Daytona 500 Post-Race News Conference February 20, 2011
An interview with CARL EDWARDS - 2nd place finisher DAVID GILLILAND - 3rd place finisher
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our post race press conference for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500. What a race it was. Our race runner-up is Carl Edwards. Our third-place finisher is David Gilliland.
Carl, take us through that last final green-white-checkered finish where you just made up a tremendous amount of ground and almost got there at the end of the race.
CARL EDWARDS: Well, David, he pushed me. That's what I needed. That's what our Aflac Ford needed. All day we waited and waited, tried not to tear up the racecar. There at the end it all worked out almost perfectly. Trevor, he did a good job of blocking the bottom. Then that car was a rocket. Took off to the finish line. We didn't have a chance to be able to mount up a real charge on him.
I'd love to see a replay of the last lap to watch it from the outside. Man, I learned a lot today. I think that I can tell you guys that second place in the Daytona 500 feels way worse than any other position I've ever finished in the Daytona 500. But that is made better by listening to Trevor and how excited he is. He is really a nice young man, a great guy to represent this sport with this win.
KERRY THARP: Our third-place finisher, David Gilliland. David, take us through your afternoon. Certainly your car was extremely strong and you just did a super job out there today.
DAVID GILLILAND: Yeah, we had a great day. Our Taco Bell Ford was really good. Same as Carl. It's a 500-mile race. I don't think I finished the last three or four restrictor plate races we've ran just running good. Knew we needed to be there at the end. Everybody at Front Row Motorsports did a good job of giving us a good racecar and we knew that. Had to preserve it to the end.
We talked to Carl a little bit, Jason, his spotter, that last restart. We were going to try to get hooked up if we could. We were able to. The two Fords were going to the front. We needed that start/finish line up a little bit.
Congratulations to Trevor Bayne. He's been great down here all week. Like Carl said, great for the Wood Brothers. Good to see him.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for David or Carl.
Q: David, finishing third in this race versus when you broke through with the Nationwide race at Kentucky, can you compare and contrast?
DAVID GILLILAND: It's right up there. Without the first win, I wouldn't be here to win third. Real excited. I finished second at Infineon. I think this tops that. It's Daytona. Just really proud of our team. In the media day last week, I told a bunch of the people you can look for Front Row Motorsports to be the most improved team from last year.
We stepped up our motor program to run the FR-9 motor. Bob Jenkins bought a bunch of motors from RPM. It's taken us 10 steps ahead on the competition side. I'm proud to have weathered the storm last year and now have a top-three finish at Daytona for not only myself, but Bob Jenkins. He does this deal out of his pockets. To come and do that and be here with the success is something to be proud of.
Q: Carl, I know a lot happens in a big hurry off of turn four. How close to the line were you before you realized you weren't going to make it?
CARL EDWARDS: I realized it once I lost my momentum behind Trevor that I wasn't going to win. I was telling David, if we would have gone to the high side, I think we would have gone around them if we didn't get broken up. But then I think David probably would have won because he would have been able to go by me.
So I think I was pretty much in trouble no matter what. I'm not sure. I'd need to see the replay again. It's like I said earlier, I think the experiences of running with a chance to win these races, that's what I need to go and break through to the next level and win some of these restrictor plate races, and I think I got some of that today.
Q: Carl, for like about 400 laps, I never saw you. Can you talk about your strategy.
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know if you guys noticed, but that was pretty wild out there today (smiling). I kind of decided that I'd like to be there at the end, so I did my best just to be there at the end. That's not real flashy. That doesn't look great for TV sometimes. But we were there at the end and that's what I had to do.
Q: What was your closest call out there? It was chaos all day long.
DAVID GILLILAND: Mine was the 2 car. I had a couple of 'em. But the 2 car spun and got in the wall and came down and I had to turn off the track into the grass. Felt like he just barely missed me. I thought we were going to be wrecked in that deal. Just turned kind of at the last minute. That was mine.
CARL EDWARDS: Mine was going through the tri-oval, I got sideways. Slid for felt like a hundred yards. I thought it was over. That was a close call.
Q: Did somebody hit you?
CARL EDWARDS: I think I went down the apron. The 6 was pushing me. Man, that was pretty sideways.
Q: Carl, all during last season when the ratings were down, the drivers kept saying, This racing is better than it's ever been. That was proved today. Do you think we need to maybe start paying more attention to what you're saying?
CARL EDWARDS: Do you think (smiling)? Man, that's the smartest guy in the room right there (laughter).
I think that the ratings, whatever scores we can look up, all that stuff, that doesn't tell the story of what's going on out there on the racetrack. We really do have the most competitive racing that I've ever been a part of, the closest battles. We have races like we had today with, you know, a new winner, up-and-coming guy in the sport that's tied to so much history with the Wood Brothers. This is as good as it gets, guys.
If people aren't watching, that's their problem, because we got some great stuff going on here.
Q: No Hendrick cars, no Childress cars, no Gibbs cars in the top five, yet 2-under dogs in Gilland and Trevor Bayne. Can you both speak to it what it means to have an underdog day in the biggest race of the year.
CARL EDWARDS: You know, as a competitor, in a way it really doesn't matter who beats you. But as a person, you know, as a friend of Trevor's, it's amazing to watch him have that success. I've only known him for a short time, but he's what seems to be truly a good guy. I think a lot of people in the sport see that. Hopefully a lot of the fans see that. So that's good for the sport. I still would have liked to beat him, that's for sure.
DAVID GILLILAND: I think it's good. It's a credit to NASCAR and their new rules with the new cars, trying to get the rules closer, to let teams like us, Front Row Motorsports, have a chance to come out here and be competitive on a track like this.
I think a lot of it's the rules and credit to NASCAR making these races more competitive, you know, tightening up the rules. I like it. It gives us a chance.
Q: Carl, you mentioned you've known Trevor for a little bit. He was introduced to the world today. What can you tell some of the people about him? What's been your experiences on the track, off the track, that stand out about him?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I think the world's going to like him a lot. I think he's going to have a lot of fun this week. I think he'll do a good job of representing the sport in whatever he does this week. He's a guy that has a ton of enthusiasm. He'll walk right up to you, stick his hand out, just seems like a really good guy.
I mean, when you're competing against people, you don't always have that kind of feeling about them, that you really like being around them. Hey, maybe now if he keeps winning races, maybe we won't get along so well. But he just seems like a great guy.
Q: Carl, you didn't seem to be upset that he denied your dance request there on the backstretch. Can you talk a little bit about what you were looking for, and what would have happened had you been able to connect with him?
CARL EDWARDS: When was this? During the race?
Q: Yeah, during the race. You radioed to him you were looking for some help.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I don't know. I think he was working with someone else at that time. That's fine. You got to go with whoever's working with you the best.
I would change one thing about the race, but other than the finishing position, I wouldn't change anything about that race. That was chaotic enough that if any single event were different, I might be sitting there in the trailer with a wrecked racecar. Whatever worked out between us worked out well.
Q: Did that whole dynamic of trying to find a partner in the middle of this maelstrom, did this make this race unlike any other you've ever been in?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it did. It was hard. Man, it was mentally taxing, very tough mentally. My head hurts right now. I don't know if it's from dehydration or stress. It's a very stressful race. That was part of it, just having to communicate with people through spotters or switching over to the radio, hand signals, whatever you could do. There was a lot of communication going on.
Q: Carl, the Roush Fenway engines proved to be durable today. The much touted Earnhardt/Childress racing engines didn't. Once again, the power of the Ford engines has been touted a lot and no one took it seriously till today. Once again, should we listen better?
CARL EDWARDS: Is that the same guy (smiling)?
Doug Yates and those guys build great engines. I think that they had been doing a great job with the old engine. Now we have this new engine, we may have a lot to look forward to. That was a really good day for the engine. I don't want to jinx it or anything, but I'm really excited to run that engine for the whole year.
Q: Carl, I know you said second place sucks, but considering that a lot of the guys you're probably going to contend with this year for the championship had really bad days, and the fact with this new points system that's a bigger penalty than it's ever been in the past, is it good to get through here with a good finish and not start behind the eight ball?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn't say that. I do understand exactly what you're saying. Look, right now this is going to be a long night for me. I'm going to go back to the motorhome, I'm going to watch the replay, think about a hundred things I could have done, think about, man, what would it have been like to finish the race. I'm going to go to Phoenix next week and look at the points and think this was okay. We'll race Daytona 500 again next year.
There is a very bright side to our day today. We are going to have bad days. It's nice to get out of this one, considering the chaos that was going on, it is nice to get out of here with a great points run.
Q: Carl, thinking back to your first Cup win, can you talk about what you think Trevor's actually experiencing right now.
CARL EDWARDS: He's about to have the greatest week of his life. I mean, until he has children, I will never forget my first win. I hope I never forget it. The next day I went to New York, rang the bell at the Stock Exchange. I didn't even have any stock. It was a whirlwind for me, and I won a race -- I didn't win the Daytona 500.
I'll hopefully get to talk to him a little bit this week. If any of you get a chance, go over there and hang out with him. When he comes in here, walk by him. It's amazing. He'll be walking on air, that's for sure.
Q: Carl, you mentioned last week about the momentum you carried over from the past year. Do you feel it's momentum for you and your team? How much of that is Ford?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I think we've got a lot of positive things going on, a lot of 'em. Our performances have been good. We got a win, a win and a second. That's a pretty good streak to be on. You never know what's going to happen. But a couple tracks coming up are really good for us. I feel really good about it. I think Ford's in a great spot.
A win at the Daytona 500 for Ford, for Doug Yates, for all of us is huge. This season picked up right now so far right where we left off and I'm having fun.
Q: Can you talk about Trevor's skills on the track. We heard about his personality, but what about behind the wheel?
DAVID GILLILAND: I think he's done a great job. I watched him all weekend. He was in a different Duel than me. He definitely has everybody's respect out there. That's what it takes.
Obviously on a day like today, for him to stay out front all day really, people to work with him, I think he's done a fantastic job.
I think obviously it's neat that he won the Daytona 500. Like Carl said, he's such a great guy, nice guy, upbeat guy always, I'm glad he won today. Wish we could have, obviously. But if we couldn't, it's good for him. And the Wood Brothers are great people. They deserve it.
CARL EDWARDS: Seems like he's got it figured out. He does really well in the Nationwide Series. That's where I've raced with him the most. Seems like he just has massive talent. He hasn't done anything dumb. That's hard for us sometimes as drivers (smiling). He's done a really good job of keeping his composure. He just hasn't made any mistakes, which we all make mistakes, but he hasn't made any more than anyone else. He drives like a veteran.
Q: Carl, if anybody can appreciate Trevor's situation, not having a full-time ride, it's you. Can you know what he's having to do, knocking on the door?
CARL EDWARDS: I hadn't thought about it that way. In 2005, we didn't have a full sponsorship for the year. We won the race at Atlanta. That got my career rolling. Hopefully it works out the same way for Trevor. Hopefully they can get a full-time sponsorship.
Him and I talked a little bit in the off-season about what he was going to do. He was a little nervous at the time about committing to a partial Cup schedule. We talked. We said, Look, man, just go out and run great and you won't be a partial Cup driver.
Hopefully corporate America or someone will take notice that this young man will be a great representative for them and he can run the full series. I believe he could be very, very tough, especially as he gets more experience.
Q: Carl, yesterday you worked with Trevor. Did he impress you while you were working with him? All week long we've been trying to figure out how this two-car drafting would work once we got to the 500. A lot of people told me we'd see a real calm first part of the race, then all heck would break loose. Seemed to be the exact opposite. How did the race go in terms of how that two-car draft worked compared to how you expected it to go?
CARL EDWARDS: First of all, yeah, working with Trevor a little bit before, then watching him in the 150, all that, I was very confident he knew what he was doing.
Second, that was like 520 miles of sheer terror out there. It was just wild. The only reason we didn't wreck more often is because of how good the drivers are and I felt like how much patience everyone used and discretion with their maneuvering and things like that. I felt like everyone did a really good job.
If that were a lesser group of drivers out there on the racetrack, this would have been really, really bad. The circumstance we were all put in, it made it very, very easy to wreck. Which is okay, by the way. That's all right. That's the way it was.
Q: Carl, lap 182, you ran over the brake rotor. What happened to your car? Did you think it was over for you?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that was wild. All of you sitting here, imagine going 200 miles an hour, that gray little wall in front of you is all you can see. That's like the back bumper of Kasey Kahne's car on lap 182, I'm staring at the back bumper. All of a sudden it tilted this way. I thought, All right, my car tilted or his car tilted. I don't know which one tilted, but everything went like this. I thought I blew a front left tire. I backed off and saw that his right front was down and my left front was down. So he blew a rotor, shot debris back. That was one of the bullets we dodged.
Super fortunate it happened where it happened. I could pull onto pit road. You couldn't get any luckier than that.
KERRY THARP: Guys, thank you for getting off the 2011 season in such fine form. We look forward to Phoenix. Thank you very much.