With only two races remaining until the start of the fifth edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s 10-race playoff is shaping up to be a battle of the good, the bad and the ugly.
With only two races remaining until the start of the fifth edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s 10-race playoff is shaping up to be a battle of the good, the bad and the ugly.The good is Carl Edwards, who has taken the sport’s all-American boy role to heart.The bad is the sport’s newest villain, Kyle Busch, the guy who wears the black cowboy hat and wrap-around shades.And the ugly is how the last two races have been between the pair — and what likely will be continued in the last two pre-Chase races, as well as the Chase itself.Edwards has won the last two Cup events, while Busch has finished runner-up both times.Busch remains peeved that Edwards used the bump-and-run move — something Busch has used several times in his racing career but obviously doesn’t like done to him — to win last Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch responded to the move by driving into Edwards after the race and Edwards retaliated. NASCAR announced Wednesday both drivers have been put on probation for six weeks due to the post-race bumping and banging.“You don’t try to hit somebody, driving in the back of him getting into the corner,” Busch said afterward.But for Edwards, as much as he prides himself on being a clean racer, the incident where he just barely brushed Busch’s car aside to take the lead was justified payback for Busch having pulled a similar move against him in the past.“Let’s make it real clear: I’m not apologizing for it, and that’s it,” Edwards said. “I feel like the score’s even and it just cost him more than it cost me at the time, and that’s the way it is.”After taking Busch to school, so to speak, and teaching him a lesson that he’s not going to back down, Edwards proceeded to tell a story about how he came to make the decision to move Busch over so that he could gain the lead – and ultimately, the win.“A real smart racer explained it to me this way after he wrecked me and I was real mad,” Edwards said. “He said, ’I just had to look at your rear bumper and decide if you would do this to me, and you had, and so it was a real simple decision.’“Earlier in the year we had a Nationwide race and Kyle was a lot faster than me and he went ahead, and got to my back bumper and just smoked the back bumper of my car and sent me up the racetrack, and after that said, ’Sorry, man, my car was just faster.’"So in my mind, I had to ask myself when I went down there in the corner, should I lift and brake early and do the best I can, or should I just kind of give him a little tap and see what happens? So that’s the way it went, and that’s the decision I made, and you know, I’d do it again.”That’s okay, Busch said. He’s looking forward to extracting revenge from Edwards starting with this Sunday’s Pepsi 400 at Auto Club Speedway.“It’s just unfortunate the way things came down at the end (at Bristol),” he said. “We’ll take it and go on from here these next couple of weeks and try to get ourselves another win going into the Chase and (more wins) throughout the Chase.”Edwards feels the same way about California and beyond. Just like at the last two races, Michigan and Bristol, he once again is challenging Busch to bring it on – and may the best man win.“Yeah, we feel good about California for sure,” Edwards said. “I think that the next two races will be wild. It’s been a great season so far and I don’t think the excitement level is going to go down.”Nor are Edwards or Busch going to back down – not this Sunday and certainly not in the 11 races following.“It will probably be pretty fun for the fans,” Edwards said.That seems like a pretty safe bet.Jerry Bonkowski is National NASCAR Columnist for Yahoo! Sports (Yahoo.com) and is a featured contributor for Gatehouse News Service. He can be reached at NASCARColumnist@Yahoo.com.