With three of the top stars in the sport, Roush Fenway Racing encourages its Sprint Cup drivers to work together as much as possible.
But when it comes down to the end of a race, with a victory on the line, it’s every man for himself.
“When it comes down to it, you race each other differently on lap 100 at Las Vegas than you do with eight or seven to go and I think we all kind of understand that,” points leader Greg Biffle said of teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.
“With seven to go, we are going to race each other like we would race the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) or the 14 (Tony Stewart) or whatever else. We probably aren’t going to turn each other if the guy moves over and wasn’t clear by a couple inches. You may get a break on something like that, but typically we are going to race our teammates the way we are going to race another car.”
That’s what Edwards was thinking when he dove to the apron of the track on a late restart last week at Las Vegas.
“I was just thinking it was time to go and win the race,” Edwards said.
But his aggressive move forced the three Roush drivers into a precarious three-wide battle that caused Kenseth to run into the back of Edwards’ car. Kenseth then got loose and slammed the wall, ruining his chance to race for the win.
Kenseth was third on the restart, with Biffle lined up fourth and Edwards fifth. While Stewart and Johnson pulled away to battle for the win, Biffle wound up finishing third and Edwards fifth while Kenseth faded to 22nd after the brush with the wall.
Though Kenseth did not express anger at Edwards, the incident had the potential to create tension between the two teammates, who have had conflicts before.
Edwards quickly apologized for the move after the race and the two drivers went out of their way at Bristol to deflect any controversy.
“I haven’t talked to him about it, but I am responsible for my car and where it ends up and it ended up in the fence and I put it there,” Kenseth said Friday. “I will try to do a better job next time of making sure I take care of myself and not worry about the cars around me so much.”
“I think we will talk about it,” Edwards said. “He is my teammate and he is a friend of mine and I didn’t like to see his car get torn up.”
Edwards said Kenseth could have wrecked him when he got loose and likely wrecked himself by trying to protect a teammate. That, Edwards said, made him feel even worse about the incident.
“When I watched the replay it looked like he could have hit me a lot harder there when I got loose with Greg beside me, and he didn’t,” Edwards said. “He probably did that because I am his teammate and he didn’t want to wreck me and then he ended up getting wrecked.
“In that situation, if I had ended up wrecked I would have probably been frustrated. He ended up wrecked so he was frustrated. It is just a racing incident. I just feel bad his car got wrecked. I am not sure how big of a deal it is. We will talk about it when we get time.”
Edwards said he would make the same move again if it gave him a chance to win the race, but emphasized that he did not mean to hinder a teammate.
“It is just racing. It did not feel like an aggressive move. It was just a restart on a big, wide race track and we drove by Matt on the bottom,” he said. “I would have done that if we had the same restart right now, I would do the exact same thing. I think any racer would.
“I want to be very clear, though. I really do appreciate Matt not just slamming my rear bumper and spinning me out after I got loose. … Matt and I get along really well and I don’t think this is going to be something that is a big issue.”
Biffle said having accidents and run-ins with teammates is a unique part of the sport.
“The thing that is weird for our sport that is unlike any other sport is that you are actually competing against your teammate,” he said. “It is very odd in that case.
“It comes down to when you are battling for the win, do I knock him out of the way? Do I run into his bumper and take a chance spinning him out but move my way in for the win?
“At Bristol, things like that have to go through your mind, yet at the same time you are teammates. That is an odd situation.”
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