It took roughly 40 minutes with NASCAR for Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski to put their long-simmering feud to rest.
At least that’s how it appeared as the two smiling drivers exited their highly anticipated Saturday meeting at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
“We laughed. We cried. In the end, I think it’s going to be good,” said Edwards, who playfully slapped at Keselowski’s shoulder as the drivers hustled to their cars after the meeting.
NASCAR president Mike Helton summoned Edwards, Keselowski and their car owners into his at-track office to discuss a long-running feud between the drivers that exploded when Edwards intentionally wrecked Keselowski two weeks ago in Atlanta. The accident caused Keselowski’s car to sail into the air before bouncing on its hood.
Although Edwards wrecked earlier in the race after contact with Keselowski, he’s maintained his deliberate retaliation stemmed from animosity created from several past incidents with the young driver. Aggressive and ultraconfident, Keselowski has gone bumper-to-bumper with several veterans and refused to back down.
“This meeting wasn’t about Atlanta,” Helton said. “(It) wasn’t about trying to fix Brad. It was about Brad and Carl’s relationship.”
The two drivers talked after Nationwide qualifying and vowed to move on in their relationship.
“Hopefully, it will be productive to where we can move forward and continue to race each other hard and not have any more incidents like we did at Atlanta,” Keselowski said. “I had a lot of respect for him before and after the accident, so hopefully that will stay the same.”
What remains to be seen is how other drivers react on-track, beginning with today’s race at Bristol. The .0533-mile bullring is a venue that creates aggressive driving, excessive contact and extreme tempers.
Edwards begins a three-race probation period this weekend that has him under careful scrutiny from NASCAR, which won’t tolerate anything out of line from him. But Keselowski still has a long list of drivers who are adamant the youngster needs to turn his aggression down a notch, and Bristol is an easy place to send a message that could go unnoticed by NASCAR officials.
“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.”
Roger Penske, owner of Keselowski’s car and one of the most respected leaders in the racing industry, vowed his support for his newest driver. Keselowski signed with Penske last fall.
Aside from the Atlanta incident, none of Keselowski’s issues has occurred under the Penske banner.
“He’s a terrific talent,” Penske said. “I don’t tell my drivers to run hard or to run soft. … What I want him to do is run fair on the race track and be competitive. But he’s got to respect the other drivers. They have to respect him.”
Allgaier earns first win
Justin Allgaier grabbed the first win of his NASCAR career Saturday by passing teammate Keselowski on a late restart, then holding him off over the closing laps at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Allgaier, last year’s Nationwide Series rookie of the year, had to hold his line over the final 27 laps to keep Keselowski from passing him.
“That battle with Brad at the end was awesome, and I couldn’t have been happier at the end to see two Penske cars up there running for the win,” Allgaier said in his first visit to Victory Lane.
The win was the first for Dodge at Bristol since August 2007.
Keselowski, the pole-sitter who led 73 laps, finished second to give team owner Roger Penske his first 1-2 finish in the Nationwide Series.
Keselowski said he didn’t mind Allgaier passing him on the restart with 27 laps to go because of an incident at Bristol last year, before they were teammates, when Keselowski wrecked Allgaier in a similar situation.
“I had one coming,” Keselowski said, smiling.