Carl Edwards smiled as he stepped out of the oval office. Brad Keselowski popped a peace sign and walked the other way. Both men appeared relieved to be escaping from the discussion they had been invited to by NASCAR officials. There were no hugs, exchanged jokes or a pause to share in the media opportunity that would illustrate the pair’s newly cemented friendship.
When asked if the errant drivers probably were seeing more eye to eye now, Jack Roush snorted and answered, “Not really.”
I laughed. Hard. Thank God for a little honesty.
Call this what you will: a rivalry, a misunderstanding, a personality conflict… but you can’t call it over. And that is just fine.
There’s a little saying that wanders through our lives, and for the most part I thoroughly believe in it, “We can agree to disagree.” This tenant works well in daily life, where the avoidance of politics and religion in the workplace is a smart choice. My day runs smoother when I can simply focus on the required paperwork rather than be distracted by an opinion I will never agree with. But there is one place in my life that I can’t find the restraint to decide to turn the other cheek when somebody declares, “Kyle Busch is the best driver ever!”
Racing resides in a black and white world for me. There are hard truths and absolute wrongs. My list is invariably different from those that cheer around me. I am a fan.
Fans — I mean the ones who adhere to their driver above all others — can usually tell you the moment that they selected their driver. There will be a reason. I can guarantee it won’t be an objective one. Perceptions of the competitors are fashioned out of violent moments, victory trophies and angry outbursts. We are drawn toward the honesty of the emotion and skill displayed.
It appears reputations on the track among competitors are earned in a similar way. Edwards is convinced Keselowski just drove over him at Atlanta. Brad knows in every fiber of his being that Carl retaliated in a unsportsman-like manner. They can accept the truth of the matter. They won’t be happy about it and I doubt forgiveness is on the docket.
For years, I have watched NASCAR don the hat of arbitrator in similar clashes as the Edwards/Keselowski fiasco. I often sneered when the penalties were handed down. I wasn’t really certain what a $10,000 fine was supposed to accomplish, or even $50,000. Sprint Cup drivers can afford the ding to their wallets. Even more entertaining was the double-secret probation officials often slapped on the quarrelling drivers. It certainly sounded ominous to know one person would really get in trouble if they did it again… but the threat lacked any real conviction.
You see, I had an inkling that the PR releases stating that everybody had talked and we’re all good now just didn’t ring true. It wasn’t real. Simply unbelievable.
In the days of yore, even as I fumed over watching Jeff Gordon limp off the track after a certain Black No. 3 rolled into victory lane, I couldn’t but laugh with the Intimidator as he acknowledged his deviltry with a wink and a nod.
I believed that everybody — the commentators, the drivers, the crew chiefs and most importantly, the fans — cared. It mattered that their driver was wronged and that the bad boy did it. Anger was permitted, and we accepted that it was not a passing moment. Nobody tried to squash the emotion roiling through our sport. It was glory.
It reassured me to no end when I watched Cousin Carl and Bold Brad step out of their meeting on Saturday and avoided the expected handshake. Their body language said it all. They were still mad and NASCAR… hold your breath… wasn’t going to do anything more about it.
Ain’t that something.
I expect you, too, have some pretty strong opinions about the clash that resulted in the No. 12 taking flight at Atlanta. I’m sure some of them do not match my own.
That’s something even better.
For now that we have all agreed that universal peace on the track isn’t interesting, we can all look forward to a season of discontent. And that is awesome!
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.