Edwards reflects on crew chief change, and the mystique of the Brickyard

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion, met with media members Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the first practice session. Edwards discussed his teams crew chief change, what it would mean to with at the famed Brickyard and more.

Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PRACTICE? “The car is okay. We did a good job with our strategy there. I think we ended up 11th or 12th, so that will be a decent spot and time of day to go out qualifying, which I think will be really important. If the clouds are out it could make it interesting because anyone could get a cloud or you could get some sun and that will shake it up. Really we are just at this point fine tuning our race balance. We got a few runs there and the balance wasn’t very good. We will go back and work on it between practices and hopefully have a good Fastenal Fusion. It has been a crazy couple of weeks. So much happened after Loudon and I am glad we had the off weekend and we were able to kind of gather everybody up and get a good plan going forward. I feel really good about it. It has been great working with Chad (Norris). I think Bob (Osborne) is doing pretty well. He won’t quite tell me exactly how he is doing. He keeps things pretty quiet. The biggest thing is we are all behind Bob 100-percent and hope he gets better and feels better. We are all excited that he is still able to contribute in a huge way with our team. It was a crazy Monday with Scott Graves, he got the promotion he has always dreamed of, crew chiefing the Nationwide car and a Cup car a little bit this year. Chad Norris is as excited as anyone and all the guys on the team seem really upbeat and ready to move forward. I am real grateful for the timing of all this that we had the off weekend.”

IS YOUR MINDSET TO WIN, WIN, WIN OR POINTS, POINTS, POINTS OR A COMBINATION? “Our whole 99 teams mindset is to go through these next seven races and make every race as perfect as we can make it and get every single thing we can. If that is a win, then we are going to get the win. If that is 12th, then we are going to get 12th. We have to be perfect and get the best we can. If at the end of the day, that gets us where we want to go, then great.”

IS THAT DIFFICULT WITH A NEW CREW CHIEF? “I think with the structure at Roush and the way we have done things I don’t expect to miss a beat with Chad here. We talked a lot here this last week and even through the off weekend and I don’t think that there is really much of a learning curve. Chad works so well with all the guys and has worked in the R&D department and headed up so many different projects. He has been around the sport a long time. I didn’t realize that about Chad. I didn’t realize his experience, which is pretty extensive. The kind of guy he seems to be and the way the guys have embraced him, I think we will be pretty good.”

WHAT WAS YOUR LEVEL OF SURPRISE WHEN THIS HAPPENED? “I would say that I was really surprised when Bob sat down and talked to us about the things he is going through. He is a very tough man. He is a very dedicated individual and any of us standing here it would be hard to say with confidence we would be able to do what he was doing with all he has been going through, to be able to perform how he has. Through the year we obviously haven’t been as good as we were last year and more importantly we weren’t as good as we should be compared to our teammates. We all sat down on Monday and talked about it and Bob kind of let us in on what was going on with him and all three of us, me, Bob and Jack (Roush) decided this was the best course of action for the 99 team, Bob and everyone. It is a pretty interesting set of circumstances and pretty wild how it all came together but I think we are doing the right thing for Bob which is most important and then also for our team. I think it is as good as we could do.”

CAN YOU ELABORATE ON WHAT IS GOING ON WITH BOB? “No, I can’t.”

DO YOU THINK HIS HEALTH ISSUES IMPACTED THE PERFORMANCE OF THE TEAM? “That is up to Bob. I would have to let Bob answer that. I know a couple of you guys have insinuated and talked to Randy and have thought this health thing is not as big a deal as it seems. I can’t overstate enough that Bob is a very, very dedicated guy to our sport and he is going through something right now that would be tough for anyone and for him to have done what he has done at this level and to have kept it quiet, he is just a tough, tough man. He is a good friend of mine so I am really thinking a lot of him.”

CAN YOU COMPARE THE STYLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOB AND CHAD? “Bob has a style all his own. You guys know Bob well enough. He is an engineer and he stands on his own two feet and does what he thinks is right and that has given us a huge amount of success. Chad appears to be – and I don’t know him really well yet – the structure seems to be a little different where it will be a standard crew chief driver combination where he will rely on the engineers more than Bob did because he doesn’t have the same engineering background and I think there will be times where that is better and times where that is worse. I think we will just have to see. I tell you one thing, Jack has backed Chad up with some great engineers. He gave us another engineer. We have three engineers and I think it is as strong of a team as we could have. If we knew we were going to make this change we would have probably made it earlier but pressure makes diamonds sometimes, so hopefully it works.”

SO, JUST TO CLARIFY, YOU WERE NOT AWARE OF BOB’S HEALTH ISSUES THROUGH THE YEAR? “Bob had told us he had some issues he was working on but we didn’t know the extent of them and how much it was going to impact him. First of all, he won’t exactly tell me all the details of what is going on and second it is his issue and if he wants to talk about it he can talk about it. As far as I know he is going to be fine. I don’t think it would have been possible for him to continue in the capacity he was in.”

IS HE AT THE RACE TRACK? “No, he is not at the race track.”

DO YOU EXPECT HIM TO BE YOUR CREW CHIEF IN A YEAR FROM NOW MAYBE? “What we are trying to do right now is make the team better and fix any issues we might have which we don’t even know exactly what the issues are. If we don’t do any better here and Bob is up to it, we will probably put Bob right back in as soon as he is able. If this goes well and Bob is doing well in his new role and that is the best thing for him and Chad is doing great then we will move forward with that. Nothing is in stone right now. It could be a whole difference scenario next week and we all know that. We are doing everything we can right now to be as good as we can right now.”

DID YOU HAVE IMPACT ON WHO YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF WAS? “No, I didn’t have much impact in it. I haven’t worked with Chad, so I didn’t know much about him. We sat there, Jack, Robbie, Chip and Bob and they all said that it was the best thing and this was what we were going to do. We discussed it and talked to Chad and brought him in the office and talked to him a little bit. If you look out there across the sport, this looks like the best thing we could do – maybe not for the long run – but for right now this was as simple of a change with as much blue sky in front of it that we could make.”

CHAD IS NO STRANGER TO WHAT IS GOING ON THOUGH WITH HIS INVOLVEMENT ON THE R&D SIDE RIGHT? “Chad knows a lot about what is going on with these cars. He is on the cutting edge with what we are doing with all of our cars. No slight to him, I just had no clue he was sitting there waiting for something like this. I had never thought about that. I think it is going to be good. And he has a great sense of humor. All the Chuck Norris jokes have been hilarious. I thought I was the only one that thought of that and I started getting texts. They were really good. We are having fun and I hope it continues.”

WITH THE REPAVE AT POCONO, WILL YOU TAKE MORE OUT OF HERE TO THAT RACE NEXT WEEK THAN YOU PREVIOUSLY WOULD HAVE? “I think so. I think that Indy this weekend and the test at Michigan are both going to help us for Pocono to try things we want to try. We just ran at Pocono so I think we have a pretty good feel for what we were lacking there. We qualified really well and got hit in the first corner and fought back all day. I think we have a pretty good plan for Pocono and these two races will help.”

WHAT IS THE APPROACH INTO THE CORNERS AT POCONO? “Turn one is insane. You are going 208 mph or whatever it is and to me there is always this big negotiation with yourself on how deep you will go into the corner. Usually my left foot wins and I brake. Turn two is a really fast corner and really punctuated. If you get through there perfectly it is good. It is a lot like one of these corners at Indy. You only get one little crack at it and it has to be perfect. Turn three is a big sweeping turn and feels like a dirt corner because you slide the car in there and it is a nice slow corner. They are very different.”

HAVE YOU EVER LOST FOCUS AND THOUGHT ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE ON THOSE LONG STRAIGHTAWAYS THERE? “They have those cypress trees on that back straightaway and I always watch those and wonder what would happen if a deer jumped out. You have to put that out of your mind.”

IS THIS A PRETTY UNIQUE STRETCH HERE WITH THIS TRACK, POCONO AND THEN A ROAD COURSE? “Yeah, I didn’t think of it but it is. Indy is a rectangle with short fast corners, Pocono which is different than any race track and Watkins Glen. It is kind of fun. This mixes it up. It is a fun summer stretch and that is what we need right now. We need different race tracks and to shake things up. We want to maybe have some guys struggle and run the best we have ever run.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON WAS TALKING ABOUT WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO SEPARATE FROM A CREW CHIEF. WITH WHAT HAPPENED AT THE END OF LAST YEAR THAT MAYBE THIS WOULD ALLOW YOU GUYS TO GET RID OF ANYTHING LINGERING IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. “How would Jimmie know about that? (laughter) I know everybody else thinks they know better than me, and they may, but I am telling you that I don’t think last year has an effect on how fast or slow we are going at these races. I am not thinking about it in the race car. I think at the end of the day, Bob, Jack and I sat there and agreed that for Bob’s reasons and reasons of performance that this was the best thing to do. I think that Jimmie is right. Sometimes just changing something and meeting new people and understanding how they work – maybe there is a little more effort put forth – all of those things can be good. If you walk in our shop right now the guys are ready to go. They are ready to perform for seven races. They saw last year what happened with the 14 team. We all know what is on the line and we know that if we can make the Chase and turn this thing around we can go with the championship. We feel like each one of these races is as important as Homestead was last year. We feel like with our experience we can do this. Those are the motivating factors. I don’t think it is simply the crew chief change. It is the entire package.”

YOUR TWO TEAMMATES GOT OFF TO FAST STARTS AND ARE STILL FIRST AND THIRD IN POINTS, BUT EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE GAINING. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO GET YOU GUYS BACK TO HAVING AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE OTHER TEAMS? “One more guy, like our 99 team pushing everybody would help. If we could go up there and run a little better and give more input to Matt and Greg and help our team, that would help. You nailed it on the head. It’s tough. You have to peak really at the right time. You have to be fast when it is time to be fast. Right now, we have seven races to build everything up and shine in this Chase. I hope that our team is on the upswing. It just seems like someone gets ahead and then somebody leapfrogs and it is as tough now and as dynamic now as it has ever been.”

AS A MIDWESTERN GUY, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO WIN HERE? “It would be amazing to win this race. I watched the video of last year’s race yesterday at home and my heart was beating in my chest watching Paul (Menard) hold off Jeff (Gordon) for those last few laps. I was sitting there on the couch watching on my laptop and was getting anxious and nervous for Paul. That is how special this race is. I think that the opportunity to win would be unreal. Last night we went and drove a little cart that I keep up in my motor home and I took my brother out and we rode around and went out on the racetrack. I don’t know if we are supposed to be out there or now but we went out and looked at the track. I have been racing for a long time and my brother has been around a lot of racing but we were out there like eight-year olds talking about how awesome it was to be at Indianapolis on the race track. That is how neat this place is. We saw some police driving on the track right after that so we kind of came off and my brother was like, ‘Man, those cops are patrolling.’ I said, ‘Kenny, they are doing the same thing we are doing. They are out there saying, ‘Man, we are on the race track at Indianapolis.’ I think we all know how special this place is and how cool it would be to win.”

WITH ALL THE RACING HERE THIS WEEKEND, WITH RUBBER ON THE TRACK MAKE THE RACING TOMORROW DIFFERENT? “Well, do you think there was rubber on the track this morning or did rain wash it off? I felt like the track was a little slippery at the beginning of practice today from whatever rubber was or wasn’t on it. If it doesn’t rain and that Nationwide race runs, I don’t know if their tires are the same but they have to be pretty similar and I think it will change the race. We might see more rubber than we have seen and that might throw a wrench at things.”

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT DOING THE BACK FLIP? “I don’t know if anybody has ever done a back flip on the bricks. That would be huge. This front straightaway is so cool to stand out there. We finished second in 2008 at this race and I watched Jimmie go through that whole victory lane celebration and it was spectacular to stand up on that pagoda and get the trophy. It is a special place. It is hallowed ground. I don’t know what I would do if I won. I would surely do a back flip and I would try to get up there in the grand stands. I think it would be really cool to go up there with the fans at this race track.”

HOW DID IT COME ABOUT THAT YOU GO INTO THE GRAND STANDS? “I stole that from John Cena. We did a Gillette commercial and they had a crowd of actors and with the cameras off he ran into the stands and did this whole thing and would everybody up. I thought that was cool. That is definitely not my deal. I say every time someone brings it up that the other drivers should do it. It is such a neat experience to go up there and look back down on your race car on the track and celebrate with all the fans.”

IS WATKINS GLEN A WILD CARD FOR YOU IN THIS THREE RACE STRETCH? ‘I feel pretty good about Watkins Glen. We sat on the pole there a few years ago and had some good runs and almost won the race one year. We were running second and I ran off the second to last corner trying real hard. We have run really well there and I like that race track. To me it is the road course that suits my style more than any other I have been on. It is a really fun race.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE “Chad and I agreed we are putting our feelings aside. We are going to tell each other everything. If I don’t like something he is doing I am going to tell him and if I am doing something he doesn’t like he is going to tell me. We are going to race hard, communicate and it doesn’t matter. If we like each other great, if we yell at each other it doesn’t matter. We are going to try to be fast. It seems to be going well so far. I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to talk to him. He is a really interesting guy. He is really level headed and calm and has a lot of confidence. I think he is ready to go prove to the world how good he is and that is the kind of guy I like to work with. We are not pulling any punches here. We are going out there to perform. He has been through a lot, I have been through a lot and we aren’t nervous about offending anyone. Bob and I were never worried about that and I don’t think it will change.”

DO YOU THINK CHAD WILL TAKE MORE CHANCES? “I don’t know. That is a good question. I think Chad is in a different position. He is going to stand up there and be a guy that by definition he is not an engineer. He is not a guy that is worried about things maybe that Bob was worried about. He is going to do what he thinks is best based on his strengths and rely on these other guys. It could be a chance to take more risks and do more things but I just don’t know. I haven’t been through a race with him yet. If anything I am curious about Sunday and how it is going to go. You might want to tune into our radio. Who know what we will be doing. We might be yelling and misunderstanding. I think it will go well but I am anxious to see.”

DO YOU WISH YOU WERE RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE RACE TODAY? “I would like to run that race today. I didn’t think too much about it before we got here but it would be a cool one to run. I am running one coming up. Have we announced that yet? No, okay, I don’t know if I am supposed to say anything about that or not but I am going to run one coming up. I am pretty excited about that.”

Source: Ford Racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Interview
Tags edwards, ford, indianapolis, indy, roush