It's the curious case of the NASCAR
wreck that shouldn't have happened.
Edwards had just completed 100 flawless laps of Charlotte Motor Speedway, with the #99 car still in a pristine state. But then he decided to do an impromptu celebratory slide through the in-field grass area, and by the time he came to a stop the front of the car was as badly mangled as if he'd gone into the speedway wall head-on at high speed.
Edwards climbed out, mimed a big "what the heck?" shrug for the crowd, and then got on with performing his trademark backflip off the car's driver-side door. Happily, that was back to a perfect execution.
"Nothing could ruin my night," Edwards beamed. "If I had flipped over and broke both my arms, I'd still be sitting here smiling!"
Speaking afterwards in victory lane, Edwards was keeping it light but sounded rather annoyed that the organisers had been careless enough to allow an infield drainage pipe to be in such a potentially dangerous area. "I had no idea that drain was there," he said. "I was trying to do a nice, full slide there and I hit a drainage pipe. I guess if you're going to tear it up, that's the time to tear it up."
So it was a drainage pipe?
Well ... no. NASCAR
officials inspected the area, and there was no drain there. Later, car owner Jack Roush tried again:
"Unfortunately he hit a manhole cover," he said, incredulous that such track negligence had cost him a perfectly decent race car and caused tens of thousands of dollars (at least) in repair bills. "Yes, he hit a manhole cover. Who would guess they'd put a manhole cover in the middle [of the grass] like that?"
So it was a manhole cover?
Well ... still no. Track spokesman Scott Cooper stated emphatically that there were no obstacles of any kind in the area where Edwards had torn up the front of his car. No drain pipe, no manhole cover.
"I guess NASCAR's mad, because they think we're hiding something with that car," Edwards said. "I guess they're over there looking to see if I intentionally tore up my car, which I did not. I was trying to do a nice, full slide."
Sure enough, just as Edwards had prophesied, within minutes there were conspiracy rumours flying around the Internet that there had been something illegal with the car that had needed to be destroyed with an 'unfortunate' post-race incident before pit lane inspection brought disqualification.
Cars get skimmed across the in-field grass week-in, week-out without destroying the front of the car and the engine, they point out. How could Edwards manage such a wreck if it wasn't planned and intended? What else except some illegal set-up could explain the untouchable form of the #99 for the entire event, they asked - and especially the very suspicious way that Edwards had managed to dive into the lead just before the end of each segment, to pick up all the bonus prizes as well as the $1 million headline prize for the victory?