Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend trailing points leader Jimmie Johnson by 141 points. After a formal Q&A session on stage, Edwards held a one-on-one breakout session where he addressed his...
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend trailing points leader Jimmie Johnson by 141 points. After a formal Q&A session on stage, Edwards held a one-on-one breakout session where he addressed his season and other issues.
WAS THERE A TIME THIS YEAR WHEN YOU THOUGHT JIMMIE WOULDN'T BE A FACTOR THIS SEASON? "It was noticeable that Jimmie was not up there dominating and winning races at the beginning of the season. I think everybody saw that. We were right on the verge of thinking, 'Hey, maybe Jimmie in not going to be contending for this thing,' but you can never count out those guys and I don't think anyone did. It was close. If he would have had some more bad races, then maybe more people would have written him off, but we never got to a point where I felt like Jimmie is not going to be an issue. And, sure enough, he's been so strong. I think that the lull that he had there in performance was just that -- a lull."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR NATIONWIDE SEASON SO FAR? "It's been an eventful season. The change in crew chiefs right there in the middle of the season, the performances that we've had lately closing the gap on Clint. I feel very strongly that we can win this championship on Saturday. I think it's far from over. Even without Clint having any trouble, if we were to go there and have a really good car and it was fast, I think we could beat him far enough on the race track if they had one little slip, so that season has been a lot of fun. It's been good and I feel like the whole season we've come back and it couldn't be a better situation for us considering where we were three races ago."
ARE DRIVERS ATHLETES? "It's not like a football game or something where you're running back and forth up the field, but it is really uncomfortable. I remember my first. I thought I was in pretty good shape. I was 21, 22 years old and I ran that race for Mike Mittler in the Craftsman Truck Series and I thought, 'There is something wrong with this vehicle. There's no way all these guys could do this all day. This truck must be extra-hot or have some sort of problem,' and once I realized that's how tough it is and that's what guys like Rusty Wallace or Mark Martin and all these guys have been doing for 15-20 years, I couldn't believe it. There aren't any tougher guys. They're as tough as anyone, so it's not a physical exertion thing, it's a threshold for discomfort and that's what I think makes these guys athletes. They can sit there in that car, focus and not make any mistakes in light of the terrible environment that it is."
WOULD YOUR TEAM BE FURTHER AHEAD IF YOU AND BOB HADN'T BEEN SEPARATED FOR THAT BRIEF TIME A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO? "I believe we'd be a little bit further ahead, I don't know that we would appreciate our relationship as much as we do now. You know, you don't know what you've got until it's gone and I think that's true in this case. I was so excited to get Bob back, and not that Wally was doing a bad job, but just because, man, we did really well together, and we still continue to do well together. I hope that Bob Osborne is my crew chief for my whole career. I don't see how I could have a better guy, so anytime we get to spend together gets us closer to being the perfect team."
HOW DO YOU STOP SOMEONE LIKE JIMMIE? CHANGE THE CHASE FORMAT? "I don't know. The guy is just having a good year. Statistically, a guy like Jimmie and guys like that are gonna run well because they perform at just a high level, but they can be beat just like anyone else so I think the chase is a really entertaining format. It's great for the fans and I don't think I'd mess with it."
TO MAKE HIM LESS DOMINANT, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE TO DO? "That's how competition works, everybody has to compete under the same rules. I guess one thing we could do is just find out exactly what it is that really distracts Jimmie and just have a lot of that around. That would probably be the best thing because that guy is focused."
ON TRACK INCIDENTS ARE DOWN THIS YEAR BY ABOUT 10 PERCENT. ANY REASON WHY? "First, nobody ever goes out there and races under 100 percent. Everybody goes as hard as they can. This car, there's a smaller window to get it perfect and I know that it's not always the driver -- it's how your crew chief sets the thing up and how you guys relate during practice and things like that, and I think that's just as important as how you drive it. I don't know why. The only thing I can say from my perspective is I've only been doing this since 2004 -- racing in this series -- and it seems like everyone is just getting better and better. Every week there are more people that can win -- more guys are realizing how to race and not make mistakes, so I think part of that is the sport changing a little bit and I think part of it is the car, but it's hard to put your finger on it."
IS THE CAR MORE FOREGIVING SO YOU TAKE MORE CHANCES? "I know I won't. You never want to run your car into anything unless you have to, but, yeah, the cars are a little stronger, they do withstand a little more beating because of the way they're shaped -- the nose and tail match up so you can run into somebody a little harder -- but you're still playing with fire there. I don't know what's gonna happen."
HAVE ANY OF THESE PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS GIVEN YOU ADVICE? "Richard Petty has pulled me aside a couple of times and given me good advice. He was just telling me, 'Don't eat sandwiches when you're in the race car.' He saw that last week and he said, 'That can get you if you're in a wreck,' so I appreciate him helping me out."
SO YOU AND JIMMIE REALLY GET ALONG WELL? "I know it would be more entertaining if Jimmie and I hated each other, but we don't. Let's get one thing straight, I want to beat him as much as anything in the world and I will be proud if we end up on top of this thing. If it all lines up and everything works out, it's only gonna make it more enjoyable to beat him because of the competitor that he is."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THIS TITLE? "It would mean a lot to me -- more than a lot. I can't even tell you how much it would mean, so we'll just do the best we can."
DID YOU FOLLOW RUSTY WALLACE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER BACK IN MISSOURI AND DID HIS SUCCESS HAVE AN EFFECT ON YOU? "I went to Mike Mittler's shop everyday it seemed like for a couple years and there was Rusty Wallace's picture right there on the wall. Growing up, the races I remember the most were the Watkins Glen ones. It was Rusty's birthday one year and he finished second. I remember cheering for him so hard and thinking, 'Man, he's got to win this race.' He was driving the wheels off, but guys like Rusty, Kenny Schrader, and Rusty's brothers who race, they made it seem like a reasonable goal and something that is attainable -- to be a professional race car driver."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS YEAR'S ROOKIE CLASS? "I haven't seen a lot of struggles. I see a lot of guys that are doing a really good job. What Regan Smith did at Talladega, I thought it was great. Sam Hornish and these guys, they're racers and they're good racers. This rookie class this year hasn't gotten a lot of hype, but I think part of that is because they've done so well. They've blended in and race hard and I don't think of them any differently than I think of the other guys on the race track and that's cool."
CAN YOU WIN THIS THING? "Let's be realistic. He essentially just has to go out there and run the race and not have something bad happen to him. We can only win it if we run well, regardless of what happens to Jimmie. So we have to go out and be aggressive, run hard, and do whatever it takes to finish in the top two or three and just hope that 1-in-10 or 1-in-20 chance of him having that bad race is what happens."
IF THERE'S ONE POINT IN THE CHASE YOU COULD TAKE BACK WHAT WOULD IT BE? "The thing is you can't take back anything that happens in the past -- at least I can't. Everything you do, the only way to cope with decisions that you make that turn out bad -- wrecks or whatever -- is just to believe that you make the best decisions you can at the time and once that's done, you move on. That's something my dad taught me real early and that's just the way it is. If we don't win the championship, I definitely learned some things and I think I'm better prepared for it next year, but it's not over."
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THIS THEORY OF YOU HAVE TO LOSE ONE BEFORE YOU WIN ONE? "I don't know. There's always statistics and patterns and people try to say things, but there's no one way to do things. The reality is we can win this championship still and we can win the next 10 in a row, or any combination of things can happen, so you just have to go do the best that you can and be happy with that."
DOES THIS LAST RACE TEND TO HAVE MORE DESPERATION WITH GUYS TRYING TO GET IN THE TOP 35 OR SETTLING UP SCORES OR LOOKING FOR RIDES? "I believe that all of the drama that goes on in the last race, that's all potentially beneficial to us because we need something to happen. We don't need a solid green-flag race with no incidents. We need something to happen. I hate to say that because it could happen to us and it would be bad, but, really, everyone goes into this last race with different agendas. Guys want to get in the top 35, there might be some guys that want to settle some scores, definitely everyone wants to finish the season strong, so maybe we'll have some guys spicing it up by trying a little harder."
YOU THINK THAT WOULD HELP YOU? "I think that can only help us. The problem matrix is pretty small. We pretty much have to win the thing and then Jimmie is either gonna run like he normally does or have trouble, so if we don't run in the front, it doesn't matter what Jimmie does, so the only way for us to win this championship is to go win this race or run very, very well and hope for something to happen to him."
DO YOU PINCH YOURSELF SOMETIMES TO SEE WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? "It's crazy. I cannot wait to write a book someday. It's gonna be awesome. There are just so many neat things that have happened to me and so many crazy things. But, yeah, I think it was 2000 -- I won the track championship at Capital Speedway in Holts Summit, Missouri, in a dirt modified and here it is 2008 and we're knocking on the championship here for the highest form of motorsports in the western world, at least I think it's the highest form, so it's crazy."
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR? "You don't know how much I'm looking forward to next year and the year after that and the year after that. I feel like this is the best we've ever been. I feel like Bob and I are doing the best we've ever done and there are so many things -- if you go back and look through this season -- I look at Sonoma, where we had the fastest car. Everybody always says that about Sonoma, but we really did have a fast car and we screwed up our pit strategy and we had parts give up on us and pit stop troubles, and all these little things, and I made mistakes, but they're all so small and I feel like we can fix a lot of those and, hopefully, eventually, become a team a lot like Jimmie's got right now -- that just barely ever makes mistakes. I'm excited about that."
CAN YOU RECOUNT THAT STORY WITH LESA KENNEDY? "The deal was is we won our track championship in 2000, and this is gonna be part of my book too, I met Lesa and Bruce at the NASCAR banquet. I didn't know who they were, they were just walking by the hotel room and one of my buddies was about half-drunk and he invited them in to come party with us because we were having a good time and we figured they were from some local track, too, and they said, 'No, we're here with NASCAR.' I was like, 'Me, too. What track are you from?' And we found out that it was Bill France's daughter and her husband, so we ended up having a really good time with them that weekend. Going back to Missouri and Lesa was really someone that helped me. If I needed somebody to call for advice, I could call and talk to her. I was down there with Mike Mittler, just hanging out and helping out, and she said you can come on over to the house, we're having a little get-together. I was like the only guy invited who was not in the field for the Daytona 500. I was definitely out of place. I met Jimmie and we just started talking and he's just a really cool guy. I was a fan of his right then, and I hoped we would be racing together someday, but we were definitely worlds apart at that point. But the coolest thing is he treated me just like anybody else and that's cool."
BETWEEN THE TALLADEGA WRECK AND THE TWO BOXES GOING WHAT. WHAT HURT THE MOST? "I think the two boxes giving up was the one that was a little tough. Talladega is Talladega. You're put in that situation and that's kind of just a crapshoot. That's the first time in a Cup race that I've been one of the guys to cause a wreck at Talladega, but that one you kind of go into just assuming that something is gonna happen. The deal at Charlotte really caught us off guard and that was a day when we had a really good car, but that's just the way it goes.
DID YOU EVER FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED? "Yeah, we figured it all out and it was amazingly unlucky. It's almost statistically impossible for what happened to happen, but it did."
YOU HAVE BEEN GOOD AT THIS TRACK AND JIMMIE HASN'T, SO ANYTHING CAN STILL HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND. "Yeah, that's the way it is. That's the thing, people can say whatever they want, but until it's done, it's just speculation. Yeah, there are probabilities and chances and all those things, but it just doesn't work like that. Anything can happen and that's why people are gonna tune in on Sunday because on that first lap something can happen and change the whole face of this thing and that's how racing is."
WHY HAVE YOU BEEN GOOD HERE? "I don't know why we've been so good here. We've got really good cars and we run well on the mile-and-a-halfs, but it has been amazing -- our runs here at Homestead. The thing is we haven't raced this car here, so it's gonna be interesting to see how practice goes. I think there's a lot to learn."
DOES THIS WHOLE THING SEEM SURREAL TO YOU WITH WHERE YOU WERE JUST A FEW YEARS AGO? "The whole thing is surreal. I guess that (press conference) was on TV. I was sitting up there thinking, 'Wow, we're on live television and it's so nice to have all these heroes show up.' It's crazy. It's really insane that a guy from Columbia, Missouri -- I mean, at the end of the 2000 season I was the champion at my local dirt track and it was the greatest thing in the world, but still I felt like, 'Man, I'm worlds away from being where these guys are,' and to think that I'm here and I've got a great team and I've got a contract to race for years to come and we're competing for a championship, that's insane. I think we feel the same on that. It's like you just can't believe it."
ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'VE GOT GUYS LIKE RICHARD PETTY GIVING YOU ADVICE. "Everybody knows he's one of the greatest people you'll ever meet, but anytime he sees me doing something that he thinks I shouldn't be doing, he pulls me aside and he says, 'Listen here, I know I shouldn't be telling you this, but I'm gonna tell you anyway.' And he was telling me, 'Don't be eating a sandwich while you're in the race car,' like I was last week. He said, 'That's dangerous,' and he's right. He's an amazing man. I'm really glad that I've got to speak with him the couple times I have and even though it's just him telling me what I'm doing wrong, man, it's still cool. Man, it's Richard Petty. He can tell me whatever he wants and I'll do it."
DO YOU HAVE A THOUGHT ON THE GANASSI-DEI MERGER? "I just heard about, but I would have to say that no matter what happens, given the same equipment and same chances, Juan would be one of the toughest guys regardless of what team he is with. I think whatever they can do to make their team stronger is gonna be good for him."
HOW DID YOU GET THIS INVITE FROM LESA KENNEDY AGAIN? "I met Lesa at the 2000 banquet for the local weekly racing series stuff and we just talked every once in a while. I told her I was gonna be down there in Daytona, where I was helping Mike Mittler's truck that year. I wasn't driving anything. And she said, 'Oh, you should come over to the house. We're having a little get-together.' I showed up and I think I was the only guy that wasn't in the Daytona 500 or owned one of the cars that was, so I just kind of hung around, ate the food and talked to guys that would talk to me like Jimmie Johnson."
WHAT WOULD THIS TITLE MEAN TO YOU? "It would be the greatest moment, by far, of my career. I can only hope that I get to feel it as soon as Sunday. That would mean a lot."
ARE THERE ANY DREAMS OR IMAGES YOU THINK ABOUT THAT GOT YOU TO THIS POINT? "Regardless of what happens on Sunday I think about it often. I try to remember where I came from and the people who sacrificed to help me get there, and it is auto racing, it's a sport and it's fun, but the challenge and the improbability of me sitting in this chair right now is so big that I can't help but feel real emotional, real proud and real humbled by the fact I get to do this."
WHY IS ROUSH SO GOOD AT HOMESTEAD AS A TEAM? "I don't know why we're so good at Homestead as a team. It doesn't have anything to do with Ford sponsoring the race track, but our cars are real good and we run well on the mile-and-a-halfs. I don't know why we're so good here, though. I don't know why it's ended up with a lot of victories."
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'LL BE THIS WEEKEND? "I think we'll be really tough here. You don't know until you run practice and maybe even halfway through the race. A lot changes here with the sun going down and things like that. It's hard to tell who is gonna be really good and I hope we're there at the end."
IS THIS THE TRACK YOU'D LIKE TO RACE ON IN THIS SITUATION? "Oh yeah. If I had to pick a track to go to for the final race of the season, this would be it. It's a track that we haven't raced on, so we have to rely on the crew chief and the crew to come up with something quickly that's fast, and I feel like I've got a big advantage there with the guys that I've got. It's also a mile-and-a-half and our engines and setups and my driving style all fit that very well, so I couldn't think of a better place. This is what I would pick."
HOW BIG WAS YOUR TIME IN THE TRUCK SERIES AS FAR AS YOUR DEVELOPMENT? "The fact that the Truck Series exists and it existed the way it did at the time when I first started running it with Mike Mittler, being able to afford to go to the races and compete and be competitive -- if it weren't for that, I can't visualize another path for me to get here to the Cup Series. That Truck Series was the perfect place for a guy that had a little bit of pavement experience to go race with some guys like Ted Musgrave and Dennis Setzer and Jack Sprague and those guys, it gave me the perfect middle ground. I couldn't imagine being here without it."
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU JUMPED FROM TRUCKS TO CUP? "I didn't plan on being in the Cup Series, ever. When that call came and Jack said, 'Hey, we're gonna put you in a Cup car in two weeks,' that was as big of a surprise to me as it could be. From where I came from, if I were to have raced in the Truck Series and made a living at it as a career and never gone any farther than that, I would have felt like the luckiest guy in the world, so the fact that now I get to run in the Cup Series and the Nationwide Series, that's just icing."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT POSSIBLY WINNING TWO CHAMPIONSHIPS? "The fact that we're closer in the Nationwide Series makes it a little more exciting. I think it's gonna be a neat race. There will be a lot of tension there, I think, and I think that will be fun for me and the fans. Hopefully, it's not so much fun for Clint, but there's not one that's more important than the other, really. I want to do the best I can in both of them."
ANY WORRY ABOUT YOUR ATTENTION BEING DIVERTED TO ONE TITLE OR THE OTHER? "No. When I get in a race car I try really hard -- and sometimes it's difficult to do -- but I try just to focus on that race at that time and what I have to do there, and that seems to be the best thing for me. Unless I'm just having a really terrible day, then I can't wait to get in that Cup car."
WILL THIS HELP YOU FOCUS MORE -- BEING IN CONTENTION FOR BOTH? "I think it will probably help me focus a little more to have two separate championships to go for. When you start to get things wrapped up -- I know last season we had it wrapped up before the race was over at Homestead and I wouldn't say it took something away from the Nationwide race, but it just wasn't quite as much fun, and I think this makes it kind of more fun."
SO WILL THIS TAKE YOUR MIND OFF SUNDAY? "It'll occupy a lot more of my thought, so Saturday will just be a Nationwide day and once that's over, I can just focus on the Cup car. I think if the Nationwide thing were wrapped up, it would give me a little more time to think and that might not be good."
-credit: ford racing