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HAMPTON -- Carl Edwards’ race on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway ended just 41 laps into a 325-lap event.
He made it back to prove a point, and ended up triggering the biggest controversy of a weekend that featured tire problems, a really fast race track and the stellar performance overall by the Ford Fusion.
Edwards exacted revenge on Brad Keselowski for taking him and Joey Logano out on lap 41, getting into the rear of Keselowski’s Dodge and sending it airborne into the front-stretch wall. The incident came just moments before the white flag would have waved and ended the race at its scheduled distance.
Keselowski clipped the rear of Edwards’ Ford as the field worked Turns 1 and 2. Edwards came down in front and Keselowski didn’t budge, and the contact sent him up the track into Logano. Both Edwards and Logano sustained serious damage to their cars and their points positions—both were in the top 10 at the time the race started.
Edwards, who spent more than 150 laps in the garage effecting repairs after the early incident, clearly turned right into the rear of Keselowski’s car, and it flipped into the air and hit on the driver’s side A pillar.
Keselowski, running in the top five at the time, emerged unhurt, and NASCAR soon yanked Edwards’ scorecard and asked for the driver to report to the NASCAR hauler for “consultation.”
Edwards finished 39th and dropped to 20th in points, 10 spots lower than when he started. Logano was 35th and dropped out of the top nine to 14th.
NASCAR has yet to weigh in on the incident, and any penalties will likely be announced next week. Keselowski felt the move was uncalled for and said he wanted NASCAR to suspend Edwards.
For his part, Edwards didn’t back off in his post-crash interview.
“Brad knows the deal between him and me,” Edwards said. “The scary part is his car went airborne, which is not at all what I expected. At the end of the day, we’re out here to race and people have to have respect for one another and I have a lot of respect for people’s safety.
“I wish it wouldn’t have gone like it did, but I’m glad he’s OK and we’ll just go on and race some more and maybe he and I won’t get into any more incidents together.”
There is history between the two, both in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and in the Sprint Cup Series. Most remembered is last year’s spring race at Talladega, where Keselowski didn’t back off coming to the line and sent Edwards airborne and into the catch fence.
IT WAS A VERY GOOD DAY
All the intrigue regarding Edwards overshadowed a fantastic day for the Ford contingent. Matt Kenseth finished second behind race winner Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne had the dominant car for much of the day and came home fourth, while Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Paul Menard (fifth) and AJ Allemndinger (sixth) gave the team three cars in the top six. Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle was 10th.
“That’s the best finish we have had here ever,” Kenseth said after finishing 0.482 seconds behind the winner. It’s the fourth straight top-10 finish for Kenseth this season.
“It is awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with the way the season has started. It feels good to be competitive and it feels like we’re headed in the right direction.”
Menard took two tires at the end and came home fifth. “Slugger [Labbe, crew chief] made a heck of a call to take two at the end and get some clean track and we knew we probably weren’t going to hold off four tires, but it at least got us in front of the excitement. We dodged a bullet there at the end.”
Kahne said he wasn’t able to keep up with the track at the end. “The track changed a lot over the last 50 laps and we just didn’t keep up with it quite like we needed to win the race. I thought we had a third- or fourth-place car at that time and that’s where we finished, so it all worked out fine.”