NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton says the penalties and probations announced Wednesday for Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski were made to protect their fellow competitors in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.
Edwards and his Roush Fenway team were hit with points penalties and a fine, in addition to being placed on probation for the rest of the year, while Penske's Keselowski has been placed on probation for the balance of 2010, following their latest on-track incident which took place last weekend in a Nationwide Series event at Gateway.
After the pair had been briefed by NASCAR officials earlier this year following an on-track exchange in a Sprint Cup series race at Atlanta, the sanctioning body stepped in on Wednesday in another attempt to prevent their feud escalating any further.
Last Saturday, Keselowski was hit violently by other cars after he got spun by Edwards in a retaliatory move, while fighting for victory out of the last corner of the race. No action was taken initially, but after reviewing the fact, the sanctioning body docked race winner Edwards 60 points in the Nationwide Series driver standings, his boss Jack Roush was deducted the same amount in the owner rankings, and Edwards was also fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the rest of the season in all NASCAR series.
This is Edwards' second probation period this year, after he had been handed a three-race warning following the Atlanta incident.
"Both of them are on probation through the end of the year," said Pemberton. "We needed to do that to help protect the garage area from being caught up in an incident not of their making.
"These two drivers have a history with each other. We had talked to both drivers after the Atlanta incident. And even though Carl was put on probation, we had conversations with Brad about their relationship and explained to them that there will be a boundary.
"You fast forward to Gateway and you look at what we feel like was Brad misjudging his corner on Carl and then you look at the retaliation by Carl coming off Turn 4, we felt this had escalated beyond what we should tolerate on the racetrack.
"The penalty is to put these guys on notice. They have affected many of the other teams in the garage area and we felt they stepped over the line with their aggressive driving. It was time to penalize."
Pemberton said the penalties announced do not go against the approach they have taken this year in the way they rule incidents, allowing drivers to police themselves more on the track and intervening less than they have done in the past. He believes their new policy has enhanced the spectacle, but Saturday's actions from Edwards and Keselowski ended up ruining the finish for many others.
"We think the vast majority of competitors throughout all our series have handled themselves accordingly and measured their actions and reactions accordingly," said Pemberton. "We feel they've done an outstanding job. We're not changing the policy. We just have two competitors who have gone over the edge."
In a team statement Keselowski said he accepted NASCAR's ruling and expects to finally put his feud with Edwards to rest.
"The incident at the end of Saturday night's race at Gateway was unfortunate not just for Penske Racing and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team, but for all of the teams that were caught up in the aftermath," said Keselowski. "There was unnecessary damage done to a lot of race cars as a result of the incident, including one of our best cars. We support NASCAR's decision and we look forward to putting this behind us."
Roush Fenway officials said they will evaluate the penalties internally before deciding to either accept them or make an appeal. Edwards is still second in the Nationwide Series standings, but now 228 points behind Keselowski.