Carl Edwards rammed his car into another vehicle Sunday. In the real world, that's called road rage.
In the NASCAR world, that's called "a good time."
That's why it would be an injustice if Edwards (left) is sent to the pits for the next race. He should be sent to jail for what he did to Brad Keselowski. And NASCAR should be charged with aiding and abetting.
It's always a good time until somebody loses an eye or a leg or a family member. Nobody was killed at the Kobalt Tools 500, but Edwards would have been arrested if he'd pulled that stunt on I-85.
It would be dicey legal territory, but I'd like a prosecutor to at least try to bust a driver who's as patently guilty of reckless driving as Edwards.
And what if Keselowski had been killed or his car had flown into the stands? Would the courts just look the other way?
I couldn't get a response from the Henry County District Attorney's office Monday. There is no simple answer to the question of when violence in sports becomes criminal. If I'm a prosecutor, however, I'd like my chances against Edwards.
Courts have held hockey, rugby and even NFL players liable for violent acts during competition. And Edwards had the three things needed to convince a jury of guilt -- means, motive and opportunity.
He also had a co-conspirator in NASCAR. Fans were complaining that racing had gotten too sanitary. So before the season the governing body encouraged drivers to trade more paint.
"We will put it back in the hands of drivers, and we will say, 'Boys, have at it and have a good time,'" said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition.
The bosses wanted more rock 'em-sock 'em? By gum, Edwards delivered.
The general rule is that violence rises to the criminal level when it's not within the rules or norm of the game. And drivers were intentionally bumping each other long before NASCAR started encouraging it.
It's all part of drivers self-policing, not unlike hockey players fighting. It's accepted -- to a point.
Enter Todd Bertuzzi, who was charged with assault after a fight in 2004. The Vancouver Canuck pleaded guilty in a Canadian court and served a year's probation. That doesn't establish a precedent for Edwards, but the cases are similar.
Edwards and Keselowski were feuding, just like the Canucks and Steve Moore of Colorado. After an early wreck, Edwards was 156 laps behind when he hit Keselowski. The only reason he went back out there was to settle a score.
The Canucks were down 8-2 when Bertuzzi started following Moore down the ice, trying to provoke a fight. When Moore ignored him, Bertuzzi grabbed his jersey, punched him in the back of the head and slammed him to the ice.
The attack left Moore with a concussion, ligament damage, facial cuts and three fractured vertebrae in his neck. He never played another game.
But can you argue that wearing a uniform or firesuit means people can get away with murder?
Moore could have been killed that night, just as Keselowski could have been killed Sunday. Or worse, it could have burst through the fencing and ended up in the stands. That wouldn't have just killed spectators. It would have wiped out the sport.
Many of NASCAR's most loyal fans wanted Sterling Marlin thrown in jail after he triggered the wreck that killed Dale Earnhardt. They sent so much hate mail that Marlin shut down his website.
Edwards is getting skewered and faces a suspension. But unlike Marlin, he intended to turn a modern-day sporting event into the chariot race from Ben-Hur.
Atlanta is one of the circuit's biggest and fastest tracks. Edwards not only clipped Keselowski at 190 mph, he did it at a spot on the track where the car was more likely to hit the wall or jump into the stands.
He said he was surprised Keselowski's car turned into a Frisbee, but why? Just last year at Talladega, Keselowski inadvertently bumped Edwards and sent his car flying. It ricocheted off the restraining fence, but debris flew into the stands, injuring seven fans.
"I don't know if I could have lived with myself if I ended up in the grandstands," Edwards said then.
Edwards apparently has no problem living with himself or the thought he could have killed a bunch of people. He wrote on his Facebook page that everybody has to decide what "code to live by."
"I want to be clear," he wrote, "that I was surprised at his flight and very relieved when he walked away."
He darned sure ought to be. Like all criminal defendants, he had means, motive and opportunity.
The only thing missing was a dead body.