-two (Keselowski-Edwards) in the points standings.
That courteous driving continued during Saturday night's Missouri/Illinous Dodge Dealers' 250 at Gateway International Raceway, at least until the final lap. For a period in the middle of the race, Edwards and Keselowski raced door-to-door for the lead with not so much as a slight bump. However, all of that went out the window after a late-race crash necessitated a green-white-checker finish.
Edwards got around Keselowski for the lead as the white flag flew, and in Turn 1 of the final lap, Keselowski slid up into Edwards' left-rear quarterpanel, getting Edwards' loose. Edwards kept the car pointed straight and stayed in the gas, and the two entered Turn 3 side by side, with Edwards on the high side.
Keselowski had the advantage off of Turn 4 as the two came to get the checkerd flag. That's when Edwards bumped into the right rear of Keselowski, sending him spinning into the outside wall.
Accidental, it wasn't.
"I'm sure some [fans] don't like that win, Brad Keselowski fans and stuff, but I couldn't let him take it from me," Edwards told ESPN in victory lane. "I had to do what I had to do."
It seems that Atlanta (or Talladega for that matter) had nothing to do with this incident. Edwards maintained that had Keselowski not bumped into him in Turn 1 that he would have stayed off of Keselowski's bumper off of Turn 4. And at first, it looked like another crash that just involved the two cars. However, Keselowski bounced off the outside wall and skidded down the racetrack towards the inside wall and was blasted by Shelby Howard and Tayler Malsam scattering pieces of Keselowski's car everywhere.
"The deal is we raced really well — I don't know — for 10 laps straight earlier in the race," Edwards said. "He just got in over his head and tried too hard and that was at my expense, so that was at his expense and we got our win. I think he could have gotten me without hitting me. I think his car was good enough that we could have been side by side across the start-finish line. I would much rather would have that, but we got the trophy."
ESPN2's broadcast went off the air at 11 p.m. ET, while Keselowski was still in the infield care center. However, ESPN did catch up to Keselowski's father, Bob, a former Camping World Truck Series driver.
"Brad got into Carl getting down into Turn 1," Bob Keselowski said. "They bumped, they rubbed, typical rubbing racing deal. Carl flipped out like he did at Atlanta and tried to kill the kid. I'm sick and tired of this. I'll get my own damn uniform back on and take care of this. He ain't gonna kill my boy. He just overreacted so bad. If he wanted to bump Brad that's one thing, but don't drive him through the inside guardrail. Don't put him in the grandstands at Atlanta. That's asinine."
Boy, if I didn't know any better, I'd think that this is turning into NASCAR's version of "Twilight." Soon everyone is going to be on Team Carl or Team Brad and thinking that the other team is full of giant losers and infected with cooties.
Once again, the outcome of Edwards' actions were far greater than the intended results. Is that his fault? To a degree, it is. But at the same time, doesn't Edwards deserve to get a shot at Keselowski after Keselowski got a shot at him? And doesn't Edwards have to make that shot count given that they were just hundreds of feet from the start-finish line?
The Jimmie Johnson-Kurt Busch bump-and-run fiesta at New Hampshire is not comparable to this in any respect because Johnson and Busch made their moves — err, bumps — before the white-flag lap. Edwards didn't have that. He felt that he had (rightfully or not) the win potentially taken away from him by a dirty move just a couple of corners earlier, and his only chance to get the win back was to take action against Keselowski.
It's a shame that Keselowski slid down in front of the field and sustained so much damage — the impacts were pretty severe — but the field was jumbled up because of another late-race caution leading to that green-white-checker finish.
Drivers knowingly risk life and limb when they get into race cars, and they must also realize the consequences that happen when sheet metal comes together on the racetrack. That goes for both Edwards and Keselowski, as it truly sounds like this is an incident that could have been avoided. I just wish that the Internet was as popular as it is now back in 1999. I would have loved to have seen the instant reactions when Terry Labonte went skidding that summer night at Bristol when he got dumped by Dale Earnhardt.
(Speaking of the Internet, it should be noted that Edwards was the top trending topic on Twitter for a while after the race. Behold your power, NASCAR fans.)