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Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Carl does (and doesn't) deserve

I thought it was interesting that both Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards made comments after the Gateway race last night that each of them thought the other one had the better car...I think it's not so much luck (good or bad) as it is that both drivers are AGGRESSIVE and are not afraid to go after the win, whatever they have to do to get there. Aggressive drivers throughout NASCAR history have been successful drivers and racing stars. Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Tony Stewart...the list goes on.

So what should NASCAR do about Carl's intentional spin of Brad last night? My opinion is nothing. NASCAR told the drivers at the beginning of the season that they would be allowed to sort out disagreements on their own, and that they should show more emotion. They basically said "Have at it, guys." I don't think what Carl did was any worse than what other drivers have done on the track this or any other season. Unfortunately, what happened as a result of the hit WAS worse than what usually happens. But the hit itself? Nah, wasn't any worse than what Kyle, Kevin, or Brad have done.

Carl was put on probation last year for three races, served the probationary period without incident, and moved on. Did it change his driving style for more than those three races? Maybe a bit. I don't think another probationary period would be useful at this point, though. Would a suspension make him change how he races? Probably not. Probation and suspension are definitely two options, but neither fits the crime here, looking at the big picture.

In my opinion, if NASCAR feels that some sort of penalty must be handed down a monetary fine would at least get the attention of Carl and his Team's wallets, if nothing else. No one wants to lose money, especially when NASCAR racing is as expensive as it is. Estimated cost to even get a Truck Series Truck entry is close to $100,000. A Cup race is much more. Fining Carl and the team seems like a way to get their attention and dissuade future intentional wrecking from happening.

More than the price tag that comes with a monetary fine, the team owner has to start thinking about whether a contract renewal is in order however many years down the road. If a driver is fined repeatedly the team will be less likely to re-sign that driver. Each fine cuts into profits, R&D, and equipment funds. At some point the team owner has to say that this driver is costing us too much and not renew the contract at the next opportunity. Monetary fines put the security of a driver at risk when it comes to who he will be driving for the next year, two years down the road, or five years out. Further, once a driver shows that he is going to be fined repeatedly it becomes harder for that driver to get a new contract with a different team. One thing NASCAR isn't shy about is publicizing the fines and amounts thereof. Team owners are going to look into how much a driver has cost his team in fines before deciding to sign that driver.At some point the driver becomes too large a risk to be worth the investment.

In my opinion, if there is a driver and team fined handed down as a result of last night's incident the money should be split equally between the drivers who were caught up in the wreck as innocents. Shelby Howard had nowhere to go when he slammed into Brad on the front stretch; Howard ended up with a junked car. Colin Braun had major damage after the last lap incident, as did several other drivers. With the financial problems that many of the Nationwide teams are having, unless they can gain some relief from these damages the list of start-and-parks is just going to get longer.