In the world of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Rivalries between teams, manufacturers, drivers and even fans are not uncommon. After most of North America tuned in to watch the 1979 Daytona 500 (due to a snowstorm on the east cost), the nation watched Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crash on the final lap of the 200 lap event, both would not finish the race. With tempers overflowing, Yarborough and Allison would clash, resulting in what is considered the greatest soundbite in NASCAR history: “And there’s a fight! Between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison!” After this dispute, the nation would associate NASCAR with close racing, exciting crashes… and fistfights.
In the modern era of NASCAR (which I consider mid 2007 (when the ‘Car Of Tomorrow’ was introduced) onward), there have been several rivalries both on and off track, one of the most high profile on track rivalries being the 2009-2010 rivalry between veteran racer Carl Edwards and fresh face Brad Keselowski. The rivalry between Keselowski and Edwards is widely considered to be the most violent in history, that at no point the two would physically dispute.
The dispute between the drivers began in 2009. Keselowski’s first year. On the final lap of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Keselowski was second to Edwards, bump drafting him for almost the entire course of the final lap, until they reached the tri-oval when Keselowski made his move. Talladega is unique in it’s placement of the finish line. While most tracks have their finish line placed more ‘in the middle’ of the front straight or tri-oval (depending on the track), Talladega’s is past the pit lane towards turn 1, often causing upset finishes. Keselowski faked high before going low, getting a run on Edwards. Edwards came up to block the false move, before coming back down to block a second time. By then, Keselowski was beginning to pull alongside Edwards, so when he came down to block, the cars made contact. Edwards spun around, and began to take flight. (The Car of Tomorrow’s rear-wing design could cause a pocket of air to form behind the wing when the car went backwards, lift was generated and the car would take off). Edwards bounced off the hood of closely following Ryan Newman, causing the car to fly into the catchfence. Keselowski would win his first race on just his fifth start, Edwards would grind to a halt, on his wheels, 100ft short of the finish line.
The two would clash again later in 2009 in a Nationwide Series race (2nd tier) at Memphis. With 11 laps to go in the 250 mile event, Keselowski (who had been driving aggressively all day) ran into the back of Edwards down the back straight, spinning Edwards out and collecting 3 other cars. Edwards did not sustain too much damage and recovered to finish 6th. Keselowski would fight his way to the front and hold off Kyle Busch to take the victory.
Keselowski was in Nationwide title contention in 2009, but after a dispute with Denny Hamlin (both of them had had disputes throughout 2007, 8 and 9) at Phoenix, Hamlin said that he would retaliate. He did just that the following week at Homestead (Miami), ending Keselowski’s championship bid. He would finish 3rd overall, Kyle Busch taking overall victory and Carl Edwards finishing 3rd.
The most notable period of the Edwards-Keselowski rivalry would be in 2010. Early in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the two would clash twice. On lap 40 following a restart, Edwards was running in the middle lane, while Keselowski was running the inside. Edwards moved down, where Keselowski already was. Keselowski bumped Carl, who got loose and slid up the track into Joey Logano and the wall. Both Edwards and Logano would go to the garage to make repairs.
Edwards would rejoin the race 156 laps down, but he was on the hunt for Keselowski. When Edwards finally caught Keselowski in the closing stages of the race, he made an attempt to spin Brad, but would miss by inches. It would only take Edwards 1 more lap to exact his revenge. With 3 laps to go and Keselowski on track for a 6th place finish, Edwards made contact with Keselowski’s car, spinning it around and causing Keselowski to take flight. The car hit the wall upside down, taking a heavy hit on the left A pillar before rolling back onto it’s wheels. The crash looked very similar to Edward’s crash at Talladega the year prior. A viewing of the replay (in which Edwards’ white gloves are visible) reveals that Edwards turned right into Keselowski, causing deliberate contact. Edwards was parked for aggressive driving, but did not receive a penalty, despite being in no position to contest for position with Keselowski, running towards the back of the pack, 150+ laps down with a wrecked car.
The pair’s final bout would fall again in 2010, this time during a Nationwide race at Gateway (Madison, Illinois). The pair were running first and second on the final lap of the race, Edwards first, Keselowski second. Edwards went into the first corner leaving enough space for a car on the inside, Keselowski looked to the inside but got loose and bumped Edwards wide, both almost spinning but they recovered. They raced side-by-side down the backstretch, Keselowski made his move through turns 3 and 4 and overtook Edwards, then Edwards bit back. Edwards turned left into Keselowski’s right rear, spinning him out on the frontstretch. Edwards would win while Keselowski spun in front of most of the pack and was involved in a violent 11 car accident. Edwards publicly bragged in Victory Lane about deliberately causing the accident. He was loudly booed by the crowd while Keselowski was taken to hospital with a rib injury. Edwards was given a $25,000 fine, docked 60 Nationwide championship points and put on probation. Keselowski was also put on probation by the governing body in case he felt the need to ‘pay him back’. Both drivers were sternly told by NASCAR to calm the rivalry or face indefinite suspension from the sport.
The Car of Tomorrow had only 3 airborne accidents caused by the spoiler causing negative downforce, (before a re-design early 2010 following Keselowski’s accident) with 2 of those incidents caused by this rivalry, Talladega 2009 (Spring) and Atlanta 2010 while the other involved Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick (video below). It’s clear that the rivalry is one of the most violent in NASCAR history when two drivers fighting one another cause two thirds of the accidents required to force a re-design of the car (admittedly there were only 3 airborne incidents, but 66% is a lot).
The rivalry between Edwards and Keselowski was one built off retaliation for racing incidents, one that would become so violent on track that it bypassed NASCAR’s driver self policing system, the aptly named ‘have at it boys’, eventually requiring the governing body to step in to stop someone getting hurt or even killed. While the rivalry unofficially ended in early 2010, every time Keselowski and Edwards were side-by-side, everyone paid attention to the two of them just in case they wanted to sort out unfinished business. The rivalry has now officially ended as Carl Edwards retired at the end of the 2016 season as has began a career in politics, possibly waiting to implement some kind of Anti-Keselowski law.
A full visual summary of the rivalry if you don’t care to watch each individual clip
This a good article, wish there were NASCAR ones here.
Finally someone wrote about NASCAR the best motorsport, thanks and keep up the good work
Great article, well done!