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Ingram: ‘The Retaliator’ On A Roll In Las Vegas

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 7 2011

Carl Edwards is starting to look like the guy who has a great chance to displace Jimmie Johnson. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief™:

Imagine a world where the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship this coming fall has Carl Edwards squaring off against Jimmie Johnson for the title – and winning. During this time span, Danica Patrick launches her Sprint Cup career in preparation for running for the rookie of the year in 2012.

Inspired by his success as Patrick’s team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race during this same Chase. Trevor Bayne replaces David Regan as the driver of the UPS Ford at Roush Fenway Racing to prepare for his return to the Daytona 500. Juan Pablo Montoya wins an oval race at last. This all happens while the National Football League is on strike.

Too far out? Perhaps. But according to current events, this is a plausible scenario.

If something along these lines comes to pass, it will complete a comeback by NASCAR from the doldrums. You have to fall on your collective bottom to have a comeback and the sanctioning body put itself in that position during the early years of leadership by CEO and Chairman Brian France. At a time when the sky looked Cerulean blue (and greenback green) as far as the eye could see in the first five years of his tenure, France ruled more by hubris and impatience than the common sense more prevalent in the eras of “Big Bill” France and Bill France Jr.

Then the Great Recession arrived like a long, sinister black stretch limo that went on and on.

In the last year, France and his staff have managed to put the risk, the passion and the competition

Crew chief Bob Osborne and Carl Edwards leave Las Vegas on a roll. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

back into the Sprint Cup formula. That brings us to exhibit A: “The Retaliator.”

“The King,” Richard Petty, became the smiling, humble good ol’ star. Dale Earnhardt was a moody champion who regularly visited the dark side as “The Intimidator.” Jimmie Johnson is the immensely talented boy next door, hence no cool nickname. Carl Edwards, too, is like the boy next door except he tends to do crazy stunts and has a dark streak that emerges when he feels his honor has been crossed.

If Kyle Busch is fond of putting himself at risk (and indirectly those around him) through some extraordinary maneuvers, Edwards has stamped himself as a guy who will choose to put others at risk if he is in the mood for revenge.

During this week’s cavity in the schedule (rhymes with travesty), there’s plenty of time to remember Edwards putting Brad Keselowski into the fence and almost into the grandstands at the Atlanta Motor Speedway a year ago. Edwards wrecked Keselowski again at Gateway along with the entire front of the field in another act of retaliation in the Nationwide Series last summer.

This year, after he started Edwards’ crash at Phoenix, for another example, Busch made haste to apologize prior to Las Vegas to be sure to stay on the right side of “The Retaliator.”(There was no problem with Keselowsi in the last stages at Las Vegas, it also bears noting.)

“The Retaliator” is a direct result of NASCAR’s bootleg turn when it comes to allowing the drivers to now police themselves according to the policy of “Have at it.”

NASCAR is hardly the first sports organization to shoot itself in the foot and then figure out how

Carl Edwards jumped off a skyscraper in Las Vegas last week. Attached to ropes, of course.(Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

to walk again after a spell on crutches. There was a time when NBA players were attacking fans in the stands. While that’s less dangerous than cars flying into grandstands, it took the once golden basketball tour into a brief depression. Rules of conduct on and off the court were changed and the focus once again returned to the game; so did ratings and attendance.

Major League baseball struck out with the strike of 1994-95, then the players union and owners compounded the error by looking the other way on the steroid issue when home run tallies rejuvenated much needed interest in the National Pastime. Now the sport is forever sullied by its drug scandal that will come into play every year a vote is taken for the revered Hall of Fame.

The NFL is on the verge of going down the same path as Major League Baseball in 1994 as both sides continue to play public relations instead of seriously negotiating. Talks continue as this is written after a desperate 24-hour reprieve became a seven-day extension. Whatever the outcome of those talks, it remains to be seen how the NFL will respond to the unsavory news the sport is gradually crippling and killing its participants with head injuries.

As Talladega and more tandem drafting approaches next month, NASCAR will continue to grapple with its biggest issue of the “Have at it” era: a car in the grandstands instead of Edwards dashing into the crowd during impromptu, heartwarming victory celebrations. If it comes to pass that Edwards does win the championship, his mode of racing may well become the standard just as Johnson’s mode of “beat ‘em with your best stuff and keep it clean” has prevailed previously.

Are the recently extended fences high enough? Is the Car of Tomorrow safe enough?

As the winner of three races in the last five events, for now Edwards enjoys the reputation of the man from Missouri with a white-picket-fence smile who brings a lot of fun and excitement to racing with his back flips and grandstand dashes, a sort of NASCAR idol who enjoys doing things like jumping off the Statosphere in Vegas or flying with the Thunderbirds.

But like Jimmie Stewart in many a cowboy movie, just don’t double cross Edwards by taking him for granted on the track. It’s enough to carry any plot a long way – except that motor racing is not the stuff of fiction.

Quote of the Week: “I feel like I have a better understanding of how the sport works. I am more prepared to use these fast race cars and do a better job to try to win this championship. That is something Jack (Roush) and I have talked a lot about over the years. There is definitely a process to becoming the best you can be at this level because all the guys are so savvy. I feel I am in a better position to get all the points we can and all the wins we can this year.” – Carl Edwards after his victory in Las Vegas.

See ya! …At the races.

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

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, March 7 2011
6 Comments

6 Comments »

  • the Bear says:

    Hey Terry, Gone to a race lately? I was at the Vegas race(season ticket holder since ‘07). What young Bayne experienced was a case of race me like I race you.There were at least 4 times these two cars were “same place same time scenario”.Trevor held up the obviously faster car each time .I was watching them both as I am a Ford fan,(and do like the kid),but if you continue to block,side draft,etc. when you aren’t racing for points,and you are a rookie,you will be taught a lesson! Matt did the best job of teaching Trevor that lesson. a nudge in the rear is a lot better than what a Busch bro.,or a number of other cup regulars would have done.Matt chose the place and time to instill a lesson without damaging the young mans car!!

    • Terry says:

      Bear
      Yeah kid I’ve been to a race lately. I watched the #21 pass clean and then get Dale Sr.’ed into the wall for…. WHY ?….
      AS YOU SAID….because he is not supposed to be there racing the big boy’s who are going for points?
      IT’S RACING not politics or a frat party. Go away rookie you don’t belong. The Wood Bros almost lost a car so Matty could teach their driver a lesson in KNOWING YOUR PLACE? EDDIE and LEN should send the #17 a thank you note?…..Thank for almost wrecking us with your FORD before a Toyota did? All because he out drove Matty. Maybe some of the other drivers he passed have more class or SELF CONFIDENCE to race clean. Even a rookie.
      forget it …..
      It is just not worth dealing with 3rd grade logic and play ground ethics.

  • Terry says:

    At least Carl didn’t DUMP young Trevor for passing him like Kenseth did. Trevor can’t be the RETALIATOR like Carl. He would just look stupid like Logan and Krashlousy……..
    Jack the Hat better talk to Matty before Eddie or Len put a wrench up side of his head.

  • Charles says:

    One more thing about Carl that I really like!!!!

    He takes no crap!!!! Sometimes the press seems to make him the villian!

    Name me anytime he started any problems, you are right he is a reliator and if Brad K had left him, Denny Hamlin and a big list alone, Carl would have to!

    Carl races you like you race him!!!!! thats fair enough!!!!

    If you are going to dish it out, then beable to take it!!!!!

  • Charles says:

    I could care less who wins the Chase!!!!

    I like exciting races!!!!!!

    Glad to see Carl run good and Ford as well!!!

  • Vicki says:

    I’m a JJ fan but it Jimmie’s run finally comes to an end, I’d be happy to see Ford win the championship. I’d prefer any other Ford driver to Carl though. Having said that, he looks to be Jimmie’s main competitor. Over all, fans haven’t seemed to appreciate JJ’s cool, calm, collected personality, seeing it as “vanilla”. Perhaps, they like passive-aggression better…the all-American boy with the mean streak.