It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, Carl Edwards insists.
He had just won the Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month. And he was out of the car anyway. And he had done the now-expected backflip. And the gate near the start-finish line was wide open.
So, why not?
Edwards made a spontaneous run into the grandstands, up the steps and into the middle of a pack of very surprised race fans, into their high-fives and backslaps and – yes – hugs.
And a new post-race tradition was born.
Edwards repeated the fun run after wins at Phoenix and Homestead. If he comes up with anything else to add to the backflip and fan mosh pit, victory lane is going to be considerably delayed.
Along pit road, there has been interest, particularly from the viewpoint of team owner Jack Roush, who watched his top point producer this season leap into the crowd but return with 10 fingers and 10 toes.
“That does pose a certain risk.” Roush said. “Depending on who you are as a driver, you may not want to go up there after a race, but Carl is pretty well thought of. I thought that this won’t be a problem for him.
“Mike Helton [NASCAR president] will put his oar in and he’ll lock the gate and won’t let him up there. The first time we saw Mike after it happened the first time, Mike wascheering him on and bragging on him for it, so I don’t know what we’re going to do.
“Maybe we can get the security organized to help out with that, but there’s a crowd of folks that are anxious to see the winner when the winner is Carl, and the fact that he recognized that’s something he could do to improve the sport and give the fans something back really says a lot about Carl.”
Interested in getting the drivers closer to the fans? That does the job.
“I had never really considered doing that until that gate was open at Texas, until the hole in the fence at Texas was right in front of me,” Edwards said. “I thought, ‘Well, see how this goes.’ The wrestler, John Cena, he was at a Gillette commercial shoot with us. He did that. There were some fans there. They just couldn’t believe he did it. That’s kind of what sparked the idea.
“It’s really neat to go up there. I would highly recommend it to anybody. It feels real neat. Give it a shot.”
Other drivers haven’t rushed to attempt the Edwards backflip. It will be interesting to see if they begin storming the fence gates.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.