News & Media

Menzer: Conspiracy theorists don't get rise out of Edwards

May 23, 2011, Joe Menzer,

CONCORD, N.C. -- Nearly instantaneous charges of intentionally wrecking All-Star car bring laughs

Carl Edwards hadn't been out of the winning race car more than 20 minutes Saturday night before word spread from the conspiracy theorists and reached his lips.

Edwards was sitting on the edge of a massive, champagne-soaked stage on the frontstretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway following the Sprint All-Star Race. His No. 99 Ford sat a few feet away, attached to the hook of a tow truck that was required to get it to Victory Lane after Edwards' post-race celebration in the infield grass went wildly awry.

"It's fine. It doesn't matter to me. Nothing could ruin my night. If I had flipped over and broke both my arms, I'd still be sitting here smiling."


"This is the All-Star Race. This is a big race. I finished second in the Daytona 500; I finished second in the Southern 500. So to win the All-Star Race is huge, just huge," Edwards said.

"It's not without controversy. I guess they're over there looking to see if I intentionally tore up my car, which I did not. I was trying to do a nice, full slide there and I hit a drainage pipe. I guess if you're going to tear it up, that's the time to tear it up."

Say what? Yes, officials from NASCAR were examining Edwards' car and the patch of grass where he tore it up. And yes, as is customary, they took the winning car back to their nearby Research and Development Center for further examination.

But it's a big-league stretch by the theorists to suggest, as they were in social-media spaces almost as soon as the race was over, that perhaps Edwards intentionally destroyed the front of his winning car to hide the fact that he and crew chief Bob Osborne had conspired to do something illegal to it, allowing it to fly around the 1.5-mile track faster than everyone else.

Jack's attack

Car owner Jack Roush was incredulous at the thought of it -- meaning intentionally destroying a race car, not the fact that someone would think almost instantly that Edwards had done it on purpose to hide something.

"That might be the case, that some people might think that," Roush said. "But these celebrations after race wins have become more and more outrageous. He wasn't trying to set a new precedent for tearing a car up, but unfortunately he hit a manhole cover."

A manhole cover?

"Yes, he hit a manhole cover. Who would guess they'd put a manhole cover in the middle [of the grass] like that?" Roush asked.

So was it a manhole cover or a drainage pipe?

Actually, it was neither. Track spokesman Scott Cooper confirmed that no such obstacles were located in the area of infield grass where Edwards' car turned into a high-speed, suddenly clumsy high-speed plow and set the theorists all a-Twitter.

Edwards credited his final restart, the work of his pit crew, and a powerful engine from the shop of renowned engine builder Doug Yates for his victory. He joked that with his share of the $1 million prize that came with the victory, he could buy lots of diapers for his family that as of a couple weeks ago added a second child to the mix. But that wasn't all.

Addressing the theorists, he wondered why anyone would think he would deliberately destroy a perfectly good race car -- one that he would have liked to have run again in the Coca-Cola 600 at the same track in eight days.

"That's pretty dumb," he said. "I really would have liked to have run that car next week. Bob says we've got as good a car as that one back at the shop. But it's not the car as much as it is the things they did to set it up -- and all that secret stuff down there in the grass."

Then Edwards quickly flashed his now-famous grin.

"I'm kidding. That's a joke. Make sure you tell everybody that's a joke," he said.

Rock star and back-flipper

After winning and wrecking his car to a dead stop in the secret grass, Edwards climbed from it and shrugged before performing a flawless back flip that long ago became his signature move following race victories.

About 45 minutes later in the CMS media center, Roush was asked if he could talk about the value Edwards brings to the Roush Fenway Racing organization with which the driver is in the midst of contract extension negotiations.

"Well, Carl is a rock star," Roush said. "He's the only back-flipper in the field. He's the first one to crawl up into the stands [to be with fans after a win]. Some of the drivers wouldn't go up in the stands like that after a race, and for good reason.

"But Carl, he's well thought of and he's out there doing things that other people wish they had thought of first -- and he drives the hell out of our race cars."

He sure does. Sometimes he drives the hell out of them until they can't be driven any more, like on Saturday night.

Lost in all the mess being proliferated by the post-race conspiracy theorist was the fact that Edwards still remains the leader in the Sprint Cup points standings. Roush certainly hadn't forgotten as he put the lucrative All-Star win into perspective.

"It's a great win. We've had a great finish to last year and a good start to this year," Roush said. "This is not a points race, so it's not to be equated to the race we're going to have here next weekend. But certainly it raises confidence in our team that our engineering is doing a nice job, and that we're on track with what we need to be doing right now."

Meanwhile, there was that mysterious patch of car-eating grass ...

Edwards wasn't going to let it ruin his mood. He said he didn't care what anyone was saying and wouldn't allow it to possibly taint his latest win.

"It's fine. It doesn't matter to me," he said, smiling again. "Nothing could ruin my night. If I had flipped over and broke both my arms, I'd still be sitting here smiling."

And someone, somewhere, would be wondering if he did it on purpose to dupe NASCAR.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.