NASCAR & Auto Racing

Gentlemen, start your ... Wait! Gentlemen, please!

CONCORD, N.C. - Sprint Cup drivers Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards were summoned to the NASCAR hauler hours before Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The two were involved in a heated physical and verbal confrontation in the Nationwide Series garage area on Thursday, photographs of which were distributed Saturday afternoon by The Associated Press.

Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president of corporate communications, confirmed that Harvick and Edwards were called to a meeting with Mike Helton, president, and Robin Pemberton, the company's vice president of competition.

"We wanted to make sure everything is fine between the drivers and (the incident) is behind them," Hunter said. "We're convinced it is."

The photographs show a more physical confrontation than witnesses described, with Edwards at one point grabbing Harvick by the throat.

The two NASCAR stars argued during Thursday's practice when Edwards confronted Harvick in his garage stall at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The photographs show the two drivers clutching each other as their conversation grew heated.

Witness accounts said the two argued, Harvick turned to walk away from Edwards, and Edwards grabbed his shoulder to turn him back around. Witnesses said Harvick responded by shoving Edwards onto the car, and crew members rushing in to separate the two.

Edwards allegedly was put in a headlock by a Harvick associate as the drivers were separated.

Asked about the incident on Thursday, NASCAR officials had termed it a "non-issue" and took no action. That changed Saturday.

The two have been squabbling since last Sunday, when Edwards triggered a 12-car crash that took out several championship contenders at Talladega Superspeedway. Edwards immediately accepted blame for the accident.

Harvick was among the drivers most critical of Edwards and his strategy, which had been to run in the back of the field during the early part of the race to avoid danger, then charge to the front when the win was on the line.

The Associated Press contributed to this acticle.

A little more to ponder while waiting for a Saturday night green flag at Lowe's Motor Speedway:

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Kasey Kahne won both the all-star race and the Coca-Cola 600 here in May and could become the first driver to go three-for-three in one year. Kahne was second fastest in Friday evening's first practice session, so it looks like he has a good car to try it with.

2. Jimmie Johnson has a 72-point lead in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, but he blew an engine and finished 39th here in May. Johnson has a great record here, but another Charlotte misstep could bring more challengers back into the title picture.

3. Some of the racing chaps haven't been exactly playing nice with each other lately. Will ill feelings that started with a wreck at Talladega last weekend and carried over into the garage here find there way onto the race track Saturday night?

OBSERVATIONS / DAVID POOLE

Downplay or capitalize?

Here's one difference in how this track is being run now that Humpy Wheeler no longer works here.

A track photographer had photos showing Thursday's scuffle between Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards, but the track elected not to make those available to the media. If Wheeler still had been running things, the pictures would have been on the wire in 10 minutes and he would have had billboard-sized prints of them posted outside the track by daybreak Friday.

The current regime chose to play it another way, and you can make up your own mind whether it's good or bad. But it is absolutely different.

If this team can't make a deal ...

JR Motorsports announced a partial sponsorship deal for its No. 5 Nationwide Series team for 2009, but it still doesn't have a sponsor, at least not one ready to be announced, for the No. 88 Chevrolets and Brad Keselowski.

If a team owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. is finding it hard to find sponsors, you know the economy is bad.

Honest, the card is in the mail

Friday, by the way, was Earnhardt Jr.'s 34th birthday - in case you forgot to get him a card or anything.

JUST THE FACTS

What: Bank of America 500.

Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Track type: 1.5-mile trioval with 24 degrees of banking in the turns.

Race distance: 500 miles (334 laps).

When: 7:25 p.m. Saturday.

Weather: Mostly cloudy, 70 degrees.

TV: ABC.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.

OBSERVER PICKS

DAVID POOLE

Carl Edwards probably wouldn't win a popularity contest in the garage area this weekend, but fortunately for him it's a race and not an election.

Winner: Carl Edwards.

JIM UTTER

I have seen this movie at Charlotte more times than I care to remember.

Winner: Jimmie Johnson.

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