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Woody: Going Into Stands Is Asking For Trouble

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 14 2011

Somewhere in there is Carl Edwards celebrating with fans at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Carl Edwards has been risking his neck after some of his victories and I’m not talking about his famous back-flip off his car.

I’m referring to his habit of going into the grandstands to glad-hand fans, a la Jay Leno.

It’s a nice gesture on Carl’s part, but it’s dangerous. NASCAR better put a stop to it before it has an ugly incident on it hands.

When Jay Leno greets the fans up-close and personal prior to his TV show it’s a lot different from wading into a packed grandstand at a sports event.

Not even NFL players wearing helmets and protective padding dares to venture into the stands. They settle for a Lambeau Leap.

I like Carl and so do most NASCAR fans. But not all. And one is all it takes. If one nut or over-served rowdy grabs Carl he could find himself needing some of that duck insurance he peddles.

Sports crowds in general are rowdy, and racing crowds tend to raise the bar. Racing evokes more emotions than any other sport. (Witness Richard Childress’ smack-down of Kyle Busch last week.)

Every driver has his die-hard fans but he also has some equally passionate detractors.

Keeping a fence between fans and drivers after races might be a good idea. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

While there may be thousands of fans who are happy when Edwards wins a race, there’s always going to a few who are peeved.

It might not even have to do with that particular race; NASCAR fans have long memories and some could be harboring hard feeling dating back to prior incidents. Remember the blowup at Atlanta when Edwards crashed Brad Keselowski? One furious fan said Carl should be “drop-kicked off a building.” Others made even harsher – and scarier – comments.

Would Edwards want to run into one of those people in a crowded grandstand, especially if they had spent a long day of imbibing? One thrown bottle, one angry shove, one taunt by an inebriated heckler – that could be all it takes.

It’s not just the driver who’s at risk. Imagine if an Edwards fan shouts congrats to Carl but it sounds like a taunt to, say, a Keselowski fan? Melees have been sparked by less.

Also, all the pushing and shoving by a crowd trying to get close to the driver is dangerous, even if the fans are well-intentioned. A surging throng of excited fans trying to get close to a celebrity in a steep, cramped grandstand is a recipe for trouble.

It’s great that drivers like Edwards are willing to interact with fans. The sport needs more of it. But there’s a time and place for it, and wading into the churning grandstand in the emotional aftermath of a race is not it.

It could spark and ugly incident or an outright disaster. NASCAR’s been lucky so far, and it better put a stop to the practice before its luck runs out. Remember, “fan” is short for “fanatic.”

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, June 14 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Terrell Davis says:

    While I agree that gate crashing could bring a measure of danger to Cousin Carl, I endorse his efforts to get closer to the fans.
    But, alas, Woody, it will probably have to cease because Carl has no real control of what “could” happen. I remember watching Carl walk to the edge of the Nashville Superspeedway front straight to check out a grassy area after driver introduction. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was looking for a good place to perform his back flip if he happened to win the race. He explained that landing on the grass was preferable to the hard concrete. He was using a measure of control to minimize his chances of getting hurt if his famous backflip failed.
    When he goes into the stands, he has no measures to minimize what a fan, even a friendly fan, might do.
    Cousin Carl should keep his efforts to thank fans on the track side of the fence, especially now that fans expect him to join them in the grandstands.
    It’s sad to say but, “Danger Carl Edwards, Danger!”

  • Terry says:

    Woody ….
    It is sad to know the BIG FENCE….is not to keep the cars in.
    It is to keep the TICKET BUYING…..fans out.
    NASCAR is NOW for the sponsors and T V ……not the fans in the stands.
    Petty….like Babe Ruth….would meet and greet for hours….
    NEVER WHINE…..it was a priviledge to them…..
    That is RARE today.
    Terry