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Takes On Fat Lips, Driver Codes And James Brown

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 4 2014

Not all the violence and chaos was on the race track Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Ten quick thoughts about Texas after dark:

1. Jeff Gordon screwed up. First by taking the outside line for the fateful restart and then by opening the door to Brad Keselowski on the restart. Gordon’s restart was anything but clean at a time when it should have been immaculate. The guess here is that upon viewing video, Gordon will come to the conclusion that Keselowski was not in the wrong in this particular case. But Gordon’s response was not  just about that one shoot-the-gap pass. Gordon’s response was based on the fact that, as he said, people have had enough of Keselowski’s driving style and his image-cultivation efforts. Had it been Clint Bowyer or Kyle Larson, and not Keselowski lighting the fuse; no brawl.

2. Keselowski had better realize that the driver code is there for his benefit. The big payback is in the mail and there are a lot of people who have licked stamps for it these days. It will arrive at a very inopportune time for Keselowski and Paul Wolfe and Roger Penske. Maybe this Chase, maybe some other Chase. As James Brown said, “The brother get ready, that’s a fact. Get ready you Mother, for the Big Payback.” Keselowski has assumed the role of lone wolf. The thing about lone wolves is that their hide usually ends up nailed to the barn door. Everybody should realize that the code in racing is not about a sense of fair play. It’s about saving lives. People die in racing. Way too often.

3. Keselowski is right: He is not Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt could pull off many of the things he did pull off because he was a physically imposing man. I remember the time that open-wheeler Eddie Cheever screwed with Earnhardt on track during an IROC race. Afterward, Cheever was afraid to take his helmet off, much less get out of his car as Earnhardt came a stridin’ down pit road and apparently looking for hides. Keselowski talks about being able to take it as well as dish it out but when somebody comes looking for his hide, Bad Brad heads for cover.

4. The term professional sports is an oxymoron. Sports connotes a spirit of fairness and respect for the opponent and the rules – written and unwritten – that accompany the athletic endeavor. Sports is about giving one’s best. Its mantra is; humble in victory, honor in defeat. In pure sports, winning isn’t everything. Citius – Altius – Fortius. Then there is the professional version. Be it racing or the NFL or UFC, winning is the only thing. It’s business, and in business,

Brad Keselowski wears a bigger target on his back than does Kyle Larson. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

all is fair. Lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, injuring are all justified in business. Avaritia. Keselowski made a business move and Gordon made a business response and then all Wall Street broke out in the pits.

5. The over/under on how many times video of the post-race brawl will be/has been shown on the cable sports networks and the internet is; infinity. The only thing that sells better than a good brawl is a grotesque physical injury.

6. The new Chase format is not causing all the extra-curriculars in NASCAR this year. The causes are much deeper than that. The causes have combined to create a culture of chaos. The key terms are; more and less. More money involved hence more careers involved hence more pressure exerted. And, less interest in the sport hence less desire to curb the chaos hence less apprehension on the part of drivers to go rogue. Those who have the ability to consider the power of words probably swallowed hard a couple years back when Robin Pemberton told the drivers to “have at it”.

7. Texas, of all places, on Sunday was the site of a Tale of Two Passes. A couple of hours before Keselowski chose to, as Kevin Harvick said, “bulldoze” his way past Gordon in Forth Worth, Lewis Hamilton showed the beauty of a well-timed and -executed pass during the Formula One race in Austin. His pass came against Mercedes AMG teammate Nico Rosberg and it gave him a lead he never gave up. The best passes in racing are the ones that involve no contact and produce no brawls. Juan Pablo Montoya’s pass of Michael Schumacher in Turn 1 at Indy in 2001 brought many to their feet and is remembered by true racers as much as who won the race.

8. It would be very interesting to have been able to have heard what Rick Hendrick said to Jeff Gordon when the team owner put his arm around the usually mild-mannered four-time champ in pit lane. The guess here is it wasn’t; lead with your left. Over in the other corner, the statement released by Roger Penske on Monday – which, in part stated, “Brad Keselowski is a champion who competes to win in every race, which is what I expect of him. While the actions by others following the race in Texas were unfortunate, Brad has my 100 percent support as we now move on to Phoenix for the next stage of the NASCAR championship.” – was kind of disappointing. One would hope that the normally classy Penske would have also called for calm at a time when rage is at an all time high in Cup.

9. If NASCAR is going to penalize anybody over this incident it should be these people: First, Kevin Harvick for pushing Keselowski into the fight. In legal circles that is called inciting to violence.  Second, members of Paul Menard’s team who could be seen grabbing and pushing and contributing rage to the situation. In legal circles that’s known as inciting to violence.

10. Some of us don’t find the kind of brawl which happened in the Texas pits all that entertaining. Not in and of itself and certainly not when set against the background of other things that have happened in racing in recent months. This was not a typical post-race muscle flexing dance. This was not what is known in stick-and-ball as a baseball fight. This was large, powerful, enraged men taking full swings with closed fists. Innocents were caught up. Females and children – many of them belonging to drivers – populate the pits these days. What can go wrong when all-out rage overcomes clear thinking? Two words and an abbreviation: Kevin Ward Jr.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 4 2014


  • Rob Ristesund says:

    Very well said, Jim. I agree on all points.
    It’s unfortunate that journalism of this caliber is difficult to find on television.
    Keep up the great work!

  • Bill Tybur says:

    Excellent article, correct on all points, a pleasure to read. Thanks.

  • docg says:

    My local Kansas City Star newspaper has not had a sports journalist of Jim Pedley’s caliber since Pedley was “downsized” by that organization. This is masterful writing.

    Point #7 is an apples and oranges comparison, however. F1 cars and tracks are so different from stock cars and ovals that the artistic overtaking in F1 cannot happen on NASCAR’s common venues. And if F1 cars had fenders, you know they would beat the crap out of each other!

    I love the Internet. Even a hack writer like me can disagree with the best.