Edwards stopped by the infield media center for a Q&A session with reporters and discussed a variety of issues after practice.
Ford Fusion driver Carl Edwards, who pilots the No. 99 Fastenal entry for Roush Fenway Racing, holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point lead going into this weekend’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Edwards stopped by the infield media center for a Q&A session with reporters and discussed a variety of issues after practice.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT COMING TO MARTINSVILLE AND YOUR APPROACH TO THE WEEKEND. “This is the most fun I’ve had coming to Martinsville for a while. We’ve got basically no pressure. We got to try a bunch of stuff in practice. We’ve got the first garage stall, which I’ve never been in before at Martinsville, so that’s pretty neat. And our Fastenal Ford was pretty good. I thought we would be better than that. We laid down what I thought was a pretty good lap in qualifying trim, but it didn’t seem very good so we’re gonna kind of swing for the fence in qualifying and hopefully we’ll have a good, solid lap to get us through that first round.”
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU GET CONCERNED THAT THERE COULD BE MORE THAN 16 DIFFERENT WINNERS? “I believe, and it’s held true so far, I believe we’re going to have more than 16 winners. It feels that way. It feels like there are more competitive cars. The disparity throughout the field is smaller between the cars, so I believe that it’s not just the win that has us feeling like we can be aggressive it’s our points position. If we were 20th in points right now, we would feel a lot different, so if we were to have trouble the next couple weeks and fall in points, we would go back to racing just slightly more conservatively, so that we didn’t fall any farther. But I feel like if we can go another month or month-and-a-half and we’re still leading the points or close, I feel like we’ll be locked in. The easiest way for us though is to just go win a race, so, right now, we’re gonna go for it and try to get that win while we have the points to lose.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MEDICAL STAFFS AT EACH TRACK TO MAKE DECISIONS ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU SHOULD RACE IF THERE’S AN ISSUE LIKE DENNY HAMLIN HAD LAST WEEK? “I’ve been unfortunate enough to have a lot of interaction with the medical staff in NASCAR over the years and I don’t know the specifics of Denny’s situation. I still don’t understand exactly what happened as far as a timeline and who told him what he could or couldn’t do, but I can tell you this – the medical staff in NASCAR knows more about me and keeps better tabs on me than any doctor I’ve ever been around, except for maybe my wife. They’re amazing. I’ll say another thing, I think that at first blush when people say we should have a traveling team of doctors. Well, being around the few doctors I’ve been around, it seems that I personally feel very comfortable with local doctors and the way NASCAR goes and finds the folks that are working day-in and day-out. So if I have a major injury let’s say here at Martinsville, I feel pretty confident that I’ll be taken care of by a doctor that, A, he’s dealing with that stuff all the time and B, he’s very familiar with the local medical facilities and the way that the care works there. As I learn more about Denny’s situation, I obviously have a couple of questions, but I feel pretty good. I’ve had great interaction with the medical staff at NASCAR.”
ROUSH FENWAY AS A WHOLE HAS STRUGGLED HERE, BUT MATT LEFT AND HAD GOOD SUCCESS LAST YEAR. WAS THAT A WAKE-UP CALL FOR YOUR GROUP? “Yeah. At first it was a little embarrassing for our whole company. It’s like, ‘Man, we need to do a better job. All of us do.’ But then we talked about it. Reiser and I talked about it and it was the best thing that could happen for us because it reminds us that we can do it. That’s always a question. You sit in the meeting. I’m not certain. I can’t speak for Matt, but listening to him talk I don’t think he thought he was very good at Martinsville and that’s how I felt for a long time, but seeing him do that made me realize that maybe I am able to do it – maybe I just need to communicate better, maybe we need to work with the engineers better, maybe I need to pay more attention to the other cars. It’s a pretty good motivator and we actually talked about it a lot at the shop. It shows us that it can be done, that we can go do it. That’s why we look forward to this race particularly with our points position because we’ve tried some things we haven’t tried before and hopefully it works out.”
HAVE YOU THOUGHT AHEAD ABOUT QUALIFYING AT TALLADEGA? “I haven’t much because I think it’s gonna be so chaotic. I think our guys at Daytona – our Nationwide group – thought about it a lot and ended up messing it up a little bit there. I know we had one event where we knew it was gonna rain out the qualifying. I think it was last year so basically everyone went into qualifying knowing that your time was gonna be what you were stuck with in practice, so it was like that and it was insane. I remember it was Jimmie Johnson and me and someone else coming to the line trying to run down the group and then we all scattered at the end and I almost wrecked in practice, but we ended up getting the pole there. It was pretty fun. I just hope we don’t tear up cars, but it’s pretty neat. It’ll be a neat place to do it. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
HOW DOES THE NEW QUALIFYING SETUP HERE AFFECT YOUR DRIVING? “It’s tough. Every track is different. We haven’t done it here and I still don’t know how many laps we’ll run the first time out. I don’t know if we’ll go out and run three laps or two laps or four laps. I noticed that some people were fast on the fourth lap, but it all boils down to speed. If you’re fast, you can go out there and do your thing in the first round, sit, advance and run again. The panic comes when you go out there and you run a mediocre lap and you sit there and you’re 10th, 11th, 12th and then have to go make a second run and hope it’s better. We did that at Vegas and California, so it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t know how it’s gonna work here, but hopefully it works well.”
WHEN YOU WATCH TAPES OF JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF GORDON HERE WHAT MAKES THEM SO GOOD HERE? “I don’t want to say specifics. I see some things that I’ve been working on, but those guys are very good here. I’ve talked to Jimmie a little bit about it and he just says, ‘You’ll figure it out.’ He’s really nice about it and then changes the subject. Those guys are very spectacular here. They’ve very good. I know my first few years I would get out of the car and go down and stand and watch Jeff Gordon. The way he drives around here is just so smooth and precise. They’re able to do things that I’m not able to do, so I’ve just got to keep working on it.”
DO YOU FEEL THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING START TO A NASCAR SEASON WITH UNPREDICTABLE FINISHES? “I do. I have to admit I was one of the biggest skeptics of the point system and the changes to the car and all of that stuff, but it’s really proven to be better. I hope it continues for the rest of the season. It’s been very good. It’s easy for me to say that with the position we’re in. We’re leading the points with a win and our season is going as planned, but it appears to be pretty entertaining. I hope the fans are enjoying it. I don’t have any major complaints.”
DO YOU THINK YOUR PROBLEMS HERE ARE YOUR DRIVING OR THE SETUP? “Like we talked about, I’m not sure. Seeing what Matt Kenseth was able to do that makes me think there’s hope for me, but this place is so tough. I’ve seen guys run in cars that were fast, I’ve seen guys practice other guys’ cars and still have trouble, so it appears it’s a combination. I feel like you have to have the car perfect and then there is some timing. Bobby Hamilton spent some time with me here one time and he talked to me a lot about the way he drove around and the rhythm that he had. I’ve had a couple flashes where we’ve run really well, but it’s been maybe one time I’ve had the car where I felt like I was making progress and got this thing figured. I just have to figure out A, what I want in the car, B, how to get it and, C, I’ve got to be able to drive it that way through the whole race. Once we get it put together, it’ll be good but it’s not an Atlanta or Bristol or place where I go to and I understand the way the track works and everything. I’m still missing something.”
WITH YOUR WIN AND CHASE POSITION HAVE CHANGED YOUR TEST STRATEGY? “That’s a really good question. I put on a dry erase board my wish how we’d do it, but there are other things we have to do, too. As an organization we can’t devote everything as if all of the cars are in the Chase right now. We’re not in it and Ricky and Greg, I think if they could get a win quickly, I think it would change our plans – it would make it easier to make a plan for the year, but right now we have two missions. We have to get everybody in the Chase and then go win the Chase, so we’re still in the planning stages, I guess. That’s a good question, though.”