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HAMPTON, Ga. -- There's a severe drought gripping the Atlanta area, but it might not have seemed that way to Carl Edwards.

When it rains, it pours, and it remained open season on Edwards in the Nextel Cup garage at Atlanta Motor Speedway as the fallout continued following his altercation with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.

After heavy criticism of Edwards from Roush teammates Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray during the week, Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler were among those who piled on amidst practice and qualifying sessions for Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at the 1.5-mile oval.

The video clip of a menacing Edwards faking a punch at Kenseth after Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway was approaching 400,000 views on YouTube. Kenseth said earlier in the week he was glad the exchange was caught on camera because Edwards' "behavior has been real erratic lately, honestly.

"You don't know what to expect with him," Kenseth said, leveling a charge backed up by Biffle and McMurray. "One minute, he has so much respect for you, and he's real friendly and everything's so much fun. The next minute he wants to kick your butt and he's swearing at you. It's a little scary."

Busch claims not to have seen the video but said he didn't need to do so to understand why Edwards is known as "The Carl" in the Roush Fenway camp.

"He is 'The Carl,'" said Busch, who drove for Roush from 2000-05. "He seems to not be getting along with some of the other drivers that are over there. I've seen it all along with him. He'll give you that flashy smile but at the same time he's got something underneath his breath for you. Now it's just starting to appear."

Sadler engaged in a shouting match with Edwards after being bumped from the lead on the final lap of a Busch race at Richmond International Raceway in May 2005. Sadler said after the race that he was "more of a man" than Edwards.

"He didn't like some of the things I said in the paper," Sadler said. "He came and confronted me at the driver's meeting the next day pretty much in the same manner he did with Kenseth.

"Racing with Carl, he seems to have a lot of problems with a lot of different people. Hitting Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. after the race in Michigan, attacking him in victory lane and then attacking Matt. I think he is one of the best race car drivers in our sport. Carl Edwards can do a lot of amazing things with a racecar. I just think sometimes he can't control his attitude. He's really a nice guy. He really is. He just sometimes lets his attitude get the best of him."

During his weekly Chase for the Nextel Cup media session, Kenseth reiterated much of what he said Tuesday during his weekly Q&A with USA TODAY, adding that he and Edwards still hadn't discussed the incident and disagreeing with Edwards' complaint of a lack of team spirit.

"Everything on the team is great," Kenseth said. "Right now, all the crew chiefs are getting along better than they were a year ago. They're sharing information better."

The 2003 champion also found the humor in the fracas, which has supplanted the championship battle between Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon as the hottest story in NASCAR's premier series.

"I'm not the biggest guy in the world and I was glad I didn't get my butt kicked," said Kenseth, who gives up 4 inches and about 30 muscle-laden pounds to Edwards. "After watching it I was glad he pulled back.

"Obviously it was kind of ugly, but it gave you guys something to talk about all week, so that part was good. Everybody was sick of talking about Jimmie and Jeff driving away, leading the points thing, so this kind of spiced everything up a little."

Kenseth and Edwards turned identical laps (189.818 mph) in qualifying, but speed was the only thing the duo shared on Friday. During his meeting with the media, Edwards apologized again but disagreed with Kenseth's assertion of not realizing their feud had been festering. He also reaffirmed that he and Kenseth barely had spoken for six months — a fact Kenseth had refuted three hours earlier.

"Matt knows and I know what's gone on between us," he said. "It's really (not) something that should play out in the media. It's kind of been blown up a little bit more than what it is.

"I learned a lot this week how people felt about me, which is nice. A lot of people don't mind walking around feeling a certain way about you, and they don't say how they feel until it's popular to say it."

After winning the pole Friday, Biffle seemed ready to put the matter behind.

"We've thrown a lot of stones over the last week, everyone involved in this thing," he said. "Really the moral of the story is Carl was out of line, and he's admitted that. We just need to mend that relationship between him and Matt, and we need to race each other better on the track. that's what it boils down to you. It's not personality conflicts or who's friends with who. It's how you race one another on the track."

That's how the squabble also was viewed by team co-owner Jack Roush, who prefers not to meddle in such conflicts between his drivers.

"Very seldom do I feel the need to become engaged with the running of the race from a crew chief and a driver point of view," Roush said. "By maintaining a pretty much hands-off policy toward the development of the race is what NASCAR looks for. I think it's in the interest of fair play as seen by the fans. I don't see a greater participation myself to try to stave off a conflict or a dispute that could potentially occur.

"This is an overtly aggressive, competitive, potentially combative circumstance that occurs between all the drivers on the race track. In the case between Matt and Carl, it wasn't just what happened at Martinsville, it was the fact that there had been some conflicts and some hard feelings that had smoldered for some period of time. By having discussion and thinking about the things that are in the common best interest for their careers, I'm sure that reason will prevail going forward."

An unlikely ally: Despite the fact they hail from neighboring states with a long history of feuding, Edwards of Columbia, Mo., and Clint Bowyer of Emporia, Kan., have become good friends. Bowyer was among the lone voices in Edwards' corner Friday.

"Oh yeah, I'm going to stick up for him," Bowyer said. "That's Martinsville. That's the nature of the beast, and your temper can get the best of you there more than any place. My temper flares more at Martinsville than at Bristol (Motor Speedway) any day of the week. It's just so hard to pass there."

Red Bull rumblings: Team Red Bull boss Guenther Steiner said the team hasn't decided whether it would add a third car for Scott Speed when the former Formula One driver, who will run the ARCA series next year, is ready to move to Cup.

But if the two-car team, which currently fields Toyotas for Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger, were to expand, additional Camrys wouldn't be sponsored by Red Bull, the energy drink company that also owns the operation.

"First we need to see how Scott performs, but if we did a third car we would try to finance it somehow differently," Steiner said. "To have three Red Bull cars doesn't make sense. There is a plan, but at the moment in Cup, we want to perform with two cars at highest level and then proceed to three to four cars in the future."

Steiner, a veteran of more than a decade in Formula One as a technical director at Red Bull and a managing director at Jaguar, said he was surprised by the level of competition in Cup. Vickers and Allmendinger both made Sunday's race, but Team Red Bull has failed to qualify in 36 of 66 attempts.

"I didn't expect it to be this tough," he said. "I'm the first one to say I underestimated this sport and as a company, we underestimated it. In Formula One, if you have the money and the technology, you can be winning, and no one comes near you. You're not allowed to do that here. That's a good thing that NASCAR looks after because that makes the sport so attractive to the public. I quite enjoy it."
 
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