Carl Edwards, the current points leader, met with members of the media after the first practice session Friday at Kansas Speedway. Edwards finished second behind teammate Greg Biffle who followed Edwards in the media center.
CARL EDWARDS, driver No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – YOU GOT YOUR START HERE IN KANSAS IN A TRUCK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE START OF YOUR CAREER AND ALSO YOUR CAR FOR THIS SUNDAY? “It was the opportunity that Mike Mittler gave me here at Kansas in his 63 truck in 2002 and we ran eighth which was a huge day. It was huge. That win kind of got things rolling, so to speak, in my career. Then we won that race in 2004 here in the Truck Series and it was an unreal race. I was racing too hard on the first lap and smacked the fence and then came back and won the race. It was a very special win. In 2008 we almost had the victory here and had that last lap battle with Jimmie Johnson. I told Bob this week that this race is really important to me; I mean all of them are, but to win here in the Cup Series would be huge. We have what seems to be a really fast race car and practice went really well. It is going to be hot and slick which should be a lot of fun. I am just glad to be here racing and looking forward to it.”
ON A HOT WEEKEND LIKE THIS IS IT A BIGGER CONCERN HOW THE HEAT AFFECT THE CAR OR HOW IT AFFECTS YOU? “That is my trainer Dean there sitting next to you in the gray hat. He works hard with me and we try to be as prepared as we can be as far as the physical fitness part of it. The deal is that there are a lot of guys out there are physically fit and if they aren’t fit they are just plain tough. What ends up happening is that a car and the affects of heat on the race track and the way the tire interacts and the speed slowing down I think has a bigger impact on the outcome of the race than the driver fitness and ability to handle the heat. It is definitely two parts and I think that is a good way to ask that question. I think the car and the slick race track will have a bigger impact on the outcome of the race.”
FROM AN EMOTIONAL STANDPOINT, HAVE YOU EVER FOUND THAT THE HEAT WILL MAKE YOU ACT IN A WAY YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE IN A COOLER SITUATION? “I can see your article right now in my head. I don’t know if that is the case. I don’t know if tempers and ambient temperature, if there is a big correlation there. It would make for a good story though. If you want to write it, go for it I guess. I just got off your hook there for a second didn’t I? Oh yeah, tempers are going to flare just as much as the sun beats down on the race track. It is going to be insane (laughter). No, I don’t know. It is going to be a tough race. It is only 400 miles, so that will help, but I do think it will be a tough race not only for the drivers but the guys on pit road, the spotters, everyone. You start to get uncomfortable and it is easy to make mistakes.”
YOU WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MESS LAST WEEKEND ON THE RESTART. DID YOU THINK THERE WAS GOING TO BE A CAUTION AND DID YOU THINK THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ONE? “As it turned out it didn’t look like it needed to be a caution. A caution would have helped us a lot, so from that perspective I wish there would have been one. NASCAR has to do the best they can and they didn’t feel like they needed to throw a caution there and in the end everyone finished the race safely. That is a lot bigger decision than I am paid to make.”
CAN YOU GO THROUGH YOUR ITINERARY THIS WEEKEND WITH THE RACE IN CHICAGO? “We are going to run the second practice here, make some qualifying runs and then go over to the airport, hop in the Cessna and fly out to Chicago. We are going to run the last practice up there, which I think is from 7:30 to 8:30, and then fly back to the track here tonight. We will qualify in the morning and I don’t think there is any more Cup practice, so I think we will be able to make it. We have my buddy Steve going with us and sometimes he is a little late for things. If we don’t have to wait on Steve we should make qualifying and then the drivers meeting and everything for the Nationwide race. Steve is in the back there and I am just giving him a hard time.”
SO YOU WILL GET BACK AT WHAT LIKE MIDNIGHT TOMORROW? “There is a slight chance of rain up there tomorrow afternoon. And it is an early morning here on Sunday morning so I hope that is not the case. Like I said though, I have Steve and he says he can fly the plane so I can get some sleep.”
WHY GO THROUGH ALL THAT? DO YOU WORRY ABOUT IT AFFECTING YOU FOR THE RACE SUNDAY? “The way it works out with these airplanes, it is not very difficult to do. As long as you keep the stress down and don’t get wound up about it. Driving to the airport is a nice drive and that airplane is really easy to fly and not a big stresser. The weather is nice and there isn’t a threat of weather with massive lines of thunderstorms or something we have to go through. The reason I do it is because we have a chance to win that race up there. That is what we do this for. Mike Beam and those guys on the Fastenal crew work hard. I have had some of the greatest races of my career this year in that Nationwide car. Last week was a blast with Matt Kenseth. The race in Iowa was a lot of fun. A lot of people asked why I went there but I would trade that for anything. To be able to follow Ricky Stenhouse to his first victory and race that hard was cool. I do it for the fun and for the trophies and to see the look on my guys faces when we do well. If everything goes as plan it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
AT ONE POINT LAST WEEKEND YOU, THE 17 AND THE 18 PITTED UNDER CAUTION AND 23 CARS TOOK THE WAVE AROUND AND YOU THREE ENDED UP MIRED IN THE BACK. DO LIKE THE RULE OR IS IT BECOMING TOO BIG OF AN ADVANTAGE? “There is a lot to that. I think the reason we got put in a bad position was because we pitted and then a debris caution came out. If that caution hadn’t been thrown then I think it would have worked out fine. There are a lot of variables in this sport. One of them is how to read those cautions. If we all knew when they were going to come out then it would be a lot simpler and I don’t think there would be as much trouble. You guys have written plenty about that and I am sure you will write more. I don’t know that the wave around is the issue. I think that if that race would have gone without those debris cautions it would have looked differently and worked out better for us.”
I have had my belts come undone ...
WITH HINDSIGHT BEING 20-20 AND FORESIGHT BEING NEARLY BLIND. IF YOU COULD REDO ANY RACE IN YOUR CAREER, WHAT RACE WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENT? “That is a really good question and I am glad you asked it here because if I could redo any race in my career it would be this race in 2008. I am not going to tell you what I would do differently but there is definitely something I would have done differently and I think we would have won it.”
AFTER HAVING GREG BIFFLE ON TALKING WITH HIM ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM LAST WEEK WITH HIS BLOOD PRESSURE DROPPING LOW AND THE CAR BLOWING HOT AIR AT HIM. HE SAID HE WAS NEVER GOING TO PULL OVER AND TAKE A RELIEF DRIVER THAT HE WOULD PASS OUT FIRST. WHAT IS THE MOST DANGEROUS NON-WRECK SITUATION YOU HAVE BEEN IN? “I have had my belts come undone before which was scary, not in one of these cars, but you have to make some decisions then. I didn’t know that happened to Greg. He is a pretty tough guy. There are a lot of things that go on in these cars. I think that carbon monoxide got me a couple of times. I have never been so uncomfortable because you are strapped in and you start to get nauseous and not feeling good you can’t go anywhere or stretch out or move around. It is a difficult situation. That is one of the neat things about this sport, that we have these long, hot races. It is pretty grueling. It was something for me that when I first came in and drove Mike Mitler’s truck at Memphis and that was the longest race I had been in. It was a day like this, 92 degrees or something, I thought that there was something wrong with this truck. I thought it was on fire or there was some problem because there was no way all these guys could be this hot and still racing. It didn’t take me long to realize, but took me awhile to adapt to the fact that that is just the way it is. It is uncomfortable. Last week I am probably not the only driver that was driving down the straightaway’s with my heels off the floor because it is burning your feet. I think that will be a factor in this race Sunday, not a huge factor, but it will be a factor.”
WITH KYLE AND THE SPEEDING TICKET I AM CURIOUS FOR YOU PERSONALLY IF IT HAS EVER BEEN HARD TO LEAVE THE SEEKING OF THE RUSH BEHIND WHEN YOU LEAVE THE RACE TRACK? “Are you kidding? I am not going to incriminate myself but we are all here at a race track and we all like to drive and it is something that you have to remember. There is more risk out there on the road then there is on the race track. I cannot sit back and judge someone else for driving fast on the road. It is something that is hard not to do. One of the keys is what you drive. I mostly drive pickup trucks, like a F-150 and I have an old F-250 that is a slower truck so that kind of keeps me out of trouble.”
DO YOU GET THAT THRILL FROM FLYING YOUR PLANES? “No, I have my fun with driving at the race track. I get to drive 700-800 miles a week and that is a lot. I do have to consciously be safe on the road because it is easy to drive too fast on the road. It is something I am not going to sit here and judge someone for getting a speeding ticket because I have had plenty.”
DATING BACK TO KANSAS LAST FALL, FORD HAS WON SEVEN RACES. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT SUCCESS TO? “That is when we were really turning the corner as a team, the middle of the summer at Daytona. We ran well and then Greg started running really well. I think the success on the race track comes from a number of places. The engine is one. I think we have an engine that is equal to the others, which is huge. Robbie Reiser being the team manager has helped us a lot. He has changed the structure at Roush Fenway and it has been great. I feel like our pit crews have stepped it up and our whole process from a pile of tubing to a finished race car is better, more streamline and more attention to detail. All of those things, there is not one trick, we don’t just have a good engine or just have a good aero package. We have good race cars and all of that has come together. Almost all the teams have been to victory lane in one way or another this year.”
DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE COMPETITION RIGHT NOW? “I don’t think we have an advantage. We might have a slight advantage at these mile-and-a-half tracks. I feel like we are very competitive. The competition is really close and nobody is better than us right now. That is probably the best way to put it.”
... we are more inclined to take risks and do things.
I KNOW YOU HAVE LONG DREAMED OF WINNING A CUP RACE HERE. DOES IT FEEL LIKE THIS YEAR MIGHT BE YOUR BEST CHANCE? “It does feel that way. We have been running really well. In 2008 we were on a tear and running great. Our mile-and-a-half program has been on a tear. This could be a good shot. Practice was good. We weren’t the fastest car but the balance wasn’t perfect so now we are going to tune on it in the next couple of days and Bob will do his magic with the computer and come up with a good setup. I am really excited to run this race. This is the most excited I have ever been to run this race in my Cup career. I am looking forward to it.”
THIS RACE IS HALFWAY TO THE CHASE. YOU HAVE A 36 POINT LEAD WHICH UNDER THE OLD SYSTEM WOULD HAVE BEEN AROUND 120 POINTS. ARE YOU MORE INCLINED TO TAKE A RISK TO WIN A RACE NOW OR TO EXPERIMENT WITH SETUPS AND THINGS FOR LATER ON? “Right now today we are more inclined to take risks and do things. Bob and I actually talked about that today. How much is a win worth as far as points when we start the Chase? Is it three? I read somewhere it was 10 and was like ‘holy moley we need to be more aggressive.’ We have been balancing two things. One is running well enough that we have a big cushion and are in the Chase. We are doing that now and have the points lead. Two, once we feel comfortable with that, which I feel like we are there almost, we want to go out and take not necessarily risks driving but risks with some setups and engines and pit calls and stuff like that. We maybe wouldn’t have done that before. If it comes down to the end of the race here Sunday and it is a gamble, we will probably go with the one where a win can be the outcome. We won’t play it safe just to run third. We are here to win right now and it is nice to be able to do that. I have never been in this position at this point in the season.”
TONY STEWART SAID HE FEELS LIKE HE IS BRING A KNIFE TO A GUNFIGHT WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR MOTORS COMPARED TO THEIRS. HOW WOULD YOU GRADE YOUR MOTOR AGAINST THE OTHER PEOPLE? “It is even. We can go out and look at the dyno stuff NASCAR has if you like, but I can see it on the race track. We are not head and shoulders above other people, we have caught up. I feel like before we were behind and worked on our cars quite a bit and now that we have caught up it looks really good but we can’t lay off of our engine program. We have to keep moving forward. There are engines I raced against last weekend, and we were a little conservative in our package, that was making a lot more power off the corners. I am just going to have to disagree with Tony and say that we don’t have a huge advantage. That is what he is supposed to be doing. He is supposed to be kicking and screaming and looking for an advantage of his own.”
YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATE GREG BIFFLE ARE TOP OF THE PACK AFTER THE FIRST PRACTICE. WHAT DID YOU WORK ON AND HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH HOW GOOD YOUR CAR WAS? “I think we are pretty good. I was looking for a good balance because the track is so slick. Bob was really mad at the end of practice. He was upset because we weren’t the fastest car. I think we have something we can work with as the track slicks off. Right now it is hard to look at that sheet and say who is in the best position to win because I think the track will change a ton. That pavement will get hot and slick and greasy and chance a lot during the race. The guy that reads that the best will win this race. I think Biffle was in qualifying trim. I don’t know if he was in it the whole time or how good he is because I haven’t talked to him about his car.”