Armed with fresher tires, Carl Edwards tried to pass Kevin Harvick clean on the final lap of Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway, only for Harvick to deny Edwards' attempt.
That left Edwards with only one option to get around Harvick: He was going to need to use his front bumper and shove Harvick out of the bottom preferred groove entering Turn 3 then motor around to take the win.
"If we would've had one more lap, I could have passed him clean, but it just wasn't going to work without bumping him," Edwards said. "So I decided to hit him as hard as I did. I really didn't want to wreck him, but I thought I moved him enough to get by."
As planned, Edwards ran up on Harvick's bumper and pushed him up the track. Except, Harvick was able to maintain control and not lose any momentum and stayed alongside Edwards coming to the checkered flag with the two twice banging doors.
Harvick beat Edwards by 0.010 seconds, tied for the seventh-closes finish in NASCAR Cup Series history since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993.
"I had a run on him so he banged my door and then as he was going by I thought, ‘Man, I better him to try and slow him down,' " Edwards added. "But I wasn't far enough in front of him when I hit him so it didn't make that much of a difference. Man, just fun."
Having anticipated Edwards trying to execute a bump-and-run pass, Harvick wanted to be able to power out of the slide and avoid hitting the wall. And he had no misgivings with Edwards' forcefulness, because had the roles been reversed Harvick would have done the same — something Harvick told Edwards as much when they spoke on pit road as Harvick was pulling into Victory Lane.
The conversation Sunday between the two rivals — they once engaged in a shoving match in 2008 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — concluded with Edwards and Harvick shaking hands.
"I would have done the same thing, and really after the race that's exactly what we said to each other," Harvick said. "That's really what NASCAR racing is all about. You're coming to the checkered flag and he wants to win for his team and I want to win for my team, and there's a lot on the line. It's definitely the way that things should have been done."
But while the feeling may have been mutual, Edwards wishes the outcome was different.
"I should've wrecked him," Edwards joked before turning serious: "We had an opportunity to win it. That's going to be a tough one to swallow, but it was a lot of fun."