Sometimes I think that the people that make important decisions are not the same as you or I.
Sometimes I am completely sure of it.
Today was one of those times.
Since Sunday afternoon the media and fans alone have been campaigning for punishment, or otherwise, for Carl Edwards’ rush of blood in the waning laps of the NASCAR race at Atlanta.
Some called for him to be parked for a race or two, others a fine or a points deduction, others that he should be stopped from practicing at Bristol in two weeks.
What I saw no calls for was what actually happened.
A three race probation.
Three races when Carl has to not deliberately wreck someone. Well, at least not when anyone is looking, and even then you’ll probably be able to explain your way out of any further penalty. It is a punishment that will not have a single impact on Carl Edwards, his team and their season.
There is not a single thing about that decision that makes any sense.
Carl used his car as a weapon to deliberately put a fellow racer in danger. OK, so he didn’t mean to put him in as much danger as he ultimately ended up in, but if you caused the situation you should pay the penalty for the consequences, no matter how dire and unexpected.
Carl was 150 laps down on Keselowski at the time, two laps from the end of the race. Carl had just taken the last position he could before the race would end, having surpassed the number of laps completed by David Reutimann. There is no way Carl did not realise that there was nothing to gain from the final laps, other than revenge. That makes the fact Mike Helton believes that Carl being parked two laps early was a worthwhile penalty all the more unbelievable.
NASCAR has made a huge deal out of their safety advances in recent years. Their championing of the HANS device following a number of on-track tragedies, the SAFER barrier, the safety minded COT, with the driver seated more centrally in a taller ‘greenhouse’ (the barrier and car, in my mind combining to mean that we’re not talking about another of those tragedies this week).
For such an apparently safety minded series to almost green light reckless driving boggled the mind.
After the 2006 Daytona 500, when Jimmie Johnson’s car failed post-qualifying technical inspection Chad Knaus was suspended for over a month and placed on probation until the end of that December – a full 36 races.
How on earth can gaining a tiny aerodynamic advantage be considered 12 (or even more) times worse than potentially endangering the life of other drivers, and fans?
Of course, it’s not a surprise if you have followed NASCAR and their discipline record over recent years.
In an article I wrote earlier today, even I predicted nothing would happen, and why (you can read that article here).
It is also very interesting to note that a very similar sentiment showed up, during the press conference announcing Edwards’ non-penalty, on Robby Gordon’s Twitter account – “Just heard the news. I wonder what would of happened to me in that situation? Hmmm someone playing favourites?”
In that original article I said the NASCAR needed to park Edwards to draw the metaphorical line in the sand about what drivers could, or couldn’t, get away with and show that no-one was above punishment. Actual punishing punishment.
Instead NASCAR have not drawn a line in the sand, meaning drivers are still fumbling in the dark about what is deemed acceptable.