Drivers, owners say past is past

Updated: March 20, 2010, 7:13 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski left the NASCAR hauler after a Saturday morning meeting at Bristol Motor Speedway smiling but going in opposite directions.

Do they see eye to eye on everything that led Edwards to intentionally wreck Keselowski two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway?

"No, but I think that they will give one another enough respect that we won't see another occurrence like that," said Jack Roush, who owns Edwards' No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing car. "I think Carl is not likely to have incidental contact with Brad and cause a wreck, and I think Brad is not likely to have incidental contact with Carl and cause a wreck in the foreseeable future."

The 35-minute meeting began shortly after 9 a.m. ET and lasted through the start of Nationwide Series qualifying, forcing both drivers to push their start time back. Roush, Penske Racing owner Roger Penske, NASCAR president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton and Sprint Cup series director John Darby were among those who met with the drivers.

NASCAR called the meeting, according to spokesman Kerry Tharp, to make sure everybody "was on the same page." Safety also was a concern after Edwards' bump sent Keselowski's car into an airborne flip.

Both drivers seemed satisfied with the result of the meeting.

"The biggest thing coming out of that is that now, I think, Brad and I understand one another a little better," Edwards said. "We're gonna be able to just go forward and go racing, and that's what this is all about.

"It was really cool to be able to talk with Jack and Roger and Brad all at once. We laughed. We cried. In the end, I think it's gonna be good."

The incident drew a three-race probation, beginning Sunday at Bristol, for Edwards. NASCAR opted not to further penalize him for fear it would diminish much of the aggressiveness and personality the governing body attempted to re-establish when it told drivers to "have at it, boys" before the season.

"We don't want anything to lower that competitive edge," Tharp said.

Keselowski said he didn't hear anything in the meeting that surprised him.

"I was hoping that I would be, to be honest," said the second-year Cup driver, who expressed concern last week that Edwards' action went much deeper than on-track conflict.

"You have to understand that Carl and I have a mutual respect because in a sense we're almost the same people. We were born with similar backgrounds and drive the same way. I had a lot of respect for him before and after the accident."

Keselowski has been criticized by many drivers for his aggressiveness over the past year. Denny Hamlin intentionally wrecked him in the Nationwide season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway for an incident that occurred the previous week at Phoenix.

"I think he'll learn. He's going to say he's going to race the same way, but I'm sure he won't," Juan Pablo Montoya said. "And if he does, somebody else will wreck him again. Race hard because you want to show you can get the job done. But you've got to learn to respect everybody."

Edwards and Keselowski had several run-ins before an incident early at Atlanta that left Edwards 156 laps down.

Keselowski has been adamant that he won't change his driving style. That's not Penske's intent, either.

"He's a terrific talent," Penske said. "I don't tell my drivers to run hard or run soft. I think he knows what he has to do on the racetrack with his peers, and quite honestly, he isn't making any statements about what he's going to do or not do.

"I think the media has taken some of that and moved it further and made him with a bigger circle around him. What I want him to do is run fair on the racetrack and be competitive. But again, the other drivers have to respect him."

Keselowski and Edwards seemed to have put aside their differences during Nationwide qualifying, leaning over from opposite sides of Keselowski's hood to chat after Keselowski's pole run.

"The guys agreed they're going to race hard, fair and give themselves some room on the racetrack so we don't become the poster boys every weekend on what's happening," Penske said. "I said, 'Hey, at the end of races, if we're racing for the lead with a lap or two to go, you're going to have to run hard. But try to stay out of each other's way during the race.'

"It was a good conversation. They're both good guys. It's great to have an environment where we can sit down."

Roush reiterated what he has said all along, that he didn't condone what Edwards did but understood why he did it.

"The ultimate responsibility that we all have -- that NASCAR has, the owners have and the drivers have -- is to keep everybody safe in this business," he said. "It's a sport that needs to be contentious, but it needs to be safe too and we've got to be careful to respect that line."

Since the incident, NASCAR has ramped up its effort to find out why cars are going airborne. Beginning at Texas all cars will carry a shark fin on the left rear window and deck lid to help break up the air when a spinout occurs at a high speed.

Edwards said the past week has been good for him to sit back and observe everything that has been written and said about the incident. Some have portrayed him as a driver with anger issues, which he and others vehemently deny.

"It's real easy to stand back and throw stones at someone and make little chirps and say things that make you feel better about yourself," Edwards said. "The people who know me know that I'm a very fair person.

"I guess if my biggest fault is standing up for myself, I'll take it. They can fault me all day for that."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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