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The Day Roush Racing Teammates Had At It

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 29 2011

Chase driver Matt Kenseth says intra-team harmony has been restored at Roush Fenway Racing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

It was a scene so bizarre, so out of character, so disturbing that few who saw it will ever forget it. That includes those who lived it.

Now, four years later, the participants apparently have gotten over it and the result could be the winning of the 2011 Sprint Cup championship for one of them.

The scene occurred after a race at Martinsville Speedway in 2007. Matt Kenseth was doing a television interview when Roush Racing teammate Carl Edwards pulled him aside. Out of range of microphones, but within site of cameras, the two began to verbally rip into each other.

At one point Edwards started to walk away. But he suddenly turned, re-engaged Kenseth, balled up his fist and appeared to start to throw a punch. Edwards, fresh off a cover story in a national magazine in which he displayed off his very large upper-body muscles, pulled the punch, but the look on Kenseth’s face showed genuine oh-oh.

It appeared to some people who thought they knew the two drivers that it might have been a joke.

Not.

It became clear in interviews after the innocent that the two teammates didn’t really like each other.

Carl Edwards says team work will be important the rest of the way. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

Kenseth said something about how the messy scene showed the public that Edwards was not as saintly as had been portrayed. He said he no longer wanted to deal with Edwards.

The incident appeared to portray a Roush Racing team that was divided. Roush teammate Greg Biffle lined up with his good friend Kenseth. Owner Jack Roush had to rush into full PR mode. Rumors flew about jealousies and personality clashes on the team.

Because of a couple of current circmustances, the incident was fanned back to life this weekend: First, the Sprint Cup series is back at Martinsville for an autumn Chase event; Second, Edwards and Kenseth are first and second in points with just four races left on the schedule.

Kenseth was asked about that day in October of 2007 on Friday. He managed to squeeze a laugh out of it – even the part of the day when it looked like he was going to get some work done from the Carl Edwards Dental Plan.

“First of all,” Kenseth said, “I’m glad he just cocked it and didn’t fire it because that would have hurt. I saw the still photos of that the other day and I might still be laying out there somewhere.”

Second of all, Kenseth said his relationship with Edwards has mended in recent years.

“I think we have a much better understanding of each other’s personality and how we look at things,” Kenseth said. “I don’t really know exactly what all triggered that back when it started. Honestly, we’ve never spun each other out, except he spun me out at Loudon, that’s right, but, other than that, we’ve never spun each other out or wrecked each other. We just had some disagreements, I think, throughout that season. I guess we did anyway that led to that, but I think things have been good. We get along fine. He’s certainly been a good teammate. He brings a lot to the table for the organization. The better the cars run it helps all of us run better and elevates how good we can run, so everything has been fine.”

Good relationships between Kenseth and Edwards might be essential if Roush Fenway Racing is going

Matt Kenseth is in the thick of championship battle – with his own teammate. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

to win this year’s championship.

Edwards will start Sunday’s race 14 points up on Kenseth. Three other drivers are right behind them as Brad Keselowski is four points behind Kenseth, Tony Stewart is five points behind and Kevin Harvick is 12 points behind.

A re-flaring of old flames could injure both RFR drivers’ chances, not to mention Kenseth’s face. Both know that – asked who would win a fight between them Friday, Kenseth said, “Who do you think?”

But both also know that with the championship to be decided over the next four races, they will be driving a fine line between being teammates and adversaries.

Will all coupons and passes will be canceled between now and the end of the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway? Will Nov. 20 be declared a blackout date in their improved relationship?

“I’d say there’s always that temptation in competition,” Edwards said when asked if his team might withhold info from Kenseth’s. “As much as we share and as good a relationship we have, we are competitors and we want to beat that 17 team just as bad as anyone else, but we’re not to the point in the season yet where we can really divide and go race one another. We still have to help one another and we can still gain more by helping one another now and trying to succeed based on that help, so, right now, we’re working as a team even this weekend. If we can work together and help each other, really all the way up to the race, I think it’s better for both of us.”

Kenseth said, “There’s so much racing to do that I haven’t even thought about that. Nothing has changed. All of the teams are working together the same. All of the drivers are getting along the same and working together and doing all of that, so I don’t foresee anything ever happening to change that.”

Few foresaw 2007’s “In The Grill In Martinsville”, either.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 29 2011
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