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Minter: The Search For ‘The Line” Continues

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 22 2010

Carl Edwards in Victory Lane at Gateway after Saturday night's race. He will keep the trophy. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

The search for “the line,” as in the one Carl Edwards has crossed or hasn’t crossed in his wrecking of Brad Keselowski, continues even after NASCAR imposed penalties on both drivers Wednesday afternoon.

The penalties were minor by NASCAR standards – probation for both drivers, a 60-point docking for Edwards along with a $25,000 fine.

From what several of their fellow drivers said earlier this week, Edwards did cross “the line” or at least what drivers used to generally consider the line, at least what it was before “Have at it” became the rule, or lack of one.

Kevin Harvick, speaking on Speed TV’s Wind Tunnel program Sunday night, said he though Edwards had crossed the line from what is acceptable over into what’s not acceptable in a respectable sport. And he said he’s surprised Keselowski was as restrained in his reaction as he was.

“I probably wouldn’t have reacted as kindly as Brad did,” Harvick said. “I probably would have walked down there and punched (Edwards) in the mouth.

“I just think that’s way, way out of bounds as far as hooking somebody in the middle of the straightaway.”

Jeff Gordon, speaking on the NASCAR teleconference on Tuesday, said the incident at Gateway raises questions he’d like to have some answers for before “the line” becomes more vague.

“It looked to me like Brad got into [Edwards] a little bit getting into [Turn One, but was just racing hard for the position, for the win,” Gordon said. “Then what Carl did, I felt like, was definitely out of line.

“I felt like it was over and above what needed to be done.”

Gordon, speaking before the penalties were announced, said he was anxious to hear what NASCAR officials have to say about the situation and its ramifications for future incidents.

“I’m anxious to see how far it’s going to be taken before [series officials] do step in or if they step in,” he said. “Those are some questions that I have for (NASCAR officials Robin Pemberton, Mike Helton, John Darby and David Hoots).

“It’s a question I think on a lot of people’s minds.”

It’s likely Gordon will still have questions since the penalties were relatively minor.

The real question is one of respect, or lack of it, for the sport in general.

It brings to mind an incident back in 2002 at Martinsville Speedway when Kevin Harvick spun Coy Gibbs during the truck race on Saturday. He was already on probation for an incident earlier that year with Greg Biffle at Bristol, and series officials determined that Harvick had intentionally spun Gibbs. There were other indications that afternoon that Harvick did not show officials the respect they’d come to expect.

NASCAR officials back then determined that Harvick had crossed “the line” and decided that he would not be allowed to drive in the Cup race the next day. From that day forward, there’s been a noticeable change in the way Harvick behaves on and off the race track.

“The line” was pretty clear back then. Today’s it’s pretty murky, even more so after the penalties on Edwards and Keselowski were announced.

If NASCAR doesn’t want drivers intentionally wrecking other drivers, here’s a solution.

If it’s determined, by a driver’s own admission or by series official’s judgement, that a driver intentionally wrecked another driver, award him 43rd place points and pay.

Then “the line” would be pretty easy to interpret.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 22 2010
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