Ladies and gentlemen, we have a rivalry on our hands.
After Carl Edwards used the bump-and-run on Kyle Busch to win the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, the fireworks really started. Edwards and Busch were already on a crash-course for each other, winning a combined 14 races this season and sitting 1-2 in the point standings.
But as Edwards ran his cool-down lap, Busch slammed into the side of him. Fine; sometimes that's how a guy congratulates the winner. But Busch slammed into Edwards again. So on the backstretch, once both cars were clear of the rest of the field filing onto pit road, Edwards turned down, rammed into the right rear of Busch's car, and sent the No. 18 spinning to the delight of the 160,000 fans on hand.
Busch showed his displeasure, tried to rattle Edwards' cage. Edwards didn't back down, giving better than he got.
Busch, who himself has used the front bumper a time or two in his career, said Edwards would apologize for the contact, like he always did. But a funny thing happened on the way to Victory Lane:
Edwards didn't apologize.
"It's one of those deals where I couldn't get by him, I couldn't get by him, and I just had to ask myself, 'Would he do that to me?' Edwards said. "And he has before, so that's the way it goes.
"Let's make it real clear -- I'm not apologizing for it. We're even."
Busch didn't see it that way, threatening to race Edwards this way throughout the Chase -- even though he was called to the NASCAR hauler after Edwards put the points leader in his place. NASCAR did not call Edwards to the hauler.
If I'm a fan, I'm hoping this isn't over. And considering Edwards said in Victory Lane that he hit Busch partly as payback for an incident in a Nationwide Series race in Richmond back in May, I don't see this party ending any time soon.
Which should be music to everyone's ears. A natural rivalry is exactly what NASCAR needs. The last couple -- Jeff Gordon-Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon-Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Kyle Busch -- have been media creations; the budding rivalry between Edwards and Busch seems genuine in its intensity.
And for Edwards' reputation as a happy-go-lucky, aw-shucks kind of guy, one thing is abundantly clear:
Carl Edwards doesn't forget, and he doesn't put up with anything from anyone. And that attitude might just win him the 2008 Sprint Cup championship.