One of the kings of “outlaw” country music- David Allen Coe- may have summed it up best in this little song. I leave it to your interpretation to whom it applies:

I need a little time off for bad behavior
The devil in me done been asleep too long
I need a little time off for bad behavior
It looks like I’ve been too good for too long

Carl Edwards badly wanted a piece of Kyle Busch at Bristol. “I told him after Phoenix that I still owe him one, but I’ll save it up. We were running so hard at that point in the run, I don’t know that you could really bump a guy and just move him. You might cause a big wreck, you might wreck yourself. Jimmie was right behind us. I thought maybe it would give him the win, so I figured we’d let it calm down and we’d just race.” On this day, Edwards (much to the chagrin of some fans) saw the big picture and let Kyle go.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch has been, well, different. Maybe it’s Samantha, maybe it’s the Joe Gibbs influence, it could even be, dare we say it…maturity. Busch let Edwards off the hook. “Carl says what Carl says. I don’t know. Apparently I have one coming. When and where it comes I do not know. I would say the same thing if I owed somebody else something. When and where it comes is more to you than the other guy.’’

There’s a lot of things I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure of this: the 18 and 99 will be seeing a lot of each other in an up close and personal way throughout much of this year. The scene at the finish line we saw Sunday at the Jeff Byrd 500 will, I’m sure, be what we see a bunch of throughout this year.

It could be quite the face off. Behind that Pepsodent smile, Edwards stuffs a capacity for volcanic eruption and a long memory. Can you say Brad Keselowski, anyone? Come at Carl with a brick, and he’ll come back with an AK47. On the other hand, Shrub has had little use for patience and doesn’t seem to care what you think of him. Just ask his brother Kurt.

It could escalate to the place NASCAR steps in, and puts a limiter on the “have at it boys” policy with a little time for confession, reflection and repentance. The two have seen enough of the NASCAR hauler to offer a complete visual description. 

Of course, there is one other factor to consider….

Jimmie Johnson sat behind this dueling duo, ready to pounce….and they knew it. Edwards more or less inferred a Busch victory would have been easier to live with than letting the champion pick one off this way. In true cool and cunning fashion Jimmie takes his third place finish, knowing there’ll be more of this to come, and that may mean opportunity.

Sooner or later, we’ll get down to the bottom of who Kyle and Carl really are. Is winning a championship more important, or settling a score? Who is the bigger man? Is there a bigger man among them? Who defines it? If you ask me, if Edwards has any sense, he will let Phoenix go. It wasn’t that big a deal, and furthermore, it hasn’t set him back much. As for Busch, I really don’t think he cares, until the moment Edwards gets into him. At that point, Busch just might lose his religion; but for now, just keep in mind this pair has the upper hand. Right behind them, there’s a legion of competitors named Johnson, Stewart, Gordon and Kyle’s older brother Kurt who would themselves say, “Have at it boys, it makes my job a little easier.”

Historically, NASCAR has had a reputation for being a brawlers sport. This has more of the feel of a Mexican stand off. Who can keep his cool? Who can’t get out of his own way well enough to avoid making the rash right turn?

It’s a tense feeling, isn’t it?