Relations between Roush Fenway stable mates Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seemed at an all-time low at the Nationwide Series race at Iowa Raceway on Saturday.
Edwards leads the Cup championship and Stenhouse leads the Nationwide Series title battle, but both were fixed on the race win and holding nothing back - not even despite the fact they were team mates. That led to them banging into each other repeatedly during the Iowa Nationwide Series race last Saturday.
"We probably raced a little too hard," Stenhouse admitted. "I felt like he ran us up the race track there in turn 4 and got into us and then after that, I was going to drive as hard as I could to make sure I got back by him and that's why I didn't cut him any slack there passing him for the lead."
"I was mad, [but I] wasn't mad that he ran into us coming off of turn 4," Stenhouse insisted. "He gave me the finger going down the back straightaway and that's what kind of fired me up." He's still unsure whether the gesture was serious or in jest.
After the race, Stenhouse reportedly vented at his crew chief about how much he "hated" Edwards, but a few days later cooler thoughts had prevaled. "That might be a little bit much! ... Carl's helped me out a lot in my career. It's good racing with him."
Although Stenhouse said he hadn't yet talked with Edwards about the incident, he insisted that they would "handle it" and that "It was hard racing, but we'll talk about it. He thinks I'm maybe a little too aggressive, but coming from sprint cars, that's just my style, that's just how I race."
"You've got to make sure that you race people the way they race you, and you've got to stand your ground," said Edwards for his part after the finish at Iowa, which saw him wreck into the back of Stenhouse's car when the #6's engine blew on the last turn. "Whether it's your teammate or not, sometimes it's not all roses.
"Ricky and I had a little bit of a disagreement halfway through the race ... and Jack came over the radio and said, 'Are we OK?'", continued Edwards, referring to team owner Jack Roush. "I said, 'I think so.'
"Ricky is a great driver," Edwards insisted. "We'll work out any of the issues we had back at the shop."
For his part, their boss Jack Roush seemed to think it was all part of the natural cycle of life of motor sports. "Carl is exactly where he should be as an elder statesman right now in this business, and Ricky is where he should be as a young guy with a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "In five years Ricky will be in the same place Carl is today and there will be somebody else pushing him harder than he wants to be pushed.
"Ricky races pretty hard, and Carl, I'm sure, sometimes wishes Ricky wouldn't race him so hard," he added.