Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are content with the hand-slapping they received from NASCAR this week for their latest on-track altercation.
That’s about the only thing the feuding drivers agreed upon Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Keselowski insisted he did not intentionally hit Edwards’ car — it was a mistake, he said — as he moved the leader out of his way on the final lap of last weekend’s Nationwide Series in St. Louis.
Edwards wasn’t buying it, though.
“I believe that he did not make a mistake,” Edwards countered. “I’m telling you that as a race car driver, and any other race car driver will tell you, that that wasn’t a slip-up, and if it was a slip-up, which, hey, he might convince himself that it’s a slip-up, you have a little bit of insurance that you leave yourself when you go down in the corner like that.
“I believe he’s not being completely honest that that was a mistake. He’s too good of a race car driver, and I know that.”
And so it went in the latest round between a pair of drivers who have tangled on the track dating to last season. Although most of their incidents went largely unnoticed in the second-tier Nationwide Series, it’s escalated of late into a several spectacular crashes.
Keselowski sent Edwards’ car flying into the Talladega catchfence in a Sprint Cup Series race last year, and Edwards’ intentional wrecking of Keselowski at Atlanta this spring sent Keselowski’s car airborne.
Then came Saturday night at Gateway, when Edwards refused to allow Keselowski to take the win away from him. He admitted to wrecking Keselowski as payback for moving Edwards moments before and was unapologetic in Victory Lane.
But that wreck collected multiple other cars, and after mulling it over for several days, NASCAR decided the antics of Edwards and Keselowski had to be punished because of the other drivers who were caught in the carnage.
For that, Edwards, who was docked 60 points and fined $25,000, was apologetic.
“There are unintended consequences to that, and the torn-up cars that weren’t mine or Brad’s, that’s a bad result,” Edwards said. “It really struck home for me.”
Beyond that, Edwards seemed unrepentant for anything he did at Gateway and held firm in his belief that Keselowski’s history of hard racing against him warranted the payback.
“I will not be walked on. I won’t be stepped on,” he said. “It’s not OK to move me out of the way. If somebody else wants to let people move them out of the way for the win, that’s OK with me. I can’t allow myself to be run over like that.”
Keselowski, who like Edwards was placed on probation through the end of the year, was somewhat grateful for the NASCAR punishment because it eliminated the speculation that he’ll have to retaliate this weekend. He will race against Edwards twice, first in Saturday night’s Nationwide event at O’Reilly Raceway Park and then in the Sprint Cup Series main event Sunday at the Brickyard.
“What that says is NASCAR doesn’t want me to go out there and intentionally retaliate against Carl, which is great,” Keselowski said. “I don’t want to. I’m glad that they took that away. Now I don’t have to worry about that.”
And that raised an entirely different debate, this one over the limits of NASCAR’s loosened “boys, have at it” policy.
Denny Hamlin said the whole idea of self-policing drivers began as a “gimmick” by NASCAR for restrictor-plate races but has since grown out of control.
“I think we took it in our own hands and thought we could just do anything we wanted on the race track,” Hamlin said. “I think the line has definitely been moved. I think what’s accepted out there is different than what it was a few years ago.”