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Random Lugnuts: The Wing is Gone but Anger Management Returns

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: The Wing is Gone but Anger Management Returns

Bill Crittenden
March 22, 2010

The gloves, it appears, are back on.  After much hype at the beginning of the season about drivers being allowed to settle their differences on the track rather than have their differences settled for them in the NASCAR hauler, that decision has been effectively reversed.

It was yet another week where the off-track action outshined what happened on the track, and that simply should not happen when the track is Bristol.  However, most of the bumping and shoving took place on television and on Twitter.  Words were exchanged via interviews with the drivers.  Kevin Harvick, perhaps a little bored with this season already (I know I am), tried to get into the fight.  Brad Keselowski chose Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down" as his introduction music for the Cup race.

But when all was said and done, a lot was said and nothing was done.  NASCAR pulled Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski into a prerace meeting.  Then the two met out on the track late in the race, racing side by side with Kevin Harvick following close behind (as though he was ready to step in and instigate if needed).  At Bristol Motor Speedway, a track known for close racing and with even less open space than the last time the Cup cars ran it, the pair nearly ran off the track or into the wall trying to avoid each other.

Carl Edwards had no problem retaliating for a perceived lack of room (and by extension, lack of respect) by getting into the back end of Brad Keselowski's car at one of NASCAR's fastest tracks two weeks ago.  The rear wing took care of the rest.  He was put on probation for three weeks, and perhaps he decided not to test the consequences of violating probation.  I can't blame him there, he's got more to lose, he got in the last shot, and it was one heck of a shot!

Brad Keselowski, however, is a driver with a reputation for aggressiveness, a driver with all the reason in the world to try and return the favor to Edwards, a driver who is not on probation and is sponsored by a manufacturer whose current ad campaign carries the tagline "Man's Last Stand."  Yet he decided to ride the outside wall when he saw the 99 pull up alongside.  Despite the bravado of his driver introduction, Brad Keselowski backed down.  He's not the sort of person to do that of his own accord, so I'm willing to bet that it had something to do with that meeting before the race.

Sure, wrecking cars with wings at Atlanta is bound to end badly, but this was Bristol.  This is a track where it's relatively safe to give someone the ol' bump-'n-run, a track where there's nowhere to hide if you're expecting payback from an earlier incident.  If drivers aren't settling old scores, they're creating new rivalries.  I'm not one of those idiots who watches racing for the crashes, yet I feel a little cheated when there isn't more bent sheet metal coming out of Tennessee twice a year.  NASCAR's meeting should have been something along the lines of, "we're at Bristol, and next week is Martinsville.  You kids got two weeks to get it out of your system before we get back to the superspeedways, because I don't want either of you testing the flight characteristics of the new spoiler, ok?"  Instead, whatever was said it sure as hell wasn't "have at it" because the result was Edwards and Keselowski managed to find enough racing room, at Bristol of all places, to not get in each other's "personal space."

Why exactly was it that NASCAR had to step in with a suspension and a meeting?  Because Keselowski went airborne?  Atlanta was the last superspeedway race with the flip-inducing rear wing on the car.  Had the spoilers been on the car a few weeks earlier Keselowski probably would have just spun as Edwards intended and maybe backed it into the wall.  NASCAR could have had its controversy and its ratings and not have a reason to let the fans down yet again.  I understand NASCAR got the spoilers back on the cars as soon as they could but they should be undertanding that it was simply bad timing that resulted in Keselowski getting upside down and not overreact.

As perfect punctuation to the return to the corporate-friendly "anger management" driving policies the poster boy for bland NASCAR drivers, Jimmie Johnson, walked away from the field in the final laps to take his first Cup win at Bristol.  So this is what NASCAR has in store for us in 2010:  drivers avoid each other at Bristol and Jimmie Johnson easily notches another win.  That hasn't been a great formula for ratings in the past and I'll guess that it still isn't a great formula for keeping the fans interested.

Stock Car Racing 2010 Season Page

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