Transcript of Tuesday's press conference with NASCAR President Mike Helton announcing probation for Carl Edwards following his crash with Brad Keselowski at Atlanta.
MIKE HELTON: Good afternoon, everyone. Revisit just a minute on the incident between the 99 and the 12 car. Following that incident we asked the driver of the 99 to visit us in the hauler, and we made it very clear to him that these actions were not acceptable and did go beyond what we said back in January about putting the driving back in the hands of the drivers. We believe the driver of the 99 understands our position at this point.
Also, want to say that it's important for all of us to step back and separate the issue of what happened with the 99 and 12 on the racetrack and the fact that the 12 car went airborne. We've not seen a car get airborne much on the mile-and-a-half racetrack, and that's something that is very important to us and we want to study very closely to figure out things that we can do to help prevent this very quickly in the future.
This is a very important element of all of this that I would ask all of us to be reminded of the fact of the car getting airborne was a very serious issue. And that's something that we'll take a look at very quickly and try to figure out how to help prevent that happening in the future.
But as a reminder, once the incident occurred, we did park the 99 car for the remainder of the race and did not allow him to continue the event.
Sunday evening, all day Monday, and this morning we had several conversations internally as well as with the stakeholders in this situation including car owners, Roger Penske and Jack Roush. As a result of these discussions, we have reached the conclusion that Carl will also be put on probation for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup races, and Carl's aware of what that means.
Based on the conversations with Roger Penske and Jack, we also plan to meet with both drivers and both owners to get this matter resolved between the two drivers. Clean the slate, if you will, so that they can both go back to some hard, competitive, side-by-side racing that is NASCAR.
Q. Mike, when you've talked about drivers policing themselves as you did in January, do you mean not just being allowed to retaliate, but how and when? What I mean by that is with the rash of airborne cars there have been over the past year, do you think drivers will be less inclined to do paybacks the way Edwards did in Atlanta?
MIKE HELTON: Well, you'd have to ask the drivers what their opinions are after Sunday and seeing the 12 car get airborne in Atlanta. But in January, we were talking to the drivers directly and to the public about us backing away from the grip we might have on drivers and their driving style on the racetrack.
Throughout our history, we've seen incidents on the track where they were obviously a simple racing accident, some that were obviously intentional, some that we couldn't tell the difference on and may not have been able to react to. But the clear message, I think, we sent in January was that we were willing to put more responsibility in the hands of the driver. But there is a line you can cross and we'll step in to maintain law and order when we think that line's crossed.
Q. What message do you think this sends to other drivers who are considering retaliation in the future? I mean, should they just expect a three-race probation if they do that?
MIKE HELTON: Well, I think first of all, I'll go back to the fact that we parked Carl as soon as the incident occurred for the balance of the event. You can look back at the incidents at Homestead where it was a one-lap penalty. So the immediate reaction from NASCAR was parking the car for the balance of the event. That in its own can be a serious reaction from us, I think.
The balance of it, I think, will still have to be sorted out among the drivers as to what their opinion or their interpretation of all of this is. But I do say there are two things here. It's a function of us wanting to do the right thing by the competitors on the racetrack from both sides. One allow them to race, but the other side of it is to maintain law and order within a reasonable step. So a lot of that I'd have to yield to the drivers on what their opinions are and how they interpret all of this.
Q. If the 12 car [Keselowski] didn't get turned around backward and airborne, are we even having this conversation?
MIKE HELTON: Well, I think I'd ask you all that question and put it back in your hands. Obviously the 12 car getting airborne to us is a much more serious topic right now. Certainly we take what Carl did seriously, and we'll react to it accordingly and have, we feel like.
But the bigger topic is the 12 car getting airborne at a mile-and-a-half track which we typically don't see. It's been years since we've seen that. So a lot of our effort yesterday, today and until we find resolve to it is figuring out how it happened, why it happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
Q. You mentioned earlier that NASCAR will step in to maintain law and order when it feels that line has been crossed. Does NASCAR know what that line is yet or is it still a wait-and-see?
MIKE HELTON: I don't know that it's a wait-and-see, but I think we see it when we see it. And us stepping in to maintain law and order isn't always just a result of a penalty being issued or a public reaction from us. There are a lot of things that we do behind the scenes with owners and drivers to balance these types of things out, we think.
There has obviously been an evolution of a relationship between these two drivers, and that's why in the conversation with Roger Penske, he asked – his biggest concern was being sure that this was all said and done and it was over with. And that is some of the things that we can do to maintain law and order beyond just issuing penalty notices.
Q. You mentioned having more discussions with the drivers and the owners. Will that happen at Bristol or sometime before Bristol, or do you know yet?
MIKE HELTON: We're working on that schedule, but certainly it wouldn't be later than the Saturday or Sunday in Bristol.
Q. Is it fair to say that your decision with Carl here wasn't based on just that one incident at the end of the race at Atlanta, but the whole body of work between these two?
MIKE HELTON: No, I think our reaction of parking the 99 car in Atlanta was a direct reaction of what happened on the racetrack at that moment. I think some of the other conversations and the continual dialogue that we're having with the owners and the drivers is a result of the evolution of the relationship. But I think our reaction Sunday afternoon of putting Carl in the garage for the rest of the event and the probation is a result of the single incident that happened between the 99 and the 12 in Atlanta.