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Edwards doing damage to both reputation, car

20 July 2010

With the Sprint Cup Series enjoying some rare down time, it was a chance for the Nationwide Series and Truck Series to shine last weekend at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.
But these dang Cup guys just can't stay out of the spotlight, can they? (At least when the power remains on, that is).
And once again, Brad Keselowski was right in the middle of all of it.
Say what you will about Keselowski -- and Carl Edwards had plenty to say after winning the Nationwide race later Saturday -- but the brash kid sure can drive.
Saturday wasn't the first time Edwards and Keselowski have tangled with dire consequences this season, of course. In an earlier Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Keselowski got into Edwards early in the event -- and after sitting out much of the race to get his car repaired, Edwards made the unwise decision to deliberately wreck Keselowski at high speed on a straightaway. Edwards was 156 laps down at the time, while Keselowski was running in the top 10.
The two later sat through a summit in the NASCAR hauler and emerged to say at least most of the right things, and since that meeting of the minds they had been racing each other pretty clean up until the final lap Saturday night.
That's why Edwards probably lost more respect than he gained by booting Keselowski again, and admitting -- again -- that he did so on purpose. On one hand, you have to work up at least a little respect for Edwards' honesty. But on the other, you have to wonder if Keselowski's charge of Edwards not facing "reality" has more merit.
While it's true that Keselowski touched him up a bit in Turn 1 on the final lap at Gateway, that contact seemed to be incidental. Furthermore, both the No. 99 Ford of Edwards and the No. 22 Dodge of Keselowski seemed to gather themselves after the initial contact and regain all lost momentum. It was, most observers seemed to agree, one of them racin' deals and they still had three-fourths of a lap left to settle the issue the right way.

In fact, Edwards regained the lead briefly before Keselowski surged in front again, this time without touching him. It was shortly after that when Edwards turned left into Keselowski's right-rear quarterpanel and sent him spinning for another wild and dangerous ride.
So now the Edwards-Keselowski rivalry is freshly renewed. Brad's father, Bob, even threw down a verbal barrage after Saturday's incident -- saying in a television interview that Edwards "flipped out like he did at Atlanta and tried to kill the kid." A former racer himself, Bob Keselowski added: "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."
As with the previous incident between the two in Atlanta, there is absolutely no question that Edwards had no intention to do physical harm to Keselowski. He's not that kind of guy.
The problem is, when you wreck someone deliberately, it sets off a chain of events that no one really controls to any great extent. So it was that when Edwards clipped Keselowski and sent him spinning first into the outside wall and then into the inside wall, that led to Keselowski also getting broad-sided at high speed by two additional cars coming from behind that had nowhere else to go.
Keselowski walked away again, thankfully. But it could have been serious.
Edwards left no question about his motives during a television interview in Victory Lane. He said he thought Keselowski had tried to take the win away from him by bumping him in Turn 1 on the final lap, and that he believed turnabout was fair play.
"I just couldn't let him take the win from me," Edwards said. "We came to win. He took it from us there in Turn 1. And, man, I just couldn't let him take it from us. I had to do what I had to do."
Later, during the winner's interview in the Gateway media center, Edwards added: "The deal is he'll eventually learn he can't run into my car over and over and put me in bad situations. In every situation, there is an aggressor and there is someone who reacts. I was not the aggressor in this situation."
The fact is, though, just as at Atlanta earlier in the season, Edwards was a little too quick and went a little too far in exercising his brutal form of retaliation. In doing so -- even in winning at all costs at the place he considers his home track, where he is very popular -- Edwards lost more respect than he might have gained by finishing second in this one.
Now both drivers move forward with more bad baggage piling up between them. Keselowski hinted that he thought Edwards' act was that of a desperate driver looking to make up points in the race for a Nationwide championship that almost certainly is going to come down to the two bitter rivals.
"I think he's trying to figure out how he can win the points when he hasn't run very well all year," Keselowski said. He also added, "Wrecking someone down the straightaway is never cool, whether it's at 200 miles per hour or 120. I'm sorry that's the way it had to end."
It hasn't ended, really. Keselowski, looking to add a Nationwide championship to his fledgling racing resume, still holds a 168-point advantage over Edwards, his closest pursuer in the standings. Lots of racing remains before this season's series title is decided.
Edwards always has been the more popular of the two drivers. But if he keeps admitting to deliberately running over Keselowski without a hint of remorse every time the No. 22 barely touches him on the track, he might soon find that the Special K Kid is gaining on him in popularity while still holding the high ground in the Nationwide championship hunt.


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