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Bristol next for Edwards and Keselowski

19 March 2010

The 43 best stock car drivers in the world will be on the track Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Two four-time Sprint Cup champions — one of whom is going for an unfathomable fifth straight — will be among them.

There will be teams and drivers that represent such operatic themes as redemption, fate and suffering. All on what many consider the most dramatic stage in auto racing.

But the moment the gates at Bristol open for the Food City 500 and the crowd begins settling into the cold metal seats, fans will begin searching out Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.

For many, there is only one really good storyline this weekend, and that is the on-going, increasingly intense feud between the veteran with the massive muscles and the kid with the defiant smirk.

You think this thing that started with Edwards' 200 mph flight into the frontstretch catchfence at Talladega early last year and has continued right up to Keselowski's mid-air pirouette and subsequent slamming to the ground on his roof at Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago is over?

Then check this: When asked by Bristol promoters to pick a song — any song — to which he would like to be introduced during prerace ceremonies on Sunday, Keselowski went with “I Won't Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Both drivers and their team owners were summoned to a meeting with NASCAR after the Atlanta race. Presumably they were warned to keep things cool. All parties in question will meet again with NASCAR this weekend. More warnings will ensue.

Edwards has attracted the heat of some of his sponsors and has been issued a three-race probation for the incident. What that means, nobody is sure, but presumably he had better keep cool this weekend.

Keselowski needs a good finish as he is in danger of falling out of the top 35 in owners points, so you figure he might have reason to play it cool at Bristol.

Yet, suspense and emotions around Edwards vs. Keselowski continue to run hot. Thanks, notably, to comments made by the two drivers themselves since Atlanta.

Edwards, by way of his social media outlet, said yes, he did wreck Keselowski on purpose. He did it because he was sick of getting pushed around by the young driver.

“Every person has to decide what code they want to live by, and hopefully this explains mine,” Edwards concluded in his Facebook post.

Keselowski apparently not only listens to Tom Petty, but also lives Tom Petty as he has showed zero repentance for what he calls his “passionate” driving style and says he will continue to drive that way.

Others in the sport have laughed at the suggestion the two will be able to contain themselves at a track that turns even good friends into heated enemies.

Wise old Jeff Burton told reporters last week, “Nobody is expecting Brad or anybody to give anything.”

Said Kyle Busch, “The drivers try to take things into their own hands. Sometimes it gets a little too far.”

Heightening the drama is the site of this weekend's race. Because of Bristol's size — 0.533 miles around — and relatively low speeds, it always has been a place for settling scores and fuelling feuds.

Mark Martin was asked if he thought Bristol would be chaotic in the wake of Atlanta. “I don't think it will be any different than it's ever been,” he said. “I see it to be the same old wild and crazy Bristol.”

Edwards is a two-time winner at Bristol. His average finish there is 14.1. He is 20th in points, and although it is early in the season, he needs to start heading north if he is going to avoid missing the Chase.

Keselowski will be making his first start at Bristol, though he has won a race and a pole there in Nationwide cars. He is 33rd in driver points, so if he sinks three more spots Sunday, he will need to qualify for the Martinsville race next weekend on time.


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