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Ingram: Skullduggery At Work In Atlanta? 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 15 2010
Kurt Busch finishes just ahed of Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup race at Atlanta. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kurt Busch finishes just ahed of Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup race at Atlanta. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief:

Among the discussions and brickbats about Carl Edwards intentionally wrecking a rival in Atlanta, one question has often been overlooked. You have to wonder if Brad Keselowski would have been rammed by Edwards if the latter’s teammate was leading the race.

When drivers are regularly allowed to retaliate on the track in the Sprint Cup – which is what probation for Edwards encourages in place of a suspension – are we one step closer to a driver trying to change the outcome of a race by intentionally causing a wreck somewhere in the pack to get a teammate a chance at a victory during a green-white-checkered finish?

This is not a suggestion that green-white-checkered finishes be eliminated. And the possibility of collusion has always existed in an era of multi-car teams. In Atlanta, as it turned out, leader Kurt Busch continued in front during both green-white-checkered segments and was not threatened at the finish line by runner-up Matt Kenseth.

But one has to wonder if Roush Fenway Racing’s Edwards, who clearly had an eye on the scoreboard and the number of laps remaining, would have dumped Keselowski if Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth had been on top of the scoreboard. Assuming a driver over 150 laps down like Edwards has time to consult the scoring pylons, he would have seen Kenseth drop from second to fourth with 16 laps left in the regulation distance. Did he then decide it was OK to knock Keselowski into the wall once he caught him?

This is yet another unattractive door opened by NASCAR’s policy of “Have at it, boys.” The possibility that a driver who is many, many laps down retaliating in a time and circumstance that is favorable to a teammate.

In the case of Atlanta, Edwards may have tried to “hit” for the cycle. He took out one sixth-place Penske Racing Dodge, jeopardized the victory of another Penske Racing Dodge and gave a Roush Fenway Racing teammate another shot at winning through a re-start under the green-white-checkered rule.

Given Edwards’ heady victory in Atlanta’s spring race as a rookie, when he very smartly dusted off the high line by the wall in the closing laps and then used it to beat Jimmie Johnson at the finish stripe, it’s not entirely out of the realm to wonder aloud if he had more than one driver on his mind when he hit Keselowski.

There’s also the element of cheating the fans of a classic finish, much less another team and driver. Juan Pablo Montoya had cut Busch’s 1.6-second lead in half over the course of six laps and the latter was having trouble with his right rear tire with just under three laps remaining when the incident occurred.

For the sake of argument, one can assume that Edwards had a classic case of the “red mist” and was only concerned with catching Keselowski, who had run as high as fifth but was beginning to fall back in the field when Edwards caught him. This is not another attempt to add to arguments against Edwards and his actions as much as point out a universal problem – whether it occurs at a high-speed track where an accident can endanger fans and drivers or on one of the bullrings where cars are less likely to get knocked skyward.

The situation should raise enough eyebrows to at least re-think how many laps down a driver can go while still being allowed to return to the field. Retalitation – which carries little or no penalty in the points when a driver is so many laps behind – should warrant a points fine in the form of a suspension at future races. An effort to eliminate such retaliation also helps prevent any shadow being cast on the outcome of races.

If a driver is prevented from returning to the track with his damaged car, then he might have to settle differences eyeball-to-eyeball and chin-to-chin in the pits afterwards, perhaps a better way to settle an argument as others have already pointed out.

Quote of the Week: “I saw the gap that I had back to him, you know, starting to decrease a little bit. But I was timing it out with the race finish. He could have got to our outside coming to the checkered, but there was no way he was going to get by the Miller Lite Dodge.”

– Kurt Busch on whether Juan Pablo Montoya would have caught him before the end of the Atlanta race’s regulation distance had it stayed green.

Pulled Punches: Collusion remains a distinct possiblity in modern motor racing due to career pressure and the large amounts of money involved.

Nelson Piquet Jr., who recently raced in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series during Speedweeks, left Formula One racing behind under a dark cloud after he reported that the Renault team asked him to crash on purpose to create a safety car period for the benefit of then teammate Fernando Alonso. Renault and Alonso went on to win their only race of the 2008 season after the crash by Piquet Jr. in the streets of Valencia benefitted the team’s pit strategy.

Renault team principals denied Piquet Jr.’s accusation and said the driver himself first brought up the idea of crashing on purpose. But the ensuing bad odor was sustained over the course of one and a half years before finally reaching an international court room, leaving all concerned badly tarnished – including the sport of F1. When Alonso, who was entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, won the season-opening F1 race in Bahrain on Sunday in his first race for Ferrari since leaving Renault, it was inevitable that observers recalled it was the driver’s first time on the top step of the podium since the incident at Valencia.

In the NHRA, the question of John Force not giving his best in a race with a teammate at the U.S. Nationals continues to dog the driver and the sport of drag racing. In this case, Force’s teammate Robert Hight went all the way to the Funny Car championship after gaining entry to the Countdown to One through what many saw as skullduggery.

One solution to this problem in drag racing is the four-wide approach, which is coming up on the schedule at the Zmax Dragway at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in two weeks.

See ya! …At the races.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 15 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Marc says:

    Yeah anything’s possible isn’t it Ingram?

    Hell a driver could plot to take out a competitor, to help a leading teammate, by leaving his/her pit stall and crashing into said competitor.

    A driver could do a lot of things but the reality is… it was an off week and you could find anything of value to write about so you just made sh*it up.