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The Hot Pass: Rivals take aim at Edwards
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BRISTOL, Tenn.While the trash talking is escalating in Thunder Valley, it’s not between who you might think.
Championship leader Kevin Harvick couldn’t wait to weigh in on Carl Edwards Friday morning, explaining how the description of how “fake” applied to his nemesis.
“You can’t be the nice guy, you can’t be the bad guy and you can’t be the bully,” Harvick said. “So ... that is just how I feel about that.”
In response to Harvick’s comments, Edwards acknowledged his lack of respect for the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet and referred to him as a “bad person.”
The feud between these ultra-competitive racers has been bubbling since fall 2008, when a dust-up occurred in the Nationwide Series garage at Charlotte and was eventually broken up by Harvick‘s handler.
The bad blood — and the mind games — between the two is back again.
“You have to be mentally tough,” Edwards said. “I think a football player said it best, ‘Last week is last week. You have to just go and do your job the best you can.' That’s the definition of mentally tough.”
Certainly with Edwards’ probation status over the next three weeks, the No. 99 Ford is now an easy target for every competitor that has a score to settle – like Tony Stewart (circa Pocono 2006)? Heck, before the kinder, gentler version of NASCAR, Stewart joked he’d banked $50,000 for the fine and was waiting for when the time was right to even the score with "Eddie Haskell." Alas, Smoke the owner may no longer feel the same way – but still ...
There’s also no love lost between Edwards and his teammate Matt Kenseth either. When Edwards interrupted Kenseth’s post-Martinsville interview in October 2007, SPEED TV caught the whole exchange on tape. The incident remains a YouTube favorite.
Keep those rivalries in mind the next few weeks as Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway provide prime real estate in a short track setting to exact revenge.
NASCAR’s “have at it, boys” attitude suggests a wide array of options to accomplish the job this weekend. Self-policing would be easy to achieve — in all four corners of the .533-mile track, particularly with the addition of the SAFER barrier shrinking the racing surface in turns 2 and 4 — and could appear very innocent at the time.
Despite Edwards launching Brad Keselowski at Atlanta two weeks ago, the driver of the No. 12 will not be among the competitors looking for revenge.
“(Carl) may be an easier target for everybody else, but not for me,” Keselowski said. “I’m really not thinking about him, to be honest. I think it’s a disservice to my team to really worry about him. I have to focus on what we do to run up front with our car. That’s what we’re working on. It will be interesting to see how everyone else reacts to it.”
With things heating up for Edwards, Keselowski is just happy to have the pressure removed from him.
“Hell, yeah,” Keselowski said. “Let everyone else take the heat. I’m OK with that. There‘s 43 of us out there. It kind of seems a little weird that the focus is on me and Carl, because I‘m sure over the next few weeks it will make its way around with the policy — it might even be this weekend.”
Where’s the most popular spot going to be at Martinsville on Saturday morning?
Outside of the NASCAR hauler after Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards come out of their tete-a-tetes with the powers-that-be scheduled for 9:15.
“We’ll just go to the meeting, and we’ll take care of it,” Edwards said. “I really think we’ll come out of it better.”
Keselowski said he will “bring his ears” and “listen as much as he talks.”
“I think you have to come in there with the right mind-set to take anything away from it,” Keselowski added. “I don’t think the sanctioning body will have any focus on us (on Sunday), to be honest. From what I’ve seen, they’re just letting things flow.”
But how far will NASCAR allow things to “flow”? And what exactly are the parameters to “have at it, boys”?
That’s a question Keselowski would like answered in the meeting as well.
“That’s something that we’re all trying to understand,” Keselsowski said. “And it sounds like it’s somewhat a work in progress.”
When veteran Mark Martin first heard the pronouncement, he thought it pertained to competitors self-policing each other. Martin viewed the result of the Edwards-Keselowski incident as something that was “unintended.”
“When they said, 'Have at it, boys,' I thought they meant to take care of it when you step out of the car on pit road,” Martin said. “That’s what I thought, but it is pretty open, and that was their way of bringing in interest and drama and infusing excitement into the sport.”
Jeff Burton said he is OK with self-policing. Often considered the "mayor of the garage," Burton said justice on the track has a way of taking care of itself. Still, participants need to realize that there are consequences to their actions.
“If you go back and look at the number of times people have been penalized for spinning someone out, it is very very small,” Burton said. “The percentage of penalties per incident is a pretty small percentage.
“Mike (Helton, NASCAR president) said it this winter or what I heard was Mike said to me, there would be a line that we could cross and they’ll handle it. And we have to have that. There has to be a limit that we cross and NASCAR steps in and says, 'We are not going to put up with that; that is across the limit, and we’re not putting up with it.' But they can’t make every call.”
Joey Logano became the youngest Cup pole winner with his qualifying lap of 124.630 mph at Bristol, but Casey Mears received the honor of the most relieved driver after making his first race of the season.
“I’m happy, just happy,” said Mears, who posted the 34th-fastest lap of 121.190. “It’s been an interesting year to this point. “There’s been a lot of thrashing going on to make the races. Hopefully, we can have a stress-free Saturday and make up some points on Sunday.”
Mears, who competes under the Keyed-up Motorsports banner, credited Raymond Key with securing a Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for the weekend. Certainly, the motor made a significant difference for the No. 90 team.