Michigan International Speedway
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion
and the current Sprint Cup points leader took time to meet with media after the final practice session of the day at Michigan International Speedway Friday afternoon.
YOU WON HERE IN 2008 BUT WEREN’T SO HOT IN PRACTICE TODAY. “Thanks, I really appreciate that. What an introduction folks. We are actually okay on the longer run. We didn’t get to run any blistering fast laps. We tried to do that the first practice to set ourselves up for a good starting spot if it were to rain tomorrow but we couldn’t go fast enough. The good news is our teammates are really fast in qualifying trim. We will lean on those guys a little bit. We had some tire trouble so we were working on that in practice two. We thought that was really important to figure out and make sure we don’t have that. The left front outer shoulder of the tire was getting hot and coming apart. That could be a big factor in the race if we don’t get that figured out. We focused on that and focused on trying some things we wanted to try and then at the end we worked on the balance pretty hard. I think we have a car that can race pretty well.”
THE THREE JOE GIBBS TOYOTA’S GOT CAUGHT WITH A HEAVY OIL PAN THAT WAS 25-30 HEAVIER THAN IT SHOULD BE. HOW WOULD THAT AFFECT THE CAR? “You can change the nose weight a number of different ways. I am not sure what they are trying to do there. I don’t know any more about it than you just told me. There are a bunch of ways to change nose weight. I am certain that they were trying to achieve some balance with the car. I don’t know any more than that. As we talk about it a little bit after practice we might be able to somehow, me and the engineers understand what they are trying to do. Everyone will probably have that figured out in the next 10 or 15 minutes. Who knows?”
YOU SAID LAST WEEK YOU USED UP YOUR POINTS LEAD. HAVE YOU COME TO GRIPS WITH THAT AND DID YOU FIGURE OUT THE ISSUE WITH THE VALVE? “I don’t know that we figured out exactly why it occurred. We have a pretty good idea that it was a flaw or weakness in the material. I haven’t looked at the points this week. I know we have like a five or six point lead, but I don’t know how many it is. We just have to go and do what we have been doing the last 10 weeks and build that lead back up. It would be really nice if we could get a couple of wins in there. I am confident in our team and our performance will be strong and keep us in the top-10. We didn’t need that last week. I thought we had a car that could win, especially with Denny’s trouble. That made me sick when I saw that in the booth. Jeff was really good at the end and we actually passed him under green before we lost that valve, so I feel we would have had a really competitive car. That was the worst part about it. That is one of my favorite race tracks.”
DO YOU WORRY AT ALL THAT NOT WINNING MIGHT SLOW YOUR MOMENTUM? “Not really. I actually thought a little about that after Dover. I felt like for two straight weeks we had the car to win races and didn’t get it done through circumstances and pit strategy and aero and little things that got us. If I look at what the 48 team has done I think one of the things they have done very well is take second place and third place when it is available and moved on and kept their heads up. For us, the short answer is we are not looking back and thinking about that we wished we would have won races. We are looking forward and knowing we can win them and we need to just go do it. I don’t think those good runs, even though they weren’t wins, didn’t hurt us but gave us confidence. When you get frustrated, sometimes you respond in a positive manner and sometimes negative. Right now we have a lot of positive energy. We only have one win but we have run well enough to win four or five races. I thought the All-Star win was a big deal. I feel like we are strong. We have the points lead because we have been the fastest car. That is pretty cool.”
HAMLIN WAS IN HERE EARLIER AND FOUND HIMSELF IN THE DIFFICULT SPOT OF TRYING TO DEFEND SOMETHING. CAN YOU TELL IS WHAT THAT IS LIKE AS A DRIVE? “It is difficult. It is hard to explain. The best way I can explain it is that I am on the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. There is a big vetting process that goes with that. I had to be on a 30-minute phone call about every bad thing I have done in my life. They really wanted to talk about these times that our team had been caught cheating. They were like, ‘Why were you fined these points and this money? You guys were cheating.’ And I am like, ‘No, you don’t understand, this is auto racing. The guys at the shop build the most trick thing they can and bring it to the race track. I hop in and drive it and if you run well or some part falls off or the heights aren’t right then it looks like we were cheating but that is just part of the sport.’ It is hard to explain that to some people. They think that if it didn’t fit the rules then I was cheating. There is a lot to it and it is complicated. I thought that was humorous though that I was on the phone with the White House and they couldn’t understand that I had no clue the right rear corner was low or the oil cooler lid had fallen off or things like that. It is an awkward position to be in to try to explain that stuff because we show up and drive the race cars. You want your guys at the shop pushing every edge of the rule book. That is what you want.”
We have to stay in front and keep working.
IS THIS A DIFFERENT FATHERS DAY FOR YOU BEING A DAD AND A DAD AGAIN AND TALK ABOUT YOUR DAD AND BEING A DAD. “That is a lot of dad’s in that question. It is very special. I didn’t realize it was Fathers day until last Monday I guess. I hadn’t thought about it. We have been so busy running around chasing the kids and everything. My Dad, he is the one who got me into racing and he is still one of the smartest racers I know. We have spent quite a bit of time together lately which has been really nice. This is my first Fathers Day with two kids. That is just amazing to me. Five years ago if you would have told me that I would have never believed it. I am very fortunate and I hope we can have a safe, fun day. One of the neatest things was winning in 2007 on Fathers Day and giving the trophy to my Dad. That was a cool day and it would be neat to win again.”
WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON JEFF GORDON HITTING 3RD ALL TIME IN WINS? “I remember walking to the grocery store with my mom as a little kid walking beside the grocery cart. I don’t remember how old I was but I don’t think I was 16 because I don’t think I would have been at the grocery store with my mom if I had my own car. I was reading a racing magazine that had Jeff Gordon on the cover of it and I was thinking, ‘Man, that is cool’. It was one of those hero shots of him and his car and his mullet and his mustache. I thought that guy was living the dream. Now I get to race with him every week and sometimes beat him which is really nice. He is a professional and has done a lot for the sport. He singlehandedly kind of changed the face of the sport and introduced it to a lot of people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t be fans or sponsors or partners. I think myself along with other guys in the garage have a bunch of respect for Jeff. For him to continue to be successful after all he has done and still have that drive is inspirational to all of us.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO KENTUCKY, THAT WAS WHERE YOU FIRST DID THE BACK FLIP AFTER A TRUCK RACE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING THERE? “Kentucky is going to be neat. You know how much energy those fans have. It is going to be insane. It will be like going to Iowa. The fans there, they want to see Sprint Cup racing so bad that it will be standing room only and people will be wound up. The track has a lot of character and it has two really distinct corners and a lot of bumps. It will be a really neat race. I am excited to go there and I think a lot of these guys that haven’t raced there are going to be really impressed with the place. I think it is great we are going there and it should be a lot of fun.”
I SUSPECT IN TERMS OF THE POINTS YOU FIGURED YOU WOULD HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE 48 CAR AT SOME POINT. HERE THEY ARE ON YOUR TAIL. “Yeah, if we would have not had that parts failure last week we would have stretched that lead out and it would feel different. They are running well and they do a really good job. They will only get stronger through the season so we have to keep digging and moving forward. Those guys, amazingly, are able to just stay right there and always be knocking on the door. We have to stay in front and keep working.”
WHEN YOU HAVE A SITUATION LIKE GIBBS HAD WHERE THEY WERE CAUGHT LAST WEEK AND THIS WEEK AND A TIME BEFORE HERE WITH MAGNETS UNDER THE ACCELERATOR, AT WHAT POINT DO PEOPLE GET A REPUTATION FOR BEING INNOVATORS OR JUST KIND OF, I DON’T WANT TO SAY CHEATING, BUT CHEATING? “I don’t know. That is for someone else to decide. They are all different things and I am one of their competitors so I would love to sit up here and think that the reason they run well is because they are cheating but I know they are not. Those guys seem to have a lot of integrity. They are just pushing the edges of the envelope. It is unfortunate they got caught two weeks in a row but it is good for us because NASCAR will be watching those guys harder and paying attention to their cars a little more. That is good for the rest of us.”
HOW DO SPONSORS TAKE THAT KIND OF THING? “The worse one we had was that oil tank cover at Vegas. That one was frustrating because we were the fastest in testing and the fastest in practice and qualified great and we were screaming fast. We had one little bold that was holding the tank lid that came off and the lid was off. Everybody jumped on us and piled on us and kicked us while we were down and said we won because we cheated. They knew it wasn’t though because we had the fastest car and proved it over and over again after that. At the time though, I remember some of the marketing and sponsor people asking about that. They wanted us to be as upstanding and play by the rules as we can, which we do, and that is a little confusing for them. You have to push the envelope. Every case is different. If you hit the wall in the middle of the race and the tail or nose is down, those things happen. I think there is a big difference sometimes between being caught with something or having intent to cheat. The magnet thing, there is a lot of intent there. Just having or being caught high or low or with a heavy part that hasn’t been approved, I don’t look at those things as so wrong I guess. That is just my opinion. To be clear, I don’t think I have had a sponsor get mad, but they have asked and you have to explain it to them.”
HOW DO YOU STAY POSITIVE WHEN YOU HAVE HAD A BAD DAY? “It is really hard. I have been fortunate in that we haven’t had a lot of bad days lately. Everything has been great. I guess in 2009 and 2010 there were some really tough days where we just weren’t competitive and I guess the way that I stay positive is all I have to do is look at my guys and realize they are all giving 100% and doing their very best. We have a very good group of people and if we run poorly then that is just the way it is. We can’t get down and out. Usually if you freak out and start getting mad then that only makes it worse. Those are the things I think about to try to stay and keep myself upbeat, even when things are going bad. It is really tough though because we all put a lot into this. If you have something go wrong or make a mistake or someone on the pit crew makes a mistake, it is really difficult to keep your emotions in check.”
HOW SURPRISING IS IT TO YOU, GIVEN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, THAT THE 88 IS RIGHT THERE CHASING YOU ALONG WITH THE 48? “That is a pretty amazing turnaround. They have run really well. I would like to know what they are doing or what they changed. That is a pretty spectacular turnaround and an interesting thing I think because how well the 48 team seems to have run the whole time and then for the 88 team to turn a corner like that. It would be interesting to know what they have changed in there. As long as he stays behind us, that is okay. It is good for the sport that those guys are running better and I know they have worked hard and take is seriously. It is interesting to see how well they have done lately.”
I hope it works out for us.
THE NEXT TWO RACES ARE A ROAD COURSE AND DAYTONA. ANY CONCERN THAT YOU MIGHT BE RACING UP AGAINST DIFFERENT GUYS THOSE RACES? “I know last year was a low point for us. I remember sitting backwards in the dirt think our season was done and we weren’t going to make the Chase. It was because I got racing too hard with someone that I wasn’t familiar with and we ended up wrecking. I am looking forward to that race. It is a different situation now for me. We go in there hopefully in a good position in points and I am going to run the Nationwide race at Road America they day before, so I will be in the road racing mindset and to me, I really like that race. That would be a special one to win. I don’t know if wild card it the right word, but that race can shake things up a ton. Same with Daytona. Those are two races that you could have surprise winners at each. The same guy could go from zero wins to two wins in those two races. I believe that once we get through those that the points will look different. I hope it works out for us.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PHOTOS OF DENNY’S DEAL? “I would have to look at them closer. That is a pretty neat piece. I still don’t understand exactly what is illegal about it. I don’t know if it is because they are over the cross member or the weight or what. I will talk to my guys and maybe NASCAR about it.”
-source: ford racing