Coming around the final bend April 24 at Richmond International Raceway, Carl Edwards — after a 30-lap chase — finally caught up with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
With a tap on the back bumper, Edwards moved Busch from the low groove up the track and went underneath him and on to Victory Lane.
Old-school NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fans likely cheered, but the move wasn’t received with universal praise.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about when it’s appropriate to move another car out of the way, if it ever is.
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“It just depends,” Edwards said. “Every situation is different. In the case of Richmond, we led the most laps, we were fast, we chased Kyle down and closed the gap. We got to him and he ran the bottom, because he knew that’s where I was going to run. Sometimes, you don’t have time to do it any other way.”
Martin Truex Jr., who started on the pole for Saturday’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway, didn’t decry Edwards’ race-winning maneuver, but he said it doesn’t jibe with his style on the racetrack.
“I don’t think I would run into a guy on purpose to win a race,” Truex said. “That’s just me. That’s how I do things, and I wouldn’t expect most guys to do it to me because of that. But at the end of the day, somebody’s going to at some point at time. That’s when I would say, ‘OK, now I would run into somebody to win.’ It would be that guy.”
It comes down to the relationships that have developed during thousands of laps together across hundreds of races. Drivers have a mental log of the guys who race with deference and those who get hyper-aggressive.
Those moments define the unwritten rules of the racetrack.
“At the end of the day, it really just goes back to relationships,” Truex said. “Everybody on the track races each other a little bit differently. I race certain guys different than I do other guys. … The protocol is you race guys the way they’ve raced you. We all have a history.”
Some drivers, including Edwards, have a reputation. It’s not a shock that he’d move a guy — even a teammate — to win.
“I can pretty much know that, if we’re coming to the end of the race and getting down to the final laps and he’s close to me, he’s going to try to knock me out of the way,” Truex said. “I’ll be ready for that. I also know that I probably wouldn’t feel horrible if I moved him for a win, just because I know he would do it to me.”
Busch,the reigning Sprint Cup champion who also has two wins this season and is locked in the Chase again, didn’t seem thrilled by Edwards’ antics, but the two smoothed things over.
“Mars actually sent us a congratulatory box of chocolates and I saw Kyle in the shop on Tuesday (after the race) and asked him if he’d sign it,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t sure how he’d respond, but he laughed and signed it. It was cool, so I think we’re good.”
Of course, Edwards also understands that he needs to be prepared, if the situation is ever reversed, that Busch won’t hesitate to return the favor.
“Carl understands that, if Kyle’s behind him coming to the end, he’s probably going to try to move him,” Truex said. “And he’s going to have to be OK with that, because that’s his code of how he does things. As long as you have an understanding, and get an opportunity to get your chance, it’s OK. If you never get your chance, you’re going to hold a grudge forever.”
Edwards, for the record, would be fine with it if Busch dumped him for a win.
“If the same thing happens in reverse the next time we go to Richmond, I fully expect him to move me out of the way,” Edwards said. “That’s just the way it is, and you have to be able to accept both outcomes.”