2010-03-18 / Sports

Let’s Go Racing Boys!

By Gerald Hodges The Racing Reporter

Carl Edwards Carl Edwards While Kurt Busch’s victory last Sunday at Atlanta was impressive, it took a back seat to the on-track combat between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.

The Edwards-Keselowski conflict features a few chapters written over the past season, including the incident at Talladega last April, the Nationwide Series race at Memphis last October, the Nationwide Series race at Daytona just a few weeks ago, and now the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta.

Carl Edwards offered swift retribution to Brad Keselowski for what Edwards perceived to be either an intentional or foolish move by Keselowski early in the race that damaged his car.

After a love tap from Edwards, Keselowski’s car went flying, upside down and into the outside retaining wall. Keselowski was unhurt, and Edwards admitted it was done intentionally.

How was NASCAR to respond after telling everyone they will allow drivers to display their personalities without dropping the hammer every time a driver loses his cool?

So, how could NASCAR suspend or levy any serious penalty?

Elliott Sadler said he didn’t think Edwards deserved the probation.

NASCAR is close, side-byside racing. Wrecks will happen and tempers will flair, but that is the sport of NASCAR. If fans didn’t come to see that sort of thing, then what happened between Edwards and Keselowski wouldn’t have overshadowed Kurt Busch’s win.

Most fans loved it, because with Jimmie Johnson’s domination, there hasn’t been much to keep the emotions going.

This is the kind of stuff that makes racing fun. Just to watch a bunch of cars fall in line and go in circles for three to four hours is boring.

Edwards and Keselowski created excitement.

What happened between these two drivers last week wasn’t the first time something like this happened in NASCAR.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. hooked Darrell Waltrip as the two raced for the win at Richmond, sending both viciously into the fence.

The Allison brothers – Bobby and Donnie – squared off with Cale Yarborough after Cale and Donnie crashed each other on the final lap of the 1976 Daytona 500.

Earnhardt claimed he only meant to “rattle his cage” after spinning Terry Labonte out in turn two late in a Bristol race to win ... and heard the Bristol crowd’s boos for the first time in his career.

I believe that NASCAR is intent on allowing drivers to police themselves on the track.

Keselowski said this week that his in-your-face driving style has separated him from other young drivers and put him on a road to success that the vast majority of “developmental” drivers won’t visit.

With that in mind, Keselowski said he’ll continue to race hard, hold his line and keep pushing forward, and that includes this week’s Cup race at Bristol.

Five or six years ago, NASCAR was experiencing a youth movement. Young drivers were being groomed in the Truck and Natiowide Series, and then brought up into NASCAR’s big league series, Sprint Cup. But since the economy went sour, that strategy has changed.

Sponsors no longer want a fresh face; they want somebody who knows how to win. The big budgets have been slashed, so the large corporate sponsors don’t have the money to go through the learning process with a young driver.

Teams that base their futures on developing young talent now have to rely on older, more experienced drivers.

Most of the top teams created driver development programs, but only a select few make it to the top. Joey Logano came through the ranks at Joe Gibbs Racing, and Home Depot took a chance with him at the Sprint Cup Series level. But for every Logano, there are 15 drivers who are still waiting on sponsorships to get their shots.

Joe Gibbs Racing has only been able to sell Nationwide sponsorships for Joey Logano and Kyle Busch this season. Development drivers Brad Coleman and Matt DiBenedetto will have to wait on the sidelines until a different sponsor steps up.

Busch said he is running more Nationwide Series races than he would like to, just to keep everyone at JGR on the payroll.

“It’s a pain to sell sponsorship; I know firsthand,” Busch said. “The only reason I did my truck deal was because I had Miccosukee and then I didn’t have Miccosukee. Now I’ve got to go and try to sell myself and try to get some sponsorship for our truck deal so all of the money doesn’t have to come out of my pocket.

“I feel like I can probably sell my races, but I’m going to have a struggle in trying to sell Brian Ickler’s races. It’s no different than (Kevin) Harvick going back and running his Nationwide car. He wanted to help Cale Gale come along, and nobody wanted to sponsor Cale so he (Harvick) had to step in the car and run for people that wanted the Cup affiliation and the big name that got the coverage.”

Racing trivia question: How many race tracks does Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Corp. own?

Last week’s question: How many members of the Flock family raced in NASCAR? Answer. There were four: Fonty, Tim, Bob, and Ethel Flock Mobley.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net

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