(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)
As the “Cousin Carl-Blazingly Bad Brad” saga plays out over the next few weeks, how will that play out against Edward’s “aw shucks nice guy” image? Now that this drama is on the front stage, will some of the other confrontations with Carl and the other drivers of the past shine a light on just who the real Carl Edwards is?
There is no doubt that Edwards has been a media darling since he burst upon the NASCAR scene a few years ago. But there are some dark shadows that follow “Cousin Carl”. There was his confrontation with fellow Roush team mate Matt Kenseth at Martinsville in 2007. Remember Edwards was cocked, loaded, and ready to take a swing at Kenseth in the pits! There was also the 2006 incident of Edwards bumping into Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the Nationwide Series race at Michigan and the 2004 wreck with Dale, Jr at Atlanta, just to mention a few.
It is going to be very interesting to see how the Edwards PR handles this mess. Just how this mess is dealt with will go a long way in determining or solidify whatever his reputation turns out to be. However, to his credit, Edwards has never put much stock in the nice guy reputation that he has gotten early on, and has stated that the media will see another side of Edwards. Is this the other side Edwards was talking about?
One wonders if the frustrations of Edwards are related to the totally failed expectations of the 2009 season where he went win-less after being picked by many to dethrone Jimmie Johnson as the Sprint Cup champion. For the 2010 season, Edwards has also logged a zero in the win column!
The Edwards situation brings to mind another driver who has failed to live up to his and the fans’ expectations, but has handled it with a tremendous amount of class!
Having the unyielding burden of carving his own path out from under “The Shadow of Greatness”, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has had to shoulder the weight of poor performance on top of being the sport’s most popular driver. He has had to deal with the very public death of his father, the break up of the team that his father built, his relationship with his step-mother, and the failure of Hendrick Motorsports to make him a winner. But through it all he has not let his frustrations lead to a string of classless acts both on and off the track, and for that, Earnhardt, Jr. should be greatly commended!
Former Lowe’s Motor Speedway promoter, “Humpy” Wheeler, a great observer on all things associated with auto racing, explains the fans’ fascination with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tells us more about the true thinking of NASCAR fans than any focus group could! He said that when it comes right down to it, NASCAR is still a country, Southern thing, and Junior is still as country and Southern as they come on a circuit that has more drivers from California than from the Carolinas.
“I Think his popularity comes from the core fans who are hungry for their roots,” Wheeler said. “He’s Hank Williams, Jr. when country music went to crossover to try to become Broadway.”
Junior is the epitome of country boy next door, cute, courteous to women, humble, and soft-spoken. He’s a jeans wearing, pick-up truck driving, beer drinking Southern boy, simply put.
Success is fairly easy to manage. Adversity is not!
It has been written that the true measurement of one’s character is how one handles adversity!
This may be Carl Edwards defining moment.
In the end, most true NASCAR fans are looking for drivers who both give and get respect, much like the old days of Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, the Allisons, Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett.
Where do you think the first part of the command to start your engines came from???
“Gentlemen, Start Your Engines”!!!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!