Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is leading the point standings coming into this weekend's NSCS race at Martinsville. He addressed the media between practice sessions on Friday.
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion
A SO-SO PRACTICE? "Yeah, it was OK. We spent the whole practice in race trim. We'll focus on qualifying trim the next practice, but this has not been our best race track, so we came here with a bunch of different things to try and we've gone through a few of them. I think we have a fairly decent race car. It's not a rocket ship just yet, but we've got some things we can work on and after this we'll go back to Bob and we can talk a little bit about it and, hopefully, we can come up with something that's good for the long run in the race."
WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO START PAYING ATTENTION TO THE POINT STANDINGS? "I think as competitive as things are right now you've got to pay a little bit of attention to the points at this point in the season because you don't want to get yourself in a hole to where you're playing catch-up the whole time. We'd like to get another win or two before this chase, so we feel like we're locked in, even if something goes bad in the points, but it's really early still to be able to say who is even gonna be in the chase field. I think that anything can happen with the points. We're leading now, but there are a lot of races to go and a lot can happen, especially with the point system now. You can lose so many points having a couple of bad weeks. I don't think anybody is safe."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHEN YOU FIRST CAME TO THIS TRACK? "The first time I came here was in the Truck Series and I drove down to the end of the straightaway and thought, 'You've got to be kidding me. I'm gonna turn this corner with this 3400-pound stock car?' It's a very, very tight race track. It is a half-mile and where I grew up a half-mile is a pretty big race track, but it feels so small in these cars. You would think that would make is simple, but it actually makes it much more difficult because you have less time through the corner to determine what the car is doing and to communicate it with your crew chief. The center of the corner is a very, very short duration here, so you don't have a lot of time to sit there and analyze what the car is doing. You have to be able to pick very small things up and then it's door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper for 500 laps, so it's a mentally-challenging race just to keep your cool."
DO YOU HAVE IT FIGURED OUT YET? "No, I don't have it figured out. I watch everybody. When I'm out there driving around I watch every car. I try to watch what's going on in the garage. I still feel like there are a lot of things I can pick up to be faster here. It's a track where there have been times I thought, 'Oh, I've got this,' but those times are gone. I'm looking for that again right now, so, hopefully I can figure it out."
DID YOU CIRCLE THIS TRACK AS A PLACE YOU NEED TO STEP UP AND IS THERE MORE PRESSURE ON YOU NOW AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON TO DO WELL HERE? "There's always pressure here and there are some guys that run very well here. I think there are some teams that run very well here. I think it's not that me or my teammates can't drive around this place, I think team wide we've yet to figure out whatever the secret is that we're missing to get around this place. There is a little bit of pressure because of that, but it's also that I don't come here with huge expectations, so I can only be pleased. If we go out here and challenge for the win at this race, I'll be the happiest guy in the joint. It would be great. Other than that, we'll just dig hard and, hopefully, we can come up with something good, but it's kind of one of those tracks I do circle it and say, 'Man, that's gonna be a tough one. I hope we've figured something out.'"
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM AT THIS STAGE OF THE SEASON? IF DENNY HAMLIN DOES WELL ON SUNDAY WILL THAT TURN THINGS AROUND FOR HIM? "I haven't been paying much attention to the 11 car's season. I haven't seen exactly what has put them in the hole they're in, but they're a great team. They're a championship-caliber team. If they had Homestead to do over again, I would bet that they would win the championship just as many times as they would lose it, so I don't count them out of anything. They could win here. They could win at Texas. They could win at Darlington, but I know personally, for our team, I'm really looking forward to Texas and I'm really looking forward to Talladega and I'm looking forward to Darlington because I feel like those are our strongest points right now. I guess the bigger question you're asking is, 'Can things change?' And, yes, they sure can. A guy like Denny could sure put something together."
You have to be fast and when you're fast it all just works.
DID IT CHANGE FOR YOU GUYS AFTER PHOENIX LAST YEAR? "It did, but there's a cause and effect. Usually the vibe comes from running well and it's not like you can all of a sudden say, 'OK, we're all gonna be positive and we're gonna win.' You have to be fast and when you're fast it all just works, everything works out, and that's what has been going on with our team. The trick for us is to just keep that going."
DOES THE POINT SYSTEM CHANGE YOUR PREPARATION FOR THIS WEEKEND BEING IT'S NOT YOUR BEST TRACK? DO YOU JUST TRY TO SURVIVE? "I think that's a really good point. Here's an example. In practice I just missed a shift and over-revved the engine a little bit. We're gonna look at that thing and make sure there is nothing wrong with it because if there is, we're gonna change it and start in the back and go get everything we can. We can't risk having something wrong that could fail on lap 50 and finish 42nd or 43rd. The risk is so big right now that if you were to have those days, I think everyone has to guard a little bit more against that kind of stuff, so it does change your mentality just a little."
WILL THAT GET GREATER AND GREATER AS THE SEASON GOES ON? "Oh yeah. The last two or three races I think there will be guys being more cautious to not finish terribly than you've seen under the old point system. It would just be the smart thing to do."
WERE YOU SURPRISED YOU WEREN'T MORE IN THE MIX FOR THE WIN LAST WEEK? "Yes, I was surprised last week that all of our Roush Fenway cars and the struggles that we had during the race. Matt finished fourth with two tires on that last pit stop and we were sixth with no tires, but we didn't have that speed that those front three or four guys had. We just never had it all day. We talked a lot about that this week. That was one of the tracks we thought we'd do really well at, so that was a little bit frustrating. I think we know what we maybe missed there, so that's the only good thing. The test now will be to go to Texas. That's another place we think we're gonna do really well at, and if we can run like we did at Vegas, I'll feel comfortable again."
MARK MARTIN IS MAKING HIS 800TH START ON SUNDAY. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM? "I still learn things from Mark Martin. He's a guy that is making his 800th start and he's probably sitting in the trailer right now going over everything that went on in this practice, caring as much or more than anyone in the garage about how fast he is -- everything in him goes towards being the fastest race car driver he can be, and that level of dedication is something that I didn't really understand. I didn't understand that people were capable of that and then I was around Mark and I thought, 'Man, this guy is giving it 150 percent everytime he goes to the race track,' and I still draw off of that. I still use him as an inspiration when I'm working out or when I'm practicing or talking to Bob. I think about that a lot."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND? "Practicing today and qualifying tomorrow, I think, will test the drivers a little bit more because you're gonna have to remember what that lap was like for 20 hours, whereas you usually get out of the car and you don't have much time or a lot going on between practice and qualifying. Now, I think it'll test who is mentally tough and who can go out there and remember that lap from yesterday and run the perfect lap, so it will be harder."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE MENTAL ASPECT AT THIS TRACK? "The mental aspect of this track is as tough as any of them. It may be close to a road course race in that you have to really race the race track, you have to do your best to ignore the cars that you're racing -- if they're catching you or working you over really hard, you have to keep focused on what you're doing. You've got to give and take, and then in qualifying you don't have any time to mess up. You've got to get your two laps perfect and move on. There's just no room for error. A tenth of a second here is everything, so a hundredth of a second is important."
YOU ENDED KYLE'S 5-RACE WIN STREAK IN THE NATIONWIDE RACE AT TEXAS LAST YEAR. HOW SATISFYING WAS THAT? "We won at Texas? I don't remember? (Laughing) That's where I jumped the restart? (Laughing). That was a satisfying race. We raced hard all day. We had the car to beat. It's all coming back to me now. That was the first time we had driven up to those Gibbs cars and just drove by them and had the fastest car in a long time at a mile and a half, so that was a real satisfying race. I think everybody on the team after that race had a lot more confidence. We realized going into this season, 'Look, if we work on this new engine. We keep working on our cars we'll be able to beat these guys.' That was a big race."
WHAT TYPE OF EDGE CAN A DRIVER GET FROM BEING IN GOOD PHYSICAL SHAPE? "I don't think you have to be in excellent physical condition to drive a race car. I know it helps me. We talked about Mark Martin earlier. He's a guy who says he's 50 or 51, but who knows how old he really is, and he's unbelievable. He doesn't get tired at the end of the races. He's as strong and as fit as anyone, whether they're 18 years old or 30 or 50. He's a tough guy, and I don't speak for him, but I look at him as a guy that I feel like that helps him a lot to stay competitive, not only in each race but each season and throughout his career. So, for me, being fit is important. I feel like at the end of the races I maybe have more of a will to compete and a will to win because I'm not so physically tired as I might be if I didn't work out."
DOES IT HELP TO STAY ON YOUR GAME MENTALLY? "I think it can help you mentally. The bottom line is your health is your health. If you try to do the best you can with your health, that helps you in a lot of ways. I've done it both ways. I used to laugh at people that work out like I do. I used to think that was silly and now that I've kind of committed to it a little bit, I feel a lot better."
The mental aspect of this track is as tough as any of them.
THERE'S A NEW TIRE HERE. HOW IS IT BEHAVING AS FAR AS BUILD-UP ON THE TRACK? "There was a lot of tire build-up out there just in practice -- a lot. The thing that happens here is you get that build-up on the racing line. I didn't see any of that in practice, I just saw a lot of big marbles. I ran up in to them a couple times and it took a full lap to clean them off the tire. The thing that happens here, though, is you get that build-up in the racing lane and that really changes a long run. All of a sudden, you've got to either straddle it or drive under it because if you hit it, it upsets the car really badly. I guess we'll just see if that happens this race."
HAVE BEEN SURPRISED AT HOW GUYS CAN GAIN MULTIPLE SPOTS WITH THE NEW POINT SYSTEM? "Yeah, and I don't know mathematically how that has worked. I don't know if it's because other guys have had bad races or if they have just run that well. I just have to look at it, but it's just math. Somebody has probably done all the math and figured out what the exact differences are in the points, but it looks like -- from the outside -- the big difference in points is at the tail-end of the field. That ratio from 43rd to first is much greater than it used to be, but around 20th-25th it's almost the same. I'd have to look at the math, but it is interesting how much of a change we're seeing. I don't know exactly why that is though."
IS EVERYBODY STILL TRYING TO UNDERSTAND IT? "Yeah, I think everybody is still kind of understanding the ways you can gain or lose from this point system, but, really, it just looks like it's the bad races to me. If I messed up our engine and we don't catch it and we blow up on lap 50 and the guys who are running second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in points finish in the top six or seven, it's gonna really change the way our points look for us. I think that's the biggest danger."
-source: ford racing