MADISON, Ill. — Carl Edwards meant no harm to Brad Keselowski. He just wanted to take the checkered flag that he deserved.
Edwards, a Columbia native, prevailed in a wild final lap, nudging Keselowski out of control on the final straightaway to take the Nationwide Dodge Dealers 250 on Saturday night. Ten cars were involved in the mess.
"The deal is he'll eventually learn he can't run into my car over and over and put me in bad situations," Edwards said. "In every situation, there's an aggressor and there's someone who reacts.
"I was not the aggressor in this situation."
Keselowski was on the inside and had appeared to take the lead before Edwards' car drifted into him. Keselowski spun into the wall and was struck head-on by Shelby Howard as he slid back to toward the infield.
Edwards said Keselowski wouldn't have been in position to win if he hadn't bumped Edwards earlier on the final lap.
"The way it went, he bumped me and he finished wherever he finished and I still won the race," Edwards said. "That's the only way I could see the race turning out fair."
Keselowski finally rolled across the line in 14th. He wasn't hurt, just peeved.
"I'm sure he'll say how sorry he is, or how cool he thinks he is or how great of a guy he is in his own mind," said Keselowski, who leads the Nationwide series by 168 points over Edwards. "But that's not reality."
Edwards won for the third time at Gateway International Raceway, which he considers his home track. Reed Sorenson was second and 19-year-old pole-sitter Trevor Bayne third.
Sorenson said he was just trying to avoid the mess.
"I couldn't hardly see what happened," Sorenson said. "The 60 (Edwards) obviously got into the right rear of the 22 (Keselowski). I just hoped I would beat the 60 to the line."
Keselowski was runner-up in the Camping World 200 truck race earlier Saturday, and led much of the Nationwide series event. He said the contact in turn 1 on the final lap was incidental.
"I was rubbing on him a little bit," Keselowski said. "I figured out a way to beat him. He wasn't happy with me, so he wrecked me. Wrecking down the straightaway is never cool whether he's at 200 mph or 120."
Edwards insisted it was justice.
"That's my job, to win the race, and to make sure I don't get walked on or get something taken away from me that's mine," he said. "I'm sure tempers are up right now, but hopefully after looking at it we can each step in the other's shoes and see it from the other perspective."
Kevin Harvick, who won the truck race, was in contention before losing control and crunching his car against the right wall with about 10 laps to go. He ended up 10th.
Ryan Truex, 18-year-old younger brother of two-time Nationwide champion Martin Truex Jr., was 28th in his debut.
"This was more fun than I ever thought it would be," he said. "I always wondered what it would be like, and it was better than I ever imagined."