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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 19, 2010

Auto racing: Edwards defends character after Keselowski crash

AP Auto Racing Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. Carl Edwards vigorously defended himself Friday against criticism of his character, dismissing accusations that he's a phony who suffers from anger management issues.

"That's all they can say about me because it's hard for them to accept that I am a decent guy," Edwards said moments before climbing into his car at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he was back at the track for the first time since he intentionally wrecked Brad Keselowski two weeks ago at Atlanta.

The accident with Keselowski has opened Edwards to criticism inside the NASCAR garage. Publicly, Kevin Harvick called Edwards "fake as hell" this week in a radio interview, while others have privately wondered if the veteran driver has problems controlling his anger.

Harvick feuded with Edwards two seasons ago and didn't back off his assessment of Edwards on Friday.

"As far as the fake comment," he began, "you can't be the nice guy, you can't be the bad guy, and you can't be the bully. So, I mean, that's just how I feel about that."

Edwards, widely lauded for being polite, personable and approachable, quickly fired back.

"I have absolutely no respect for Kevin Harvick," he said. "I think he's a bad person. That's my opinion. I've told him that. We've had our deal before and his actions through that interaction were so devious and underhanded and cowardly that, it's like, I just have no respect for him.

"When people like that question me, it makes me feel better because if those people were lined up patting me on the back I'd be on the wrong side of what's right and wrong. And I truly believe that."

And just like that, the spotlight on the feud between Edwards and Keselowski shifted to the mutual dislike between Edwards and Harvick. Their rivalry dates to October 2008, when both were in the thick of the championship race.

Harvick criticized Edwards on national TV after Edwards triggered an accident at Talladega, and Edwards responded by leaving a sarcastic note on Harvick's airplane. A week later, Edwards confronted Harvick in the garage at Charlotte, and it quickly turned physical. Photographs of the incident showed Edwards grabbing Harvick around the throat, and the two had to be separated by Harvick's crew members.

It wasn't the first time Edwards was caught in an unflattering moment. TV cameras were present in 2007 when he confronted Matt Kenseth after a race in Martinsville. After brief words, Edwards raised his fist as if he was going to punch his Roush Fenway Racing teammate.

It's those flashes that have created a stir about Edwards' ability to manage his anger.

Asked if he had an anger issue Friday, he chuckled and said "No."

"It's really simple: I treat everyone the best way I can possibly treat them, that's the way I was raised, but I stand up for myself," he said. "I am not trying to be a good guy or a bad guy, that's just who I am.

"All those people that say whatever they say, know that if I have an issue with them, I go speak to them. I don't run around behind their back and talk like little girls. That's what a lot of them do. I learned that wasn't cool in about fifth grade."