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Ingram: Saturday Night Becomes Sunday Afternoon

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 8 2010
Joey Logano was one of the innocent victims of Sunday's thrill show at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Joey Logano was one of the innocent victims of Sunday's thrill show at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief:

Hampton, Ga. –  It might impugn the integrity of Saturday night short tracks to suggest events at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday seemed more minor league than major. But Carl Edwards’ single-minded pursuit of Brad Keselowski was reminiscent of a grudge match at the local speed drome.

Even at its finest, motor racing treads the ragged edge between sport and thrill show. Pardon the expression, but the flip side of this formula was on display when Edwards, at a speed approaching 200 mph, turned right into the rear bumper of Keselowski.

We might have seen this coming in the Sprint Cup season finale last year in Homestead, where a similar mid-race grudge match between Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart was treated with kid gloves by NASCAR officials.

All the commotion in the Kobalt Tools 500 was quickly re-arranged by a brace of green-white-checkereds, which led to more crashing and all the excitement of three-ring Circus Maximus.

At least there was a chance for good humor when A.J. Allmendinger tweeted in that he had suffered a flat tire on the way home after leaving the scene of a fine sixth-place finish – and a race plagued by tire issues.

If Keselowski doesn’t flip as a result of the shove by Edwards, it’s entirely likely we all just welcome the beginning of the green-yellow-green-white-checkers and applaud an honest-to-goodness feud breaking out.

Was this better than watching Juan Pablo Montoya catch Kurt Busch, a classic duel that was interupted by Edwards’ single-minded pursuit of Keselowski? Was Edwards’ conscious of the fact that if he wrecked a Penske driver it might put at risk the victory of another Penske driver in a green-white-checkered scenario? (As it was, one of Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammates finished second to Busch.)

One doesn’t get the impression that Edwards was doing much thinking. Given his poise and brilliance in his first career victory at the Atlanta track in 2005, Sunday’s performance was at odds with previous performances. Alas, Edwards put himself in harm’s way when he was hit by Keselowski on lap 41. He expected an Alphonse-and-Gaston from an arch-rival?

Keselowski is beginning to remind this writer of the kind of driver who stirs things up like never before. He’s outspoken, passionate, uncompromising and extremely talented. Could Keselowski have dragged the brake a bit on that fateful lap 41 and let Edwards into line? Probably.

It’s clear that cars flipping in the air are dangerous for the drivers and fans. It’s also clear that the current version of the COT, when hit hard enough at fast enough speeds will lift off after getting spun, even when the roof flaps deploy.

That leaves NASCAR the thorny decision of how to prevent this type of result while not throwing a damper on the new era of “have at it, boys.” If there’s a stiff penalty for Edwards to discourage such action, the sanctioning body looks wishy-washy. If it doesn’t heavily penalize him, it calls into question whether they’re running a sport and encourages more of the same dangerous circumstances.

It might be tempting to believe that once the blade spoiler replaces the rear wing, the cars will stay on the ground when spun by contact at high speeds and this problem will pass. But it may be a problem more concerned with a rammed car hitting warp speed rather than the car’s configuration.

Quote of the week: “He wrecked a lot of people last year and I’m sure a lot of people want to pay him back.”

– Juan Pablo Montoya commenting on Brad Keselowski.

The Blade Is Back: Looking ahead, what type of COT will teams be driving later this month at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, when a blade spoiler will be tested in place of the rear wing?

The blade spoiler, to be the same for all cars, will be 4 inches high for the intermediate tracks and 4.5 inches tall at Talladega and Daytona. To be run at a standard 70-degree angle, the spoiler will be mounted slightly offset to the right side, which will put more downforce on the rear during cornering. (And perhaps create more opportunities for side drafting.)

The rear deck fin first seen at Daytona in February, will be retained to provide more sideforce in the absence of the endplates. The rear deck fin can be taller or shorter according to a team’s preference for tuning the sideforce.

Sideforce, which is needed to compensate for the loss of the endplates on the rear wings, will also be added by extending the rear quarter panels 4 inches lower just behind the rear tires and then gradually tapering them up to the current height at the rear bumper.

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 8 2010
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