Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, had his last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway one year ago. Edwards spoke to the media about his hopes for repeating after Friday’s practice session.
“I was just thinking that the last time I was hear it was great, so we love coming here. This is a fun race track. It’s a fast mile-and-a-half. The pavement is such that you can slide the car around a little bit. It’s got some bumps and some character and I really like it. Our Aflac Fusion was really fast in practice. I feel like we’ve got a good shot at the pole here later this afternoon and tomorrow we’ll find out about race trim, but we’re just having fun out here. We went over to the Air Force Base this morning and Gen. O’Shaughnessy gave us a tour and we got to see all of the red flag stuff they’re doing out there, which is just really neat. And I got a tour of a couple of really neat airplanes. It’s just been a good trip so far."
HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY RIDES IN A RAPTOR? “No, they let me sit in one and they showed me how to start it, which was dangerous on their part, but it was really neat. I got the chance to ride in an F-16 with the Thunderbirds the last time we were here, and I think Ricky and Trevor both got to ride in Daytona, so that’s been a lot of fun. It’s just neat to see the technology that’s over there. We got to look at the B2 pretty close and the F22 and some of the ways they fly the remote-piloted aircraft. That’s pretty amazing. I had never seen all that stuff up close, so there are a lot of things going on over at that base, so it was really nice of them to take time and show us around."
IT’S ONE YEAR SINCE YOU WON A POINTS RACE. DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU? “No, it doesn’t feel like that to me. I guess it’s reality, but we go out every week and race as hard as we can and there were many races last year that we very well could have won if things would have gone slightly different. We obviously ran very well. I think we had the best average we’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s the best average ever, but we feel very strong . The way this sport works is if you run that well, you’ll win your fair share of races. Any week would be a good week to go ahead and win another one, so this would be just fine."
HAS ROUSH FENWAY PERFORMED HOW YOU EXPECTED OR BETTER THAN YOU EXPECTED THIS YEAR? “I think we’re as good as we hoped. You never know what to expect, but Daytona was huge. We were way better there than I expected, so that was as good as it gets. At Phoenix, I felt like we missed it just a little bit, but there at the end of the race Greg was extremely fast and that gives us some hope. Practice here went really well, so I think we’re as good as we were last year at this time, which is huge for us. To run as well as we have for as long as we have and to seemingly have not fallen off over the winter, that’s huge. Anytime you can do that in this sport that’s good, so we’ll find out on Sunday. This race is important to everyone in the garage because it’s that first mile-and-a-half. You get to go out and kind of see what you’ve got and what you’ve been working on since Homestead, and it gives us a little insight into who is strong at these type of race tracks for the whole year, so, hopefully we’ll run well."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR CAREER HAS CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE HAD CHILDREN? “It hasn’t really changed much. I’ve always been really close with my family and I think that getting married and being fortunate enough to have the family of my own that I have now I’m obviously enjoying it – it’s the greatest thing in my life, but it hasn’t changed much at the race track. I kind of already had the structure in place logistically and everything to be able to do that, so, if anything, it’s just made my life better and made me be able to prioritize things the right way. It’s been really good.”
IS THIS WEEKEND A POINT WHERE YOU CAN BENCHMARK WHERE YOU ARE WITH THE COMPETITION? “I think we’re gonna kind of know where we stand on these mile-and-a-halves after this race weekend. Now, you might not get the result that you deserve this weekend and the points might not shake out and they might not represent the speed that everyone has, but you can bet if a guy has a good, strong run here, that can give you a lot of confidence going to the rest of these race tracks – Texas and Fontana and Kansas and all these places that rely on this type of setup. So I think this is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a number of reasons, but one is to just see where we stand and what we’ve got."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RISK VS. REWARD OF PIT STRATEGY? “We learned a lot about pit strategy last season because as these cars get closer and closer and closer competitively, track position becomes more important. There were a number of races last year where, fortunately, we were fast enough, we were leading and everything is going great, and we get that final caution and we’d come down for four tires and guys would ‘gamble’ – they would stay out or take two tires and get that track position – and we saw the bad side of that a number of times for us, where guys would sneak out of nowhere and be able to hang on to the lead and win the race. I think that is more important now, that track position, than it’s ever been and it puts the crew chiefs in a very tough spot because the better you’re doing and the farther up front you are, the harder it is to take that risk. If you know you’ve got a fast car, you’re up front, you want to come and get those four tires and play it smart and get back to your position, but sometimes you just can’t do it. They’re very tough decisions to be made. This track, I don’t think it will be as big of a deal because you can move around here, pass, do some things if you’ve got a fast car, but some of these tracks it’s extremely difficult to march back through the field even if you have a fast car."
WERE YOU DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENT THAN YOU USUALLY DO TO TRY AND SAVE FUEL LAST WEEK? “We ran out of fuel and we didn’t expect to run out of fuel when we did. We miscalculated a little bit, which we pride ourselves on having great fuel mileage and being able to manage that fuel mileage so that we can make it to the end of the race, so it was disappointing for us, but I think a lot of people were surprised. I haven’t really talked to anyone, but it appeared to me that a lot of people were running out of fuel, so a lot of people must have been in the same boat, where they thought that they could go farther than they could. It was really disappointing for us, but we did learn some things and I think we’ll be better next time."
WHAT’S NEXT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST? “I don’t know. Dean is with me. He’s been riding his motorcycle all over the country, so we’ve been talking about doing a big motorcycle trip somewhere and try to do something neat camping or going through a desert somewhere or something like that, but I don’t know. Just trying to raise kids is an adventure for me right now."
WE GOT TO BRISTOL AND THEN FONTANA. DOES THAT TAKE TOLL ON A DRIVER? “It’s hard on the truck drivers, but, for me, I’ve got a nice little Citation jet that it doesn’t matter to me if I sit in it for four hours or two hours, we just go wherever and that’s no problem. I guess the biggest thing is the style of racing. You go from here – a big, fast, race track, go over to Bristol where it’s like fighter jets in a gymnasium and it’s a much different style of racing, and then go back to the big two-mile race track, where you have to really change your pace as a driver and change the way you approach the race. But I really love racing at California. I think it’s a great race track. We’ve had huge success there. It’s really fun because it’s so big and fast and you really get to work the car over pretty well, plus you can do things as a driver to pick up speed and I like that.”