Carl Edwards said he accepted NASCAR's points penalty in light of the other cars that were wrecked as a result of his incident with Brad Keselowski at Gateway last weekend, but offered no signs of regret for his actions otherwise.
"It's not OK to move me out of the way," Edwards said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "If somebody else wants to let people move them out of the way for the win, then that's OK with me. They can do whatever they like. I can't allow myself to be run over like that."
Edwards scoffed at Keselowski's claim that the initial contact between the two was unintentional. He said several times that Keselowski knew exactly what he was doing when he tapped Edwards and made a pass on the final lap, and said the Penske Racing driver was too good to make a mistake like that.
"I believe that he did not make a mistake – that was intentional," Edwards said. "He moved me out of the way to gain an advantage – and it almost worked. He almost won the race. You know, that's what he did. NASCAR knows what happened and he knows what happened and that's why they penalized him.
"I'm telling you as a race car driver – and any other race car driver will tell you – that wasn't a slip-up. And if it was a slip-up, you have a little bit of insurance you leave yourself when you go down in the corner like that. On the last lap, you might not say, 'I'm going to drive down in this corner and hit this guy,' but trust me, it's real easy to say, 'I'm going to drive down into this corner a little bit harder than I have, consequences be damned – and this guy's going to be the one that pays.'"
And because of Edwards' firm belief that Keselowski hit him on purpose – thus potentially snatching a win away – Edwards said he was left with no choice but to retaliate.
If it had been another driver, Edwards said he could have given him the benefit of the doubt. Given their past history, Edwards was certain he needed to stand up for himself.
"I didn't get here by allowing anybody to run over me," he said. "I gotta say 'Thank you' to my fans who understand what happened there. It's simple: He took the win away from me; I took it back from him. The only bad part is, other people were involved. I apologize to those people and accept my penalty for it.
"It is very possible to be kind, but not be weak. There's a big difference. I feel like as a person, it's my job to be kind to people, treat everybody the way I like to be treated. But I will not be walked on. I will not be stepped on. The people who are my fans and the people who know me, they respect that. And the other ones, they either can't understand it or they don't want to."
Edwards said every single person who has approached him this week has expressed support and told Edwards he did the right thing at the end of the race. He said multiple drivers have said the same thing to his face.
If the situations were reversed, Edwards said, he would not have hit Keselowski's car. If he did, he said he wouldn't have "taken advantage of it as much as he did."
"I would truthfully rather have finished second in that race and had a good race...than the way the race went," he said.
Edwards insisted that there was little difference between his actions and Keselowski's – even if the outcomes were not the same. Edwards said he could just have easily been turned into traffic like Keselowski did and gotten creamed by oncoming cars.
"I've learned that it's better not to go out and initiate contact to gain an advantage," he said. "I'm not the one initiating these instances. I just did a better job keeping my car under control."
To that end, Edwards said he was initially surprised by NASCAR's penalties (since NASCAR had indicated Saturday night that there would be none) but was pleased officials recognized Keselowski's part in the incident and penalized him as well.
"NASCAR, at the beginning of the year, said 'Take the gloves off. Have at it. Go race,'" Edwards said. "I still think NASCAR accepts that's the best way. There are unintended consequences to that, and the torn-up cars that weren't mine or Brad's, that's a bad result."
Edwards said he has no plans to speak with Keselowski – figuring it would accomplish very little – but said there's nothing personal between the two drivers.
"The idea (after Atlanta) was we were supposed to go forward and race one another clean," he said. "It's tough, guys. Any driver that's being honest will tell you that when you're put in that position, it's very tough to decide what to do. But when you've repeatedly had trouble with somebody, it becomes not so tough."
Edwards said people who have spoken to him suggested he should have lied in Victory Lane to make it sound as if his actions were unintentional. But they weren't, and that's just part of his personal code.
"When someone takes something from you, you can either live with that – and Saturday night, I couldn't – or you go get it back," he said. "I just go do the very best I can, guys. And when I was done, I walked out of there with my head held high."