- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carl Edwards' heated confrontation with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth following Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Martinsville Speedway went beyond what happened on the track that day.
It went beyond an incident between the two during a Busch Series race at Kansas earlier this year.
"It was not a one-day deal," an apologetic Edwards said Tuesday during NASCAR's weekly conference call. "It wasn't just Sunday's on-track incident where I bumped into Matt and he bumped into me harder and I got madder all day."
Edwards said the problem had more to do with a lack of communication not only between him and Kenseth, with whom he's barely spoken to the past six months, but also Roush Fenway Racing in general.
"You know, as a team, we need to do a better job working together," he said. "I've won three races this year in the Nextel Cup Series. When I win, people call and congratulate and people are happy for me. It's just the wrong people.
"I've got Jimmie Johnson calling me every time I win to say good job. And my teammates aren't the ones doing that. And I'm just as guilty. I haven't been as happy for their successes as I could be," he said.
All of this, plus a confrontation on the track, came to a head when Edwards saw Kenseth preparing for an interview on the Speed Channel near the Turn 4 tunnel.
Edwards placed his hands on the chest of Kenseth and aggressively guided him a few feet backwards to discuss what was on his mind. He ultimately cocked his right arm as though he were going to punch Kenseth and made a fake jab before walking away.
The entire incident was recorded by Speed and later placed on the internet on YouTube.
"I was definitely wrong for showing my anger and putting on an aggressive display toward Matt Kenseth," Edwards said. "I definitely want to apologize to my fans, to Office Depot, to Matt Kenseth, to DeWalt, to everyone at Roush Fenway for letting it come to that. That was definitely the wrong thing to do.
"Those people that we compete against do a better job of having team spirit than we've done lately at Roush Fenway. I'm just as guilty of that as anyone," he said.
Edwards was referring to Jeff Gordon and Johnson, who have managed to keep their friendship solid despite a heated battle for the championship that has led to a few heated battles on the track.
Gordon is 53 points ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate heading to Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"All I can tell you is that just like I said before, we've got to put all of the petty little stuff aside and go out and be the best teammates we can be," said Edwards, who is fifth in points, 288 behind Gordon. "Because as long as we don't, we're going to get beaten by people who do."
Biffle believes the situation between Edwards and Kenseth is more personal than a company-wide problem.
"I don't see that anybody is not excited for one another," he said. "Everybody called me when I won at Kansas. I shouldn't say everybody. Jamie [McMurray] and Matt called me, but we fly together all the time. David Ragan and Carl didn't call me, but the minute I saw them at the next race they both congratulated me.
"Let's not beat around the bush. Carl and Matt have had their goes around. I don't think that stems from any differences on the other teams," he said.
Biffle said some just don't handle Edwards' aggressive driving style as well as others.
"I don't have any grudges or any problems with Carl on the track," he said. "Carl just races a little different. His aggressive style is just go all the time."
Edwards admitted his style may be part of the problem.
"When I came in to Roush Fenway, we had a lot of success in 2005, and I didn't always race everyone the way they wanted to be raced," he said. "I literally was driving my ass off for a job and knowing -- if I didn't work that hard -- I'd still be living at my mom's house in Columbia, Mo.
"I mean, I think it kind of started there. And since then, we just haven't done a good job, all of us, of communicating how we want to be treated on the racetrack and it turns into all of these, you know, really grudges and instances where nobody really knows how everyone feels about one another," he said.
Edwards' aggressiveness got him into trouble with Kenseth on Sunday in Turn 1.
"I went in the corner and I couldn't get the car stopped like I planned on getting it stopped, and I hit [Kenseth] in the door," Edwards said. "We went down in Turn 3, and he pile-drived me so hard in the rear end that I barely saved it. That's what I was mad about."
So when Edwards saw Kenseth after the race, he snapped.
"So for me personally, this is a bad, bad thing," Edwards said. "Trust me. I got plenty of calls that told me so on Sunday. But the thing I can look forward to from it is, you know, we as a team have everything we need to go out and beat these guys. We just need to have a little bit more team spirit.
"I feel bad about what I did. I feel bad that I got sucked into that turning into such a bad deal. I really look forward to putting my best foot in front of me and going out and doing whatever it takes to be the best teammate I can be to Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle and all these guys," he said.
One of Edwards' calls came from owner Jack Roush, who talked to both drivers on Sunday night.
"He told they've got to settle this without wrecking our cars," team president Geoff Smith. "He told them to get yourself at peace with one another, then go compete against one another as hard as you want to compete."
Smith said neither driver would be punished by the organization, reminding Roush has a policy that teammates are allowed to compete against each other as though they are not teammates.
"That's what our sponsors expect to have, no preference provided by the organization," he said. "What that means is that each driver is allowed to feel their way on the track with every driver regardless of whether he's a teammate, but they have to make judgments for one another about who is racing you cleanly and who is racing you not cleanly.
"And then they have to work their peace out amongst themselves if they have disagreements about whether one person went over the line. That's what Matt and Carl are going through right now, which is a disagreement about who has been fairly or unfairly giving or taking racing room," he said.
Smith doesn't believe Edwards intended to hit Kenseth.
"He was just messing with Matt: 'OK, smartass. Made you flinch,'" Smith said. "They're race car drivers. Boys will be boys. They're always poking fun and teasing and pushing each other in a hundred little ways.
"Obviously, Carl's not in the business of punching people out. ... That was just him going to talk to Matt about that and messing with Matt. Matt messes with Carl all the time. Matt, he's a quick-witted, quick-tongued sense of humor personality," Smith said.
This wasn't the first time this season the two "messed" with one another. Kenseth publicly criticized Edwards last month following a Busch Series race in Kansas.
It began when Kenseth appeared to cut Edwards off, causing contact that cut one of Edwards' tires. After Edwards wrecked later in the race, an incident that did not involve his teammate, he reportedly clapped his hands and gave Kenseth the thumbs-up as he passed him.
"Tell Matt he's got one coming ... that is baloney," Edwards said over his in-car radio.
Smith said such things happen all the time when you have an organization with five drivers. He said it's not unusual for Roush to intervene even though he prefers to let the drivers hash things out themselves.
"We have internal situations all the time, which most of the time people don't know about," he said. "When Greg Biffle first came in we had quite a bit of senior drivers being somewhat unhappy about his level of aggressive driving.
"There have been several incidents over a period of time that have gotten handled away from the track. They do it with counseling from Jack about what respecting one another means or doesn't mean, what's out of bounds and if you are going to race a certain way what to expect in retaliation," he said.
Smith said such disagreements are magnified by the Chase and added that no driver outside the winner is typically happy after a race, particularly late in the season.
"You have the entire field almost in a desperate state of mind where everybody wants to end on a good note," he said.
But Johnson, whose good relationship with Gordon has been talked about constantly over the last few weeks, was surprised to see Edwards raise his fist.
"Obviously, they weren't happy with one another," he said. "I was shocked to be quite honest."
And there's no guarantee it's over.
"I wouldn't want to suggest that their differences in racing style, racing room with one another is over," Smith said. "But I don't think there is any lingering or underlying issues there."
Edwards hopes not, either, although Kenseth had not returned his phone call as of mid-Tuesday afternoon. Kenseth also was not available for comment when contacted by ESPN.com.
"All I can tell you is I'm going to do the best I can to put my foot forward and extend my hand and say let's do this the best we can," Edwards said. "Hopefully, hopefully, we can be laughing about this by the time Daytona rolls around."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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