Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is second in points heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 400. Edwards has finished first or second in each race of 2011 and talked about his fast start.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – IT IS HIGHLY PLAUSIBLE THAT YOU COULD HAVE WON EVERY RACE THIS YEAR. IS THIS THE BEST START TO A YEAR IN YOUR CAREER EVER? “I would say this is the best start of a season that I have ever had. The fact that we are as competitive as we are every week is great. I was just talking to Jack and I am really excited to practice today and race this weekend and that is fun. It is fun to come every week and know you have a shot to win.”

WERE THERE TIMES BEFORE THIS FAST START WHERE YOU MAYBE DIDN’T WAN TO GO TO TO PRACTICE, OR WEREN’T EXCITED TO RACE? “Every driver, especially at this level, every team goes through times that are tough. It makes these times more special and makes me understand through the hardships that we have had it makes me really appreciate what we have got right now. We have to go get the most out of it that we can. Win the most races we can and set ourselves up to win this championship.”

YOU DISCUSSED LAST WEEKEND THAT YOU STILL OWED KYLE BUSH ONE PRIOR TO THE RACE, BUT THEN YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN HIM OUT TO WIN THE RACE BUY YOU DIDN’T. WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE HIM OUT? “I have thought a lot about last week’s race. I think I did the best I could. I don’t think that my car was fast enough to go up there and compete for the win at the end of the race. On the restarts I was pretty good but we were too far from the end of the race to start running into each other. It could have ended up way worse than a second place finish.”

SO THAT WAS A CONSCIOUS THOUGHT IN YOUR MIND AT THE TIME? “Of course. It is Bristol. I think I did the best job I could. After I thought about it a little bit, I realized that race went pretty well. It was okay. It is hard to finish second. Some guys handle it better than others. Standing there right after the race and knowing you finished second it tough. It is one of the hardest positions in this sport.”

BECAUSE YOU SAID YOU OWED HIM ONE FANS PROBABLY EXPECTED YOU TO TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY ESPECIALLY SINCE IT PROBABLY WOULD HAVE MEANT YOU WOULD HAVE WON. HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY GRIEF FROM FANS OR PEOPLE ABOUT THAT? “No. It boils down to this. I had my shot to pass him and I couldn’t because I wasn’t fast enough. When things got going, his car was just faster. I couldn’t get back to him. If I could have got to him with one or two laps to go then maybe I could have made something happen. I know that is what all the fans wanted to see. Trust me, nobody wanted to see it more than me. I would have loved to be in that position. As it went, I wasn’t even in position to consider that.”

JEFF BURTON SAID THAT IF YOU ARE GOING TO SAY YOU ARE GOING TO OWE SOMEBODY, JUST DO IT, DON’T KEEP SAYING IT. “Yeah, that is fine. People can say whatever they want. I am going to do what I have to do and say whatever I am going to say. That is me.”

AFTER THE PHOENIX RACE KYLE APOLOGIZED BUT YOU SAY YOU STILL OWE HIM. WHY DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY? “The deal is I am just going to go race how I need to race. It is nothing personal. That deal at Phoenix cost me 28 points at least in my opinion. So, the least he can give up is one spot. I don’t know. I told him I owed him one and he asked for me to give it back to him at the All-Star race. You never know. Maybe that is how it will go. This is racing guys. You go to Bristol and are on a guys back bumper and you have a chance and you start thinking of all the little things and all the little reasons behind everything. Really it is fine. Hopefully him and I get to race a bunch this year and hopefully it is good clean racing. It might get exciting, you never know.”

HOW DOES A START LIKE THIS PLAY INTO YOUR FUTURE AND YOUR CONTRACT STUFF WITH JACK? “I don’t know. Right now if we run like this, this will be a great year. The biggest thing I don’t want to do is mess anything up by focusing too much on that. We all work very hard to be in the exact position we are in right now. To be this fast and come to the race track and have a chance to win. I don’t want to mess that up by focusing on the contract right now. We are four races in right now and I don’t want to do anything to mess up this performance.” WOULD YOU LEAVE THE CONTRACT ISSUE ALONE THROUGH THE WHOLE SEASON THEN? “I am leaving it alone for right now. We will just see what happens.”

DO YOU HAVE A TIME TABLE? “No.”

WHEN IT COMES TO PAYBACK OR RIVALRY OR ANYTHING ALONG THOSE LINES, IS IT SOMEWHAT IN YOUR FAVOR AS A COMPETITOR FOR THAT GUY TO KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ONE STASHED IN YOUR BACK POCKET? “I think so. I can tell by the way he drove his car on those restarts that he knew I was there and he was worried about me. That is good. You want a guy to be in that position. At the end of the day, I thought about it a little bit after I got home. I was kind of a little bit whiny after that race. I should have just got out of the car and said that it was a good race and he did a good job and that is the way it is. I was just so frustrated because I wanted to win so bad. It is racing. It is competition. At the end of the day, he had the best car and won the race.”

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH RIVALRY. “I know. I know. I wouldn’t call it a rivalry right now but it is just hard racing and that is what it is.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AROUND THE GARAGE, HOW FIT IS IT COMPARED TO WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN WHEN YOU FIRST CAME INTO THE SPORT? “Real fit. When I first came in there was nobody in the gym. I would be by myself. Now there are tons of guys that are there at the gym and a lot of guys that are fit. I did a deal for Sports Science yesterday and they asked me that question. They asked how I stack up and I got to thinking about it. Guys like Jimmie, Vickers, Mark Martin a number of the guys I see them working out hard. Kasey Kahne. Those guys, I think they all would do really well in any type of insurance situation.”

WHO WOULD BE A BIG CANDIDATE FOR THE BIGGEST LOSER NASCAR EDITION? “Well, I mean Stewart admits all he has to do is eat a little better and work out and he could instantly lose like 30 pounds. The guy is every dieters dream to be a guy like that because at any point he can transform himself. He would probably win that deal.”

THERE ARE A LOT OF GUYS LIKE BURTON AND BIFFLE THAT HAVE LOST A LOT OF POINTS FROM WHERE THEY WERE LAST YEAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK THEIR MENTALITY IS AS FAR AS GETTING BACK IN THIS THING? “I think those guys are going to be good. It think Burton will be right back there and I know Biffle will be. They are fast. All you have to be is fast in this sport. If you are fast it will work out. They have had back luck. They won’t run in that position in points for very long.”

WHAT IS WORKING FOR YOU GOING BACK TO PHOENIX LAST YEAR? WHAT IS DIFFERENT? “It is a number of things really. The team is working really well. It is the engine. Robbie Reiser is doing a good job. Everyone is working well together. It is not one thing. We are just fast and it is for all the right reasons.”

WE SEE GUYS IN THE POINTS LIKE PAUL MENARD THAT WE DON’T EXPECT TO SEE UP THERE AND THERE ARE GUYS THAT ARE STRUGGLING. IS IT MORE BAD LUCK OR THE SURPRISE GUYS. ARE THEY REALLY THAT GOOD? “I think there are a lot of guys that are really good right now. Everybody in the Ford camp has known how good Paul Menard is for a long time. He is a good example of showing people that in the right situation he can go and do really well. I don’t think you can count any of these guys out. None of them are up there because of just good luck. I think some of the guys in the back are because of bad luck. All of these guys are good. There are no favorites anymore. You can be surprised every week.”

HOW TOUGH WILL IT BE FOR GUYS TO COME BACK GIVEN THE NEW POINTS? “It will be tough but as the year goes on there will be guys that have bad luck. We will have races we don’t finish and there will be guys that have trouble. If those guys can run the way they should then they will take advantage.”

WAS THERE A POINT LAST SEASON WHERE YOU SAW A START LIKE THIS YEAR AS A POSSIBILITY? “Yeah, when we went to Phoenix and won that race I thought it was good. I thought that I didn’t know how we would keep it going. Then it happened again at Homestead and I thought it was looking really good. I knew if we could make it through the winter and not lose any ground then we would be real good.”

-source: ford racing