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November 25, 2014

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Did Keselowski get what he deserved?

Brad Keselowski’s airborne acrobatics have landed him in the glare of the national media spotlight. Thanks to Carl Edwards, Keselowski has been busy being interview by media members who aren’t part of the nation’s sports pages. Earlier this week he was asked a few questions on the TV show “Inside Edition” and references to his flight at Atlanta have made it onto the front page of USA Today.

As a result of all of this attention, fans, critics and pundits who follow the sport are flooding the Internet with their opinions about the altercation between Edwards and Keselowski. And one point that is commonly made is that Keselowski got what he deserved.

I don’t buy that. Being booted into the air at 190 mph, barely missing the catch fence and having the A pillar on the driver’s side of the windshield crushed by the retaining wall is harsh payback for being an aggressive driver with a cocky attitude. If the No. 12 car had hit the fence and the cars part flew into the stands, would people still think Keselowski got what he deserved?

I know what you’re thinking. Keselowski sent Edwards flying last year at Talladega, so what happened to him is justifiable payback. But the crash at Talladega came during a fierce struggle on the last lap as the drivers battled for the win. Keselowski wasn’t giving an inch, as he shouldn’t have, and he wasn’t acting out of some childish desire for retaliation.

Fans say they want the drivers to be more colorful. But the minute a colorful character like Keselowski comes along some fans say he should be knocked down a few pegs because he needs to be taught a lesson.

And what about Edwards? Does the punishment—probation for the next three races--fit the crime or did NASCAR give the driver the equivalent of a limp slap on the wrist?

NASCAR started the season by saying that the drivers will have more freedom to race the way they want to race. The sanctioning body trusts that the drivers know how far they can push the envelope of aggression. They are professionals and they are conscious of where the line that shouldn’t be crossed is. Edwards crossed that line and he knows it. NASCAR had to dole out a punishment that sent a message to all of the drivers, but at the same time didn’t make the sanctioning body look like it was going back on its word to let the drivers “have at it.” NASCAR's decision was the right one.

Honestly, I think this wreck would have happened even if NASCAR hadn’t loosened up the reigns this year.

And remember, NASCAR parked Edwards after the wreck. That is also a punishment.

At least there’s one thing everyone who follows this sport can agree on. The attention generated by this wreck is giving NASCAR a lot of free publicity. I bet the TV ratings for Bristol next week will be higher than expected.

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