The NASCAR announcement during the preseason Charlotte Media Tour about a “have at it boys” policy was well received. Questions arising from that are less about why and more about how.
All NASCAR Cup guys are fierce competitors. They can’t get to the top being timid. No one should expect them to exhibit “puppy dog” attitudes on or off the track. Every race day 43 drivers show up with as many personalities. Many share similar and divergent traits such cool and calm, patient and eruptive, hot and energetic, and more too.
Still, some drivers carry grudges for one another.
Many races ago Harvick had a physical confrontation with Edwards in Harvick’s garage stall. Their mutual disrespect hasn’t waned. Harvick was negatively vocal about the Edwards’ intentional bump and crash of Keselowski at Atlanta. He felt Edwards got off easy with a three race probation.
Harvick even mentioned he should get back some of his previous fine money for his temper displays. Not likely. Harvick’s jumping on Ricky Rudd’s hood after a race and shouting obscenities on live TV, hopping over another hood to confront Greg Biffle or hunting down Kyle Busch in the truck garage as a team owner will draw the ire of NASCAR officials. Often such aggressive after race behavior will produce a nonrefundable fine.
Harvick has many great attributes outside his obvious driving skills, but being publically or privately objective about other drivers or teams is not one of them.
In NFL temper flares draw a yellow rag where physical contact is a part of every play. They have to control the aggression for the sake of the sport. In NASCAR even if they want more of “have at it boys” competition, they don’t want anger to cause injury.
Clearly Edwards was wrong to nudge Keselowski and had the wreck been less spectacular hardly anyone would have noticed unless tempers flared afterward.
David Reutimann was asked about the new policy and more during a teleconference after Atlanta.
“NASCAR is in a tough spot,” Reutiman said. “They want to let us race and want to let us be ourselves and be emotional and have that fire, but at the same time they have to keep things in check.
“You guys have to understand. Just because you don’t see it or just because it doesn’t have the outcome that it did like Sunday (Atlanta), that stuff happens, and it happens fairly regular, sometimes within a lap or two of each other. Sometimes you guys just only see the bigger stuff.”
The obligatory meeting NASCAR hauler meeting for owners Jack Roush, Roger Penske and drivers Edwards and Keselowski in Bristol with President Mike Helton seemed productive. Select quotes provide sufficient explanation.
“The ultimate responsibility that we all have – that NASCAR has, the owners have and the drivers have – to keep everybody safe,” Roush said. “It’s a sport that needs to be contentious, but it needs to be safe too and we’ve got to be careful to respect that line. Carl and Brad both said things that would indicate that they’re willing to put it behind them and let bygones be bygones, to give one another racing room, and that’s what’s needed. They need to give one another a little extra room for awhile.”
“The guys agreed that they’re going to race hard,” Penske said. “They’re going to race fair and give themselves some room on the racetrack so that we don’t become the poster boys every weekend. It was a good conversation. They’re both good guys. To me, it’s just great that we have an environment where we can sit down.”
What I want him (Keselowski) to do is run fair on the racetrack and be competitive. But he’s got to respect the other drivers. They have to respect him. He’ll earn his respect in the garage area by winning and finishing strong. To me, we need to put this behind us.
“Carl and I have a mutual respect for each other,” Keselowski said. “We come from similar backgrounds. We drive the same way. If you’re going to be successful in this sport, it’s really important to separate your emotions from trying to get the job done.
“Hopefully, we can move forward and continue to race each other hard and not have any more incidents like Atlanta.”
“The people who know me know that I’m a very fair person,” Edwards said. “I guess if my biggest fault is standing up for myself, I’ll take it.
“I think the biggest thing coming out of that meeting is that now, I think, Brad and I understand one another a little better. I think we’re gonna be able to just go forward and go racing, and that’s what this is all about.
“What’s most interesting to me is that sometimes it’s about selling ad time or newspapers and it’s not about explaining the story.”
Meanwhile Harvick seems to loathe others besides Edwards. Two weeks after the Edwards/ Keselowski crash his intentional bump spun Joey Logano on the final lap of the Bristol Nationwide race where Harvick finished fifth. An angry Joey Logano went swiftly to his garage hauler.
Later Logano said, “I don’t understand that at all. It was for fifth place, so I don’t know what he was doing. We ran together clean for almost the whole race and then he dumps me on the last lap. I don’t understand what he was thinking.”
Perhaps Edwards and Keselowski have moved on while some haven’t.