Minter: Gateway Should Serve As Wakeup Call
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
NASCAR reached another low point in the “Have at it” era when Carl Edwards wrecked Brad Keselowski on the frontstretch on the final lap of Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race at St. Louis.
Edwards made no secret of the fact that he intentionally dumped Keselowski. He didn’t address the issue of where he did it – on the straightaway in front of oncoming cars. It was much like his dumping of Keselowski in the Cup race at Atlanta earlier this year.
One had to feel for Bob Keselowski, who had to sit by once again and see Edwards put his son in grave danger. Bob Keselowski has been around long enough to remember that people do get killed in race cars. Just the fact that he used the word “killed” several times in a live TV interview show that at least someone at the track was aware of what could happen as a result of “Have at it” gone wild.
The really disappointing part so far this time around is the lack of any response from the people who are supposed to be policing the sport. Races aren’t supposed to be demolition derbies.
Even back in the so-called rougher days of the sport, NASCAR had ways of dealing with undue roughness on the track.
One of my favorite racing souvenirs is a copy of a letter that Pat Purcell, executive manager of NASCAR, sent to Lee Petty in October, 1957.
For those who don’t know, Lee Petty, the King’s dad, had a reputation of being fairly liberal in his use of the front bumper.
Here’s how Purcell put it in his letter to Petty.
“This is a friendly personal note in which I hope I can express myself in such a way that you will take it in the spirit in which it is being written.
“We have received a great many complaints this season about rough driving on your part, and they are now piling in so fast and from so many different directions that it is going to be necessary for someone to put the ‘eye’ on you for the next several race meets.
“Personally, I hate like hell to have to do this because you have always been my ideal of a true sportsman, and I surely hope that nothing ever happens to change my opinion.
The difference in Petty’s behavior back in the ‘50s and Edwards’ today is in the speeds and the possible consequences, and in the reaction from the series officials charged with keeping order.
Even with improved safety features in the cars and in the race tracks, wrecking people at 120 or 200 miles per hour will eventually cause a tragedy that can’t be undone.
Edwards almost put Keselowski in the grandstands at Atlanta. Keselowski was lucky to walk away at St. Louis Saturday night as were the drivers who crashed into him.
There are business consequences too. Will mainstream sponsors continue to support drivers, and a sport in general, where intentional, controversial and possibly life-threatening high-speed wrecks are allowed?
And where is NASCAR in all of this? I have no way of knowing whether Carl Edwards got a warning letter after the Atlanta incident. I don’t know whether anyone from NASCAR has had an “eye” on him his year.
I do know that he apparently will be allowed to keep his win at Gateway and that in the 12 hours since the crash there was no word from NASCAR about the incident, one way or another.
Do you ever get the feeling like you’re riding along in a jetliner and up there behind the locked doors of the cockpit, the plane is on autopilot and the captain and first officer are asleep?
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments