24 May 2011
The mystery of Carl Edwards' wreck
Edwards, for his part, seemed charmingly unaware that there even were end-of-stage prizes involved: when told after the race that he'd won $1.2m rather than $1m he simply assumed that the headline prize had been bumped up without his noticing. This is a man who doesn't notice prizes of the odd $200,000 popping up here and there, it's simply part of his world.
Of course the conspiracy theorists would point out that in that case, the repair bills for the wrecked #99 would hardly be a big deal, either.
Roush was affronted by the suggestion that the car had been wrecked to hide illegalities: not by the idea that his Roush Fenway team might be cheating, mind you, more that anyone could ever think that he would ever contemplate wasting a race-winning car like that. "These celebrations after race wins have become more and more outrageous," he grumbled.
"That's pretty dumb," Edwards agreed, at the very suggestion. "I really would have liked to have run that car next week. Bob [Osborne, Edwards' crew chief] says we've got as good a car as that one back at the shop. But it's not the car as much as it is the things they did to set it up," he said. "... And all that secret stuff down there in the grass.
"I'm kidding!" he added quickly, flashing a smile as bright as a NASCAR stockcar highbeam. "That's a joke! Make sure you tell everybody that's a joke!"
Of course it is ... In fact, the truth is almost certainly one of those unlikely but obvious and rather underwhelming things: the ride height of the front of the car and in particular the front splitter (the aerodynamic element as important to a NASCAR vehicle as the front wing is to an F1 car) was set so low for Charlotte that it simply dug into the ground when Edwards slid over an innocuous bump in the infield. Instead of simply shattering the splitter, the force of the impact was driven up through the front of the car and into the engine mounting, with catastrophic results.
After the wreck took care of that "secret stuff," and Edwards had done his backflip, he followed it up with another characteristic part of his celebrations: climbing up into the spectator area behind the catch fences to glad hand fans and share his moment of triumph.
"Carl is a rock star," Roush said. "He's the first one to crawl up into the stands. Some of the drivers wouldn't go up in the stands like that after a race, and for good reason. But Carl, he's well thought of and he's out there doing things that other people wish they had thought of first.
"And he drives the hell out of our race cars," he added, which was surely the most important thing as far as the team owner was concerned.
It's strange, then, that Jack Roush still hasn't made sure Edwards' future with the team is nice and secure. Edwards' contract with the team is up at the end of the 2011 season, and while the teams' other drivers have had their contracts finalised, Edwards is conspicuously the exception.
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