CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR placed driver Carl Edwards on probation for three races Tuesday for deliberately wrecking Brad Keselowski’s car last weekend in Atlanta.

Edwards is permitted to drive in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races but will be monitored by NASCAR through the April 10 race at Phoenix.

NASCAR President Mike Helton said Edwards acted unacceptably Sunday but did not cross the line in what the sanctioning body will allow this season. NASCAR promised in January to give the drivers more leeway in policing themselves and settling scores in an effort to energize the sport.

“We made it very clear to (Edwards) that these actions were not acceptable and did go beyond what we said back in January about putting the driving back in the hands of the drivers,” Helton said. “We believe (Edwards) understands our position at this point.”

There had been a strong call from fans and analysts for NASCAR to suspend Edwards, who returned to the track down 153 laps after an earlier accident with Keselowski and was intent on wrecking his car. Edwards tried for at least one lap before succeeding with three laps to go, nudging Keselowski’s car and sending it airborne. The car banged hood-first off a retaining wall before flipping back onto its wheels. No one was hurt.

Keselowski supported NASCAR’s decision.

“They are not in an enviable position when it comes to these matters, but they do an outstanding job,” he said in a statement, adding it was unfortunate the accident overshadowed Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch’s victory.

Edwards acknowledged his action was intentional but said he was surprised by Keselowski’s car taking flight.

Because NASCAR approved greater driver leeway before the season, a severe punishment for Edwards most likely would have quashed the “have at it” attitude after the first test.