MATT KENSETH leaned against a wall inside his number 17 hauler, parked in the garage at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, Oct. 26, and peered through a window. Out there, some 30 feet away, Carl Edwards was helping to push his number 99 Ford into his garage stall. This was as close as the two Roush Fenway Racing teammates had been since five days earlier, in Martinsville, Va., when Edwards accosted Kenseth while the latter was in the middle of a postrace interview. Edwards shoved Kenseth away from the camera and feigned a haymaker that made his teammate flinch. The chilling incident instantly became a YouTube hit. Now Kenseth was ready to fight back, verbally. "I've got a problem with Carl, and I'm glad people finally got to see that side of him in the video," Kenseth said. "Until he proves that he's changed with his actions, I don't want to deal with him."
Although Edwards and Kenseth each had his best race of the Chase in the following week's Pep Boys Auto 500—Edwards finished second and Kenseth fourth—both have underperformed in the last two months. Worse, for Roush, their fractured relationship may be beyond repair.
The source of their animosity is what happened in a Busch Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 29. Edwards and Kenseth collided, causing Edwards to blow a tire. Edwards believed Kenseth cut him off; Kenseth disagreed and then poked fun at Edwards, telling the media that even though Edwards was running away with the Busch Series drivers' title, he "was getting beat for the owners' championship by a couple of guys running part time." When Edwards heard the comment, he called Kenseth's cellphone and left a menacing, profanity-laced message. Kenseth and Edwards haven't spoken more than a few words since.
Teammates don't have to be buddies to win in NASCAR, but it sure helps. Just ask Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, November 5, 2007