FONTANA, Calif. — In one breath Carl Edwards says there is no rivalry between him and Kyle Busch, the next he is insinuating payback is still coming for their wreck at Phoenix.
No matter what Edwards says, it seems this little dustup isn't quite over.
Entering Sunday's race, Carl Edwards is in second place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with 149 points, a point behind leader Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch is in sixth place with 133 points.
"The deal is, I am just going to race how I need to race," Edwards said. "It's nothing personal. That deal in Phoenix cost me 28 points, at least in my opinion. So, the least he can give up is one spot."
The incident at Phoenix on Feb. 27 came early in the race, when Busch drove up the track and sent Edwards into the wall.
Edwards, a Columbia native, was the polesitter and thought he had a car that could win the race, but was never in contention after the contact, finishing 28th. He was alternately angry and accepting of Busch's apology after the race before the two seemed to work out their differences the following week at Las Vegas.
The flap flapped up again two weeks later at Bristol, where Edwards got close to Busch with about 30 laps left, but chose not to get into him. Busch went on to win the race and Edwards finished second, again bringing up the owe-him-one sentiment.
So, of course, as the two drivers got ready for Sunday's 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway, their just-won't-go-away discord was a big topic of discussion.
Edwards said he looked back at the Bristol race and felt as if he made the right decision to stay out of Busch's bumper because it wasn't late enough in the race and he didn't have a car that could keep up with the No. 18.
Even so, the idea crossed his mind.
"If I could have got to him with one or two laps to go, then maybe I could have made something happen," Edwards said. "I know that's what all the fans wanted to see. Trust me, nobody wanted to see it more than me. I would have loved to be in that position. As it went, I wasn't even in position to consider that."
Busch, as is often the case, took the shoulder-shrugging route, more concerned about what he needs to do than worrying about Edwards.
"If Carl wants to continue saying he owes me one, whatever, I don't care," Busch said. "I'm racing my race and how I should be racing and racing all my competitors, and not worried about all that stuff."
Still, Edwards thinks he's put a seed of worry in Busch's mind, has him looking in the mirror when the No. 99 is near, which could give him an advantage.
"I can tell by the way he drove his car on those restarts (at Bristol) that he knew I was there, and he was worried about me. That's good," Edwards said. "You want a guy to be in that position."
This isn't the first feud for Edwards, who's known as congenial off the track, ultra competitive on it.
During the past few years, he has had a shoving match with teammate Matt Kenseth, an altercation with Kevin Harvick — and his motorcoach driver — and wrecked Brad Keselowski on multiple occasions.
In going toe-to-toe with Busch, he is up against one of NASCAR's brashest drivers, someone who is not afraid get into someone on the track or say exactly what he is thinking without worrying about the repercussions.
Busch has suggested Edwards get his payback at the All-Star at Charlotte in May. Edwards seems to be open to the idea, but given his competitiveness, not to mention his comments over the past couple of weeks, he might not be able to wait that long.
"Maybe that's how it will go, but this is racing, guys," Edwards said. "You go to Bristol and are on the guy's back bumper and you have a chance, you start thinking of all the little reasons behind everything. Really, it is fine. Hopefully, him and I get to race a bunch this year, and hopefully it is good, clean racing. It might get exciting, you never know."