CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Just two races into the season and NASCAR already has a little driver discord.
Jimmie Johnson didn't like the way Carl Edwards restarted the race at Phoenix, intimating Edwards didn't follow the rules to the letter while snapping his 70-race winless streak.
"I felt like Carl didn't follow the restart protocol and was slower than the pace car on his last two restarts, and it gives the leader a huge advantage when that happens," Johnson said after the race.
It's no surprise that Edwards felt it was Johnson, who was lined up behind Edwards in third on one restart — and next to Edwards in second on another — who was playing the games.
"I thought, 'Man, he's playing some kind of trick, he's speeding up,'" Edwards said about the final restart. "I thought, 'What's he doing?' I thought he was speeding up, and I thought it was pretty genius what he was doing because he kind of got me off of my game. But then when I went, I think maybe he wasn't looking at me or something because it seemed like he waited just a little bit too long to go.
"But truthfully that was not by design. I was not trying to do anything tricky. I thought he was."
Now the two go to Las Vegas, where they could be racing each other at the end for the victory.
Both Johnson and Edwards are among the top active drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a combined six victories in the desert. Edwards' last win prior to his Phoenix victory was at Vegas in 2011, and he's completed every lap in his eight races on the 1.5-mile track.
Edwards' driver rating is sixth best among active drivers according to NASCAR's loop data.
"Since the test in Charlotte this offseason, the whole 99 team has been looking forward to the race in Vegas," Edwards said. "We're going to Las Vegas to make it two-in-a-row. We feel like we can use the momentum we've got and the confidence we built there in Phoenix to go have great pit stops, qualify well and race hard all day."
Johnson is a four-time winner at Las Vegas, and was second there last season after leading 35 laps. He goes into Las Vegas as the Sprint Cup Series points leader, and is listed by the LVH Super Book in Las Vegas as the favorite to win Sunday's race and the 5/1 favorite to win this year's championship.