Tag Archives: carl edwards

Don’t have at ’em boys

I’m a big fan of Kyle Busch, although sadly after Friday night even I have to admit that he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy. To this Limey he is up there with Lewis Hamilton as the most exciting racer at work in the world today. Every lap Kyle drives is a thrill-ride, there is nothing more entertaining than seeing the number 18 being hustled round by the 26 year old; bouncing off walls and pulling off last gasp wins are his trademarks. Sadly he is also known for crashing, moaning and getting into off-track punch-ups. With nicknames like Wild Thing and Rowdy you know what you are getting, but on Friday night he became stock car racing’s public enemy number one with a shocking display of petulance that would be bad at any time let alone after two weeks of analysing the dangers inherent in racing.

Early on during the Camping World Truck Series race at Texas the arch-villain Kyle Busch was roughed up by a clumsy Ron Hornaday, the veteran meant nothing by the rub and by Nascar standards it was barely even a tickle. In the ensuing caution period Kyle did the unthinkable, pushing himself and Hornaday into the wall with frightening speed. It was enough to damage not just the truck but also the engine in Hornaday’s machine. Worse than that, it took lost Ron a chance at the title. Both Hornaday and his team owner Kevin Harvick had strong words for Busch and rightly so, but instead it was Nascar officials that took it upon themselves to sort this one out. They duly parked Busch for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, effectively ending Kyle’s quest for the premier title.

This isn’t quite an unprecedented punishment, but it is certainly an unusual one. Nascar has employed a ‘have at ’em’ rule that goes beyond ‘rubbin’ is racing’ and opens up the possibility of on-track revenge being exacted. Leaving the officiating of driving standards up to adrenaline-pumped young men and women is a disaster for safety but a hit for at least some of Nascar’s many fans. The flaws of one driver hunting down another at 190mph does not need explaining, except to the people who run the sport, or so it seems.

I personally believe that it’s the ‘have at ’em’ rule that should be parked along with Kyle Busch. The list of Nascar racers who have taken revenge using their cars or their fists is a long one, the list of those punished for such actions is somewhat shorter. At Talledega in 2009 Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski came together in the most almighty shunt that scattered debris into the crowd. Was this a warning that even fans were in being placed in danger by over-aggressive driving? Not to Nascar it seems, they proceeded to let Carl and Brad carry a grudge onto the racetrack on more than one occasions since then, including this massive airbourne wreck last year. A totally unacceptable state of affairs.

If we hadn’t have had such a horrid few weeks for motorsport I suspect Kyle’s stupidity wouldn’t have been punished by anything other than Ron Hornaday’s fists. However much I enjoy seeing the Wild Thing at work, I’m glad Nascar has taken a stand. I just hope that some sensible rules are drawn up that outlaws racing revenge all year round. If that doesn’t happen then we are just counting down the days until somebody does something that they truly regret. In such a litigious country I would picture that Nascar could find itself in a massive legal case if a non-accidental wreck results in casualties, which despite SAFER walls and HANS devices it could very well do. Now it is up to Nascar to make bans such as Kyle’s a standard punishment for all drivers, not just the ones playing the role of ‘baddie’ and nor should it just be a card that is played in sensitive times. No matter how large or small the wreck is, whether it is behind the pace car or under green, this cannot go on – it may come to threaten the entire sport.

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A smashing way to win in Nascar

After posting about a peculiar Formula Ford finish last week I didn’t think I’d be watching the same thing happening again quite so soon. This time around the oddness was courtesy of Nascar Nationwide from Iowa Speedway and our two protagonists are Ricky Stenhouse Jnr and Carl Edwards.

After some rough stuff earlier in the race the two Roush Fenway teammates were already spoiling for a fight. At the final restart Ricky Stenhouse pulled off some blinding moves to take the lead. While dueling hard with Edwards for the win Stenhouse resisted giving him a dose of payback as the team pleaded with each driver to keep calm after an evening of pushing and shoving. Once Stenhouse decisively took the top spot the Roush crews must have thought they had avoided trouble and it was time to celebrate a first and second place for the team, instead they were presented with two mangled Fords along with their winning trophies.

Coming into the final turn of the race Stenhouse’s engine blew spewing out oil and water as he glided in to the finish line. Like James Bond throwing off the bad guys, the engine blow inadvertently created sent Carl crashing into Ricky just as they crossed the line. Miraculously they still delivered a Roush one-two as Stenhouse was propelled over the line and into the wall while Edwards cruised back with a lot shorter race car than he had when he took the white flag. There was no car to present in victory lane, just its driver – the exciting Ricky Stenhouse Jnr. As his senior teammate and dance partner Carl Edwards says, this guy will be around the sport for a long time to come. But however many victories Ricky may take in the future surely none will out-weird this one.

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A smokin’ hot start to a race

Before each and every Nascar race we the fans are blessed with an often spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner before some Z-list celeb gives the command to “start your engines” and of course we are also treated to a local pastor reading a prayer. To European ears these pre-race rituals seem a little bizarre, though they add to the charm. On my visit to Daytona a Good Ol’ Boy sat within earshot declared at the end of the anthem, “every time I hear that song I get a lump in my throat” prompting those around him to nod sagely and give him some pats on the back. You have to see this passion to believe it, even if like me you struggle to feel it for yourself.

Like eating my annual sprout, at Christmas I’ll watch the Queen’s speech and my appetite for patriotic pageantry is abated for another 12 months, so you’ll excuse me if I struggle to keep a straight face when witnessing the manner in which US racing begins each and every week. Secretly I think most nationalities wish they were as proud of themselves as a great many Americans are. Sometimes even a sceptic such as myself can get into the spirit of things; the command to start the engines at the Indy 500 often brings tears to my eyes – skip to just over 5 minutes into this clip and watch how dramatic this moment can be, the TV direction is perfect. The sheer expectation of the spectacle ahead mingles in my mind with thoughts of all the drivers who have paid the ultimate price to be one of the 33 gladiators in the running at the Brickyard. As for Marvin Gaye singing the Star Spangled Banner, that is enough to make you crave a green card.

Last Saturday the Nascar Nationwide series was running in Nashville where Concrete Carl Edwards was the winning driver who took home the coveted Gibson guitar, but it wasn’t the Ford driver who got people talking. Instead it was Pastor Joe Nelms who stole the show with the hilarious invocation you can see above.

In a series with a car sponsored by Jesus a passionate prayer is not unusual, nor is thanking God for everything the France family has brought to us – but this appeal to a higher power was truly remarkable. I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard it on Saturday night, judging by the laughs from the crews and drivers it seems I wasn’t alone. Boogity, boogity, boogity – Amen!

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Another fast-Seb, Danica’s milestone

 

Sebastian Ogier

Sebastian Ogier has the name, the car and the talent. (pic Edgar Gonzales)

Once again it was the USA that brought us most of the racing action this week, but the French provided the flair. Nascar was in action in Las Vegas, Grand Am had a thriller at Homestead and the WRC’s new breed were in Top Gear’s favourite country.

 

Carl Edwards did his somersault celebrations after taking the win in Sprint Cup at Las Vegas, but the Nationwide encounter had more talking points. The last lap saw reigning champion Brad Keselowski leading the way until a puncture sent him into the wall on the final lap gifting the win to 50-something hip hop aficionado Mark Martin.

 

Behind the thrilling events up front a little Nascar history was made by Danica Patrick. She took fourth, the highest for a woman at this level of stock car competition, in what was her most impressive drive to date in Nascar. This was a significant milestone, coupled with the last-gasp spills it means Nationwide in Vegas gets my race of the week.

 

Danica Patrick may have carved out a little piece of history, but the drive remained a solid rather than spectacular effort. To see elbows-out, white-knuckle action you had to head off the tarmac and onto the dust of Mexico or to the ice of the Stade de France.

 

The World Rally Championship with its new itty-bitty cars headed to Central America where a glance at the results wouldn’t tell you the whole story. Sebastian Loeb, one of greatest driving talents at work in the world today, took the win to add to his record-smashing tally, but the real star of the show was another Citroen-driving Frenchman called Sebastian. Winner of one WRC round already, Sebastian Ogier is being groomed to replace the master and he nearly got one over the champ as they tussled against each other until Ogier made a mistake on the final day.

 

The rest of the WRC field lagged minutes behind the two Sebastians despite the Frenchmen starting most stages in seemingly disadvantageous conditions. Sebastian Ogier nearly matched the performance of Loeb, which is enough to earn the young star twoworld’s racer of the week.

 

There was further French frivolity in the Stad de France where the Professor taught the class a lesson in ice dancing as Alain Prost won in the Andros Trophy. He seems to smile a lot more when he wins on ice than he ever did on tarmac, the Paris crowds were happy with the result too.

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Trevor who?

 

Yarborough won in a red and white Wood Brothers Ford wearing a Gold number 21 when Bayne was minus-23 years old (pic thehenryford)

After four hours of seriously intense racing the Daytona 500 was won by Trevor Bayne – a rookie who turned 20 the day before the race. The biggest question wasn’t how he’d done it, the question on the fans’ lips was who the hell is this Trevor kid? He had just snatched the biggest trophy in stock cars from under the noses of Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards – all drivers of some repute that are yet to tame all 500 miles.

 

The Wood Brothers, the oldest team in Nascar, ran the youngest driver in the field to the biggest moment of his life so far; quite a story. Jeff Gordon’s record of winning the Daytona 500 age 25 has been smashed and it wasn’t the only record to tumble at the beach today. A 17 car crash in the early going was just one of the record 16 cautions while 74 lead changes topped the previous best that was set way back in the 1970s.

 

The race started smoothly with two-car tandems quickly forming through the first 12 places while the rest raced as a pack. On lap three Daytona fell silent, except for the howl of 43 race cars of course, in tribute to the tenth anniversary of the loss of Dale Earnhardt. I proudly held aloft three fingers at home, shivers going down my spine as the 150,000 strong crowd did the same.

 

Plenty of bravery, nerve and speed were on show as the two-car tandems that have defined Speed Weeks led to nothing but bumper-to-bumper racing. The downside was that constant contact between cars allowed for very little flair to shine through as any hustling was often brutally punished, although Robby Gordon and Kyle Busch both dealt deftly with some serious cases of the oversteer blues. Still, it was fascinating hearing the drivers chatting to their rivals over the radio as they raced, the spotters on top of the stands who help the drivers avoid trouble were making deals from lap one right until the final restart.

 

In his early career Trevor Bayne ran the number 24 in deference to his hero Jeff Gordon, with whom Bayne teamed up with on Thursday in the Duels and in the early laps of the 500 before Gordon was caught up in the Big One, along with fellow Hendricks big boys Johnson and Martin, although the latter bounced back to contend for the win. During the course of his impeccable race there were plenty of elder statesmen who recognised Trevor Bayne’s potential and sought to lock fenders with him, in the end the youngster was pushed at the front on the final restart by old-timer Bobby Labonte – 26 years Bayne’s senior.

 

The race concluded with two green-white-chequers and it was the first of these that caught out Bayne’s drafting buddy David Ragan who was black-flagged for making his move across the track to team up with the 21 car before reaching the green flag. This left Bayne leading when a crash that took out fan-favourite Dale Earnhardt Jnr provided one more restart to contend with. Edwards and Gilliland pushed Bayne hard on these final, frantic laps and relegated Labonte to fourth, while Montoya and the Busch brothers were shuffled out at the last moment in a thrilling finish. All week we’d seen the leader passed on the final turn of the race but Bayne in his near-pristine motor held off the battered and bruised veterans that swarmed on his bumper.

 

After the race he was congratulated on the radio and replied by saying, “You’re kidding me? Am I dreaming right now?”

 

This new style of Daytona racing had drivers making friends with each other on the airwaves as they sought a buddy to draft with. Now everybody will want Trevor Bayne to be their best pal, although without a full-time ride for this new hero they may not get too many chances to dance with him.

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