How popular can a chew-spitting cowboy with a penchant for guns be in the United Kingdom? If the man with the gun-rack and wearing a ten gallon hat is Colin Edwards II, then the answer is ... very.
Colin Edwards II said at the Indy MotoGP event that he would do a limited race schedule for the rest of 2014. Initially, Edwards planned to race at most of the remaining rounds that did not require a 20 hour flight to get to the track (Silverstone, Aragon, Misano & Valencia). Then, Sunday night at Indy, Edwards said that he might actually be through with racing motorcycles after the cool-off lap in Indiana.
Forward Yamaha fielded Alex De Angelis at Brno.
Brno is one thing, but the UK? The big bang of Edwards' popularity in the UK exploded largely in World Superbike races at places like Brands Hatch and Donington Park when he raced the Honda RC45 and RC51 (Edwards won at both tracks in his 2000 WSBK season). When the calendar was still in the '90s, it didn't hurt that Edwards was a fresh-faced kid often in the face of then WSBK titan--and proud Brit--Carl Fogarty.
They clashed. Just before Daytona 1995, Fogarty told a British publication that he was racing the Florida event even though he "hated" America and Americans. Understandably, Fogarty arrived to a chilly response when he landed in the US. However, Edwards walked up to the Brit in the Daytona media center and said, "Carl. We've never met, my name is Colin Edwards. I'm an American." Fogarty wasn't gobsmacked but had no choice but to shake Edwards' young hand.
His wins at Donington Park and Brands were the substrate for Edwards' popularity with UK fans. However, maybe larger than that was his performance on the stage at the annual (Riders for Health) Day of Champions, first at Donington and now Silverstone that really helped make him a star to British fans. Whereas Casey Stoner grew even more "shy" after being openly booed on the stage at the Day of Champions, Edwards embraced them all, from 10 year-old face-painted fans to the occasional booing leg-breakers from Newcastle. His humor on the DoC stage endeared him to the UK fans; although the time that he suggested to the massive crowd that he wouldn't mind being intimate with Cal Crutchlow's girlfriend, Lucy, really--no, really--did not go over well with his wife.
It wasn't just a cult of personality that drove UK fans to Edwards' motorhome steps. He'd won in Britain on the Honda Superbikes previously, but in 2011 turned in a terrifically gritty performance on the Tech3 Yamaha M1. He finished on the podium just nine days after breaking his collarbone and having the snap surgically repaired.
With Edwards, to a degree, you never know what you're going to get, day to day. He might get out of bed and suggest getting coffee. Or, he might get out of bed and decide that today is just the day to buy a hot air balloon.
So, those who know him wondered if he really would go through with his plan to not ride at Silverstone--especially knowing his fondness for not just his UK fans but all UK fans and the UK itself.
How shocked would we be to learn that tomorrow Colin Edwards rolled out of bed and decided--what the hell--I'm riding at Silverstone? Not shocked, not shocked at all.
Edwards is in the UK already, probably enjoying a fry-up and a warm beverage.
We sent a message to his phone:
Us: You riding at Silver'?
Edwards: I don't think so.
So, there you have it--probably not riding at Silverstone. But, still, probably not. Probably.