SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards says he has changed his mind over the incident with Brad Keselowski on the final lap of last weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway.
Edwards dumped Keselowski as the two were racing for the win coming to the checkered flag, with Keselowski hitting the outside and inside wall and collecting several other drivers. NASCAR allowed Edwards to keep the win but penalized him and his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing team 60 points, as well as putting him on probation.
Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Edwards said his attitude toward the controversy had changed.
"Immediately after the race last week I felt like what I did was right and it was a fair outcome to the race, and I felt like it was within NASCAR’s boundaries that they had set," Edwards said. "I think NASCAR felt the same way right then, but then as the week went on, I had the chance to talk to (NASCAR President) Mike Helton, and I understand and respect that those other teams that were caught up in that wreck that Brad and I had initiated, I mean, those guys are working hard.
"I’ve been in that position, working hard for sponsorship and working hard for finishes, and I feel that NASCAR’s penalty is fair. I talked to (team owner) Jack (Roush) and (team president) Geoff Smith and I don’t plan on appealing it. I think it’s fair in that respect.
"I sincerely apologize to those guys that were caught up in that wreck. I would rather finish second in a good race than have to win a race the way I won the race. Now, I’m not gonna finish second in a race the way that one was going, but I respect NASCAR’s decision."
That doesn’t mean, however, that Edwards wouldn’t repeat the same move in a similar situation.
"Let me put it this way, I don’t think there’s one championship-level driver, one winning driver, that can go along in their career and let someone forcefully take wins away from them," Edwards said. "I don’t think that’s built into any of us. We’ll see what the future holds. I’ll tell you, I race hard and I’m not gonna let somebody take advantage of me, that’s for sure. I’ve proven that, and I’ve been consistent about it, and I’ve been honest about it, too, which, I don’t think has helped me any, but I’ve been honest about it."
Edwards said he believes the contact from Keselowski in Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap was intentional, and that’s why he reacted the way he did off Turn 4.
"I believe that he did not make a mistake," Edwards said. "That was an intentional. I mean, he moved me out of the way to gain an advantage and it almost worked. He almost won the race, so that’s what he did. It doesn’t really matter what my opinion is. NASCAR knows what happened and he knows what happened and that’s why they penalized him.
Keselowski has contended it wasn’t intentional, but Edwards doesn’t believe him.
"I’m telling you that as a race car driver, and any other race car driver will tell you, that that wasn’t a slipup, and if it was a slipup, which, hey, he might convince himself that it’s a slipup, you have a little bit of insurance that you leave yourself when you go down in the corner like that," Edwards said. "And on the last lap, you might not say, ‘I’m gonna drive down in this corner and hit this guy,’ but it’s real easy to say, ‘I’m gonna drive down in this corner a little bit harder than I have and consequences be damned and this guy is gonna be the one that pays.’ So it’s reasonable that he’s not lying, but I believe he’s not being completely honest that that was a mistake. He’s too good of a race car driver and I know that."
Edwards has taken a lot of heat from NASCAR fans, many who have said Edwards was simply being a bully. But Edwards said other NASCAR drivers said what he did Saturday was OK.
"In competition it’s really easy to determine that line," Edwards said of being a bully vs. defending yourself. "Saturday night was a perfect example. Somebody takes something from you in competition and they take it unfairly, then you either accept that and you can go on and live with that, which, Saturday night I couldn’t, or you go get it back. That’s for other people to decide. I just go do the very best I can. When I was done, I walked out of that race track with my head held high."