Pedley: All You Can Eat Buffets Have Tighter Rules
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
The message NASCAR sent to drivers earlier this year about their on-track conduct came accompanied by the phrase of “Have at it”. And a cool phrase it is.
It’s folksy, as befitting a sport with rural roots. It’s easy to remember. Gosh knows that it rolls off the tongue with such ease that the media has fallen head over heals in love with its use.
But what it also is, is useless as an official policy statement. It’s open to wild interpretation and offers no specific rules of order. It’s a guideline which is being individually analyzed 43 different ways on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons and with increasingly scary results.
It is that open-ended quality which is confusing drivers and may be leading to a major injury.
During a teleconference on Tuesday, four-time champion Jeff Gordon talked about that aspect of “Have at it”.
“Who’s to say where that line is at right now,” Gordon said about crossing the border between having at it and endangering lives. “But I definitely have some questions when I get to the track to kind of try to clarify that a little bit for myself.”
The topic came up, of course, in the wake of what happened in the Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway last Saturday night.
On the last lap of that race, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski began hammering away at each other’s cars as they clawed for the lead. Keselowski nearly spun Edwards out in Turn One. Edwards did spin Keselowski coming up the front straight as the two headed for the checkered flag.
Keselowski went up the track, clipped the outside wall, rolled to the bottom of the track and was then jackhammered by a couple of other cars which were speeding toward the finish line.
It was damn ugly. The type of wreck which could have seriously injured Keselowski or the guys who slammed into him as he sat helpless on the track. People lose limbs in those kinds of incidents, folks.
Afterward, a now-familiar samba played out.
Edwards said he was just going for the victory and without using the phrase “Have at it”, he at least stood on its premise of doing what’s necessary to get the job done.
After a visit to the infield care center, Keselowski claimed that Edwards crossed the line.
And there-in lies the problem. Nobody seems to know where that line is. Or how wide that line is.
The fact is, you could float an aircraft carrier through the hole of ambiguity that “Have at it” creates.
Edwards was issued a wet noodle slap of probation after wrecking Keselowski big time at Atlanta earlier in the year.
Others – including Gordon himself at Sonoma– have been issued nothing but improved positions on the race track for bumping people out of their way in pursuit of victory.
“Well, I mean,” Gordon said Tuesday, “that’s kind of where I’m anxious to see how far it’s going to be taken before they do step in or if they step in. Those are some questions that I have for Robin and Mike and Darby and Hoots. It’s a question I think on a lot of people’s minds that, This is great, but what’s too much?”
Gordon said he thinks Carl vs. Kes, the Battle of St. Louis Arch Enemies” was too much. Probably because he knows that while cynics love to compare NASCAR to pro wrestling, blows in the former on not issued with fake chairs.
“Right now what I saw happen Saturday night, to me that was right there on that edge of crossing the line if not possibly crossing the line,” he said. “So it’s kind of a new era now. In the past, like I said, I would have immediately thought something would have been done.”
But not now. Not since NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton issued his dictum.
Indirectly, of course, Gordon put the blame at the feet of NASCAR and “Have at it”. And he seemed to say that Edwards and Keselowski are no way done with this thing.
“The thing is,” Gordon said, “the drivers have always taken care of these things on track, whether you knew about them or not. They just weren’t maybe as much out in the open because there would be a fine or there would be some kind of penalty handed down immediately. So you thought from an outsider’s standpoint, That’s over. But, trust me, as a driver, that was not over, that was not the end of it.
“Just how racers go about it, they log that in the back of their mind, and there’s going to be a time and a day. The payback might not necessarily be the same thing that was handed down to you. It could be something different.
“You’re usually going to try to make life miserable for them or do something that is considered necessarily payback that takes away either points or a good finish or makes for a bad day or tears up a race car. Could be a lot of things.”
With two of the fastest tracks on the schedule coming up – Indy and Pocono – now might be time to deal with on-track conduct with a policy that is more than three words in length.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments