Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, who are third and fourth respectively in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, were part of a press conference in Miami this afternoon to discuss the Ford 400. Edwards is trailing leader Tony Stewart by 87 points while...
Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, who are third and fourth respectively in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, were part of a press conference in Miami this afternoon to discuss the Ford 400. Edwards is trailing leader Tony Stewart by 87 points while Biffle is 102 points behind.
- No. 99 Office Depot Taurus
"I'm kind of excited to be at Homestead. I think it's gonna be a fun race track to end the season with. We've run well at these type of tracks, so I feel really comfortable about this. We've just got to do the best we can do, just like we do every week and have some fun and race and maybe come out of here with a win."
- No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus
"I think I have the least amount of pressure. I'm fourth in points, 102 out, so I'm just coming here to try and win like I did last year. Obviously, my goal is to improve my position, whether I can be third or second, or whatever this weekend, but we ran really, really well last weekend at Phoenix and finished second, so it's kind of that same thing this week and get ready for next year."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT REPRESENTING THE ENTIRE SPORT? YOU GUYS ARE THE CREAM OF THE CROP THIS YEAR.
EDWARDS: "To be honest with you, for me personally, I don't feel like I should be here. I feel like there are a lot of guys in this sport that have paid a lot more dues and who probably on average run better at a lot of these tracks. I feel very fortunate this year for our Office Depot team. We haven't been very good on road courses and we haven't been very good on short tracks, but our luck has been such that we ended up running just well enough at those places, and we haven't had any bad luck at the races that we do run well at. I think we're in the best possible position we could have been in. As far as representing the sport, it's really an honor to be up here with these guys because I do feel like these are the best guys in this sport. I feel like I kind of came in through the back door. I'm lucky to be here. I think next year will be a little bit better and if we have the same luck, we can maybe be in a little bit better position even."
HOW WILL YOU RACE THIS WEEKEND - TAKE MORE CHANCES?
BIFFLE: "I've tried to win all 10 of them. I think that was pretty apparent last week in Phoenix. We had a really good car and led as many laps as we could and ended up a little short at the end, but it was still a fun race for us. It was kind of a boost after our run in Atlanta and Texas, for us. But we come in, and I kind of use the conservative aggressive approach, just try and make sure I'm not stepping out of the box on my race car itself and just do the best we can. We've got a great engine program, a fantastic engine program - Carl and I both are very lucky for that. Reliability, it seems like they've got a great handle on that, and I feel really confident every weekend when I come to the track."
THOUGHTS ON DRIVERS COMING FROM ALL DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY?
EDWARDS: "I think it says a lot about the future of the sport that there are so many great drivers all over the country. All of us go to short track races and we see what's out there, so I think it gives some one who is running on a Saturday night a lot to look forward to. There's really no geographical barriers anymore in the sport."
BIFFLE: "Yeah, the same with me. Kasey Kahne and myself are both from Washington state and it tells how important short-track racing and all of that has become as a feeder series to moving to the Craftsman Truck Series or moving up and racing. Kasey raced a lot of open-wheel and I raced a lot of late model type, close-wheeled stuff, so it's neat to see. I think both Kasey and I have created some opportunities for people in the future as well. I know there are a couple other guys running the Busch Series now and have some ARCA stuff going that are from out there, and I think that's created awareness across. Kurt Busch being from Vegas and then myself. Jack picked us both up from the west coast and that's kind of opened doors for people, I think."
HOW KEY IS THE TEAM ELEMENT TO YOUR SUCCESS?
EDWARDS: "For me I didn't understand the team aspect of this sport very well until I came down here and started running the Craftsman Truck Series for Jack. Growing up and doing kind of everything it was like me and my buddy, or me and my dad, or whoever would help me on my race car, and learning how much the team is a part of it has been really neat for me. My team in particular. When I came on board, we didn't have a sponsor and they hired me. They moved me up way before they probably should have, Jack did, and I'm just really happy my guys stuck around. Those guys are really the ones, in my eyes, live and die a little bit more by the performance of the team. They make enough to support their families and go about their business, but if the team were to shut down or do something, they're in immediate trouble. So for those guys to stick around for me and work through it and find Office Depot as a sponsor and not leave in times of trouble, I owe a lot to my team - not only on the race track but as people for making this all happen."
BIFFLE: "I have to agree with Carl. It's funny. I can remember the day like it was yesterday when there were three guys that worked on my race car, and one of the guys we'd only let him do a certain amount of stuff. He couldn't set the wheel bearings or whatever, but he was good at putting body panels on and other things. Roger and I, I was the only one that worked on the car. I wouldn't let anybody else do it. I did all the work myself, and you appreciate so much now. When I went Craftsman Truck Series racing and there are all these people, and the amount of talent that all of them have is incredible. And the people keep getting better and better and better. It's definitely a team sport and we can't do what we do at all without the amount of effort, and I'm very lucky to have a guy like Doug Richert heading up my program. He's been around this sport for a long, long time and knows a lot of people and he does a great job for me."
YOU GUYS ARE SO WELL BEHAVED AND POLITE. DO ANY OF YOU HAVE A DIG YOU'RE DYING TO GET IN ON SOMEONE (LAUGHTER).
BIFFLE: "I know how hard I've worked to be here and I know how much I've done, and you have so much respect for the other guys and all the guys that are in the chase because you know what they had to do. I know what I had to do to be here and how hard it has been and how it tests your patience and everything. It's high stress and a lot of pressure, and it takes a lot of ability to do what we do every week, and I think you have to respect your peers for them doing the same thing - especially these three guys who have done a little bit better than we've done."
EDWARDS: "It's not a fight. It's not just me versus Tony or Jimmie versus Tony. We already talked about our teams. There are so many people. It's like we're just the ones that get to go out and race these cars, and it is really cool at the end of the day when you win. It's the most unbelievable feeling in the world, but last week at Phoenix, for example, once the race is over they threw the checkered flag and by the time I got to turn three I was happy for Kyle Busch that he won that race. We all know what it takes and there are so many people behind the scenes. I don't know if it would do much good to be up here trash-talking - the one guy on the team because there are so many guys."
IF ROUSH DOESN'T WIN THE TITLE WITH FIVE CARS IN IT, WILL SOME OF THE AIR GO OUT OF THE BALLOON?
EDWARDS: "I don't think so. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that, I think Tony brought it up, the championship and the point system that's in place - in my eyes - the penalty for a terrible day, for having a bad day and a mistake, is so large. You look at a team like Greg's. He has so many wins and they've been so unbelievable, but just those couple of bad days in the chase has set him back. I don't think it's because of our performance. I feel like we've performed very well. Whenever everything has gone well our teams have done great. If we don't win the championship, it's just because of the way the cards fell. I don't think it will change our mood. I feel like when we go to the race track, I wouldn't change positions with anyone else. I feel like I have the best equipment and the best cars. If we don't win the championship, that's OK. We'll just come back next year and do it."
BIFFLE: "I just think it goes to show that the team really doesn't have a lot to do with it, it's the five cars and drivers and the team owner. Matt has his own team, and it wouldn't be any different if those other teams were filled in by Richard Childress or anything else. It's just five things and anything can happen to those five teams. The face of this would look a lot different. If I wouldn't have had a loose wheel at Texas, I would be second if nothing else would have happened - a top five finish - I would be second in points about 35-45 behind Tony right now. It would be a whole different story for me, so it's just the one race. You can pinpoint any one race through there so you can lose a great deal - Talladega, any of them can be a big factor. So I don't think that anybody at Roush could be disappointed at all for just getting our five teams in. That's how solid of a program we have and how hard everybody has worked. Like Jimmie talked about - 500-plus people - that's no mistakes, no errors, great equipment, no failures, the whole season to put our five cars in there. Then once you're in there it's every driver and the 20 people that are on that team for themselves. Really, the team owner doesn't have a lot to do with that, but I don't think anybody certainly is gonna be disappointed with the way we've run in the chase."
END OF FORMAL PRESS CONFERENCE. FOLLOWING ARE DRIVER INDIVIDUAL SESSIONS.
CARL EDWARDS GROUP SESSION
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE DRIVERS WORKING ON THEIR OWN CARS TRYING TO GET TO THIS LEVEL?
"Just enjoy it, have a good time and never give up. The sport is such that if you have the talent and you keep trying and keep trying, you'll get opportunities. If you can do the job and you can drive a race car you'll get opportunities. You just have to keep knocking on doors. I just feel so fortunate. I had my mother motivating me and all that to keep me working hard at it because it's a very gratifying sport when you have some success. But most importantly just enjoy it and do whatever is fun because it is a fun sport."
DID YOU EVER THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE HERE A YEAR AGO?
"No, it's unbelievable. Right now I feel like the position we're in a bunch of different scenarios can happen. But the most likely scenario for us to win this championship is if Tony has some sort of bad luck, and then we're gonna be racing Jimmie and Greg for the win. I just never in a million years thought this could happen. I mean, this is just unreal. It's so cool to have four wins under our belt and have a sponsor in Office Depot and be competing for the championship in our first year. It's unbelievable."
DOES RUNNING IN THE BUSCH RACE GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE?
"I think running the Charter car on Saturday is gonna help a lot. I only have a couple of races on this race track and only one in a Cup car, so to run that Busch race, these last few races I couldn't be happier with my Busch program. I even told Bob, my crew chief, at Phoenix, 'This is exactly why we ran this Busch car this year, so that we'd have weeks like this where it really paid off and helped with the Cup car when we need it."
WHAT MOMENTS IN YOUR CAREER HELPED YOU EXCEL?
"I think that winning my NASCAR track championship in Missouri in 2000, that was a really big deal. That helped me immensely just to be able to come down here. We had the banquet in Orlando and I got to meet a lot of people. That was huge. Deciding to run in the USAC Silver Crown Series, that was a really big gamble on the part of my family. We spent everything we had on this race car and went and ran at Phoenix. That was probably the real turning point of my career, and then from there just getting an opportunity to drive in the Craftsman Truck Series. It only took that one race to kind of get my confidence up and know that I could do this. Those are really the three biggest moments."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF TO A FAN?
"I don't know. I just feel like no matter what a person can achieve anything they want to achieve, you just have to try hard enough. I don't feel like there's anything that the right amount of effort can't achieve. There's no goal too high. That's kind of how I've tried to live my life and that's how I go at this racing. I don't feel that I was born with the natural talent of some people. I feel like I've just had a lot of good fortune and worked really hard and any success we have is because of all the hard work from everyone on our team. I don't know if that says a lot about my personality, but I just feel like anything is possible."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A TEAMMATE IN THE CHASE?
"Going into the last race of the season I don't think that teammates - the fact that Greg and I are up there together is not the biggest thing. I think the biggest thing is that we've got three other cars out there on the race track that aren't necessarily racing for the championship per se, so that might help us a little bit. If I need one more spot, maybe one of those teammates would be the guy that wouldn't race me too hard, and that helps. But having Greg there, teammate stuff all goes out the window when you're racing for something as big as the championship."
HOW KEY IS QUALIFYING THIS WEEKEND?
"Really, I think qualifying well is gonna be key just like it is at all of these races because it gives you less of a chance of being in a wreck. Statistically, you have less cars in front of you so qualifying is gonna be important and more important just because you don't have any time to make it up. This is our last shot at a championship."
YOU HAVE TEAMMATES THAT HAVE WON CHAMPIONSHIPS. HAVE THEY GIVEN YOU ANY ADVICE?
"To be honest with you, we haven't talked a lot about the specific things you do as a driver. I've looked at their statistics. I spent a little time looking at the chase statistics from last season and saw how Kurt won that championship with just solid top-10 runs and that helped me a little bit, but I think the biggest thing I benefit from is just overall - everyone on the team, the guys that build the engines, the guys that build the bodies, the crew chiefs - all of them have strategies in place based on what success the team has had before, but as far as drivers and just talking one on one, I haven't really talked to guys a lot about how they go about winning championships."
WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP DOING THE BACKFLIP? YOU MIGHT HURT YOURSELF?
"No, I do a lot of things that are way more dangerous than doing a backflip off the car."
BUT THERE'S A FATIGUE FACTOR INVOLVED. WHY DO YOU TAKE THAT CHANCE?
"That's the different between you and me, I guess (laughing). To be honest with you, that's my way of saying, 'Hey, man, I'm excited about this win.' I'm just joking around with you, but I get five or six days to heal before I have to be at the race track, so it's not like we have to race the next day. I worry more about riding my dirt bike and stuff like that to be honest with you. The backflip is pretty easy, really. It's not that hard. When you win, too, there's this huge amount of energy."
WHAT OTHER SIDE IS THERE TO YOU?
"I'm very competitive, obviously. But I think that you can be an extremely competitive person and stand up for the things that you believe in and fight for what you want and all that, and still be polite to people and treat people like they deserve to be treated. I don't know if it's possible to go out and race without having a really deep-rooted competitive spirit. I do try to be nice, but we race and that's kind of my outlet to go out and do whatever I can do to get whatever I can."
Continued in part 2