When Robin Pemberton uttered those four words last year in January, a lot of people were curious as to how the drivers would react. Most thought it would equal some emotions being shown, but at the end of the year, it went beyond just a little bit of emotion.
Notably the biggest "Have at it Boys" Story is Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski that started at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
On Lap 39, Keselowski and Edwards made contact on the restart, sending Edwards and Joey Logano into the wall. On the initial replay, it looked as if Keselowski got into the back of Edwards. Though upon further review, Edwards actually came down in front of Keselowski, causing Keselowski to get into him. Either way, blame was placed on Keselowski for the incident.
“He cut down on me on the restart and I couldn't lift faster,” Keselowski said of the accident. “I appologize to him.”
“Looking at that replay, it didn't look as bad as I first thought,” Edwards said. “We were on the restart and I was going for the bottom. I knew Brad was peeking inside, but I thought he'd give me just a little bit of room and he didn't and we ended up overlapping."
"I know Brad (Keselowski) has made his career on being super-aggressive," Edwards continued. "But it's just a little too aggressive overall for that early in the race and caused us to wreck."
Carl Edwards also added that, “Brad is somebody who doesn't ever give me any room.”
After spending numerous laps behind the wall, Edwards returned to the track, looking to make the points loss due to the incident minimal. However, with six laps to go, Edwards did something that’d become the No. 1 hot topic: He retaliated.
Edwards got behind Keselowski with eight laps to go and took three swipes at him, finally wrecking him on the third try. The result was Keselowski flipping upside down on the front stretch at Atlanta Motor Speedway, not injured, and Edwards being parked for the remainder of the race.
After the wreck, Keselowski said Carl Edwards, “decided to just wreck me intentionally down the straightaway and about killed me and a couple thousand people in the grandstands. It’s one thing to race somebody hard and get in an accident when you’re going for position. It’s another to just intentionally wreck someone at 195 mph at a track like this. I know it's ironic that it's me saying that but I didn't do it on purpose."
After the race, Carl Edwards posted the following on his Facebook page:
Considering that Brad wrecks me with no regard for anyones safety or hard work, should I: A-Keep letting him wreck me? B-Confront him after the race? C-Wait til bristol and collect other cars? or D-Take care of it now? I want to be clear that I was surprised at his flight and very relieved when he walked away. Every person has to decide what code they want to live by and hopefully this explains mine.
NASCAR had suspended drivers in the past for incidents of rough driving. Kevin Harvick was suspended for cup race at Martinsville after retaliating in the truck race the previous day while Ted Musgrave was suspended in 2007 for getting into Kelly Bires under the caution. So there were those who were calling for Edwards to be suspended.
“Parking a guy for this race is not enough,” Keselowski said. “I think he deserves at least one race. He could have killed somebody in the grandstands wrecking somebody intentionally. Things happen. We wreck race cars. That’s going to happen and they happen out of the pursuit of competition and the aggression to go out and win.
"But they should not happen at tracks like this, at this speed, out of anger or emotions that are not in check at tracks like this at this speed. The bottom line is, Carl is an awesome guy – one of the best in the garage. But he made a move that was uncalled for and cannot be tolerated in this sport, or we’re going to kill somebody."
“I just have no comment on it,” Edwards said when asked about Keselowski calling for him to be suspended.
Some others within NASCAR Nation, though, agree with Brad Keselowski.
“Well Brad K isn't the first car to flip from Carl this year,” Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spotter TJ Majors posted on twitter. “Lost all respect I had for Carl today. Get a grip. Obviously has no care for being safe. Park him. Teach a lesson.”
"This is a black eye on NASCAR. He (Edwards) shouldn't show up at Bristol." Kyle Petty said on SpeedTV’s show NASCAR Victory Lane.
However, NASCAR made the call not to suspend Edwards. Instead, Edwards was put on probation for three races, no suspension, no fines and no point penalty. Helton added that Edwards "knows what that means."
In pulling Edwards off the track and speaking with him in the trailer, Helton said that NASCAR "wanted to make it clear that this goes beyond what we said in February, and we think the driver of the No. 99 understands that."
In his opinion, he thinks their "reaction of putting Carl in the garage for the rest of the event and our probation is enough."
He went on to add that in talking with both Roger Penske (Brad Keselowski's owner) and Jack Roush (Edwards' owner), they came to this decision and plan to meet up with both drivers to "clean the slate so they can get back to hard racing" as the "drivers need to sort it out themselves."
Of the drivers, Helton added, "If there's a rivalry that goes beyond racing, they need to figure out how to manage that before we get involved in it. It's not as much us mentoring at this point, as it is the two drivers talking it out with the owners listening."
Though Helton went on to add, "There is a line you can cross, and we'll step in to maintain law and order when we think that line is crossed."
When Helton was asked what's crossing the line, he said, "We'll see it when we see it" and then went said, "We may react to first incident different then we'd react to third, forth or fifth incident."
As the announcement broke, drivers and NASCAR members alike began tweeting their opinions, in which some turned out to be quite interesting:
"I wonder what would of happened to me in that situation?" Robby Gordon (@RobbyGordon) questioned. "Hmmm someone playing favorites?"
"Huh!" Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) tweeted soon after. "Surprised by the penalty or lack there of..... I'm thinking about asking for a refund for all of my penalties!!!!"
"Rules or comments of unintended consequences, all any league can do is act, then react, u make rules based on what you know at the time!" Darrell Waltrip (@allwaltrip) tweeted.
"Gotta say I think NASCAR handled the situation the right way, glad 2 c they ackowledged the car getting airborne is the biggest issue." Regan Smith (@Regan_Smith_) tweeted.
"My heading is spinning," Delana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) tweeted. "I can't understand what a 3-race probation actually does. Maybe @kevinharvick should awe shucks more. Seems to work."
"Yo go #nascar!!!" Scott Speed (@scottspeed) tweeted. "3 race probation for Edwards! Awesome I love it!!! I bet Keslowski is scared now lol"
Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) tweeted it best with, "Agree or not, precedence is set. If I'm Driver-X, and somebody's holdin' me up, I ain't a damn bit scared to bomb into 1 and send 'em now."
The story continued to blossom when at Gateway, Edwards turned Keselowski coming to the checkered flag for the win.
A lot of people believed Edwards would be suspended there, however he was not as NASCAR believed it was a racing incident.
NASCAR could have simply done something about the incident, however they didn't and left it in the driver's hands. In the end, it equaled some heated racing yet by the end of the year, the drivers sorted out their issues themselves.
Also, had NASCAR took an offensive approach, they probably would have stopped all the following events with "boys have at it" as people would have been scared.
In the end, Edwards and Keselowski are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to "Have at it Boys" as seen in the video.