Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings by one over Kevin Harvick. Edwards spoke about his position in the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield media center after practice.
I’m just excited to get to practicing and I hope this is the race we can turn it around and win a points race here.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND? “I hope we come out of here on Saturday with a win. We have not run well at this race track. This has been one of my tougher race tracks, but this year I feel like we turned a corner with our All-Star win and our run in the 600. Our car was very fast. Practice went really well for all the Fords. I feel like we’re gonna be pretty stout in qualifying and we’re, hopefully, gonna race really well. We’ve got the same kind of theory for setup and some of the same approaches for our car and our suspension as we had in the All-Star Race, so I’m just excited to get to practicing and I hope this is the race we can turn it around and win a points race here. That would be huge."
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? “I don’t know what can be done to make the Nationwide Series better. I’ve really enjoyed running the Nationwide Series. For me, there are a lot of race tracks – it’s just my opinion. I haven’t thought about this more than since you just asked the question, but there are a lot of race tracks out there that are really neat race tracks around the country and I think people would be really excited to see the Nationwide cars run. It’s my opinion that the future of the Nationwide Series is probably going to be a little more geographically separated from the Cup Series. We’ll be running at places like ORP and Memphis and tracks like that that maybe don’t have a Cup race going on the next day. If you go to Iowa, it is an unbelievable event. There’s not a Cup race anywhere near there, so for the Nationwide Series to go to that track and pack the stands and have people really excited about NASCAR racing, we’re gonna have to kind of create that demand with the schedule. I just think people are being more choosy with where they go watch the races. They might not want to watch a race one day and then the next day at the same race track. That’s just my opinion."
THE WAY YOU REBOUNDED LAST WEEK WAS SIMILAR TO WHAT THE 48 HAS DONE IN PAST YEARS. DOES THAT SHOW MATURITY ON YOUR TEAM’S PART? “First of all, last week we got very lucky to get the breaks we got, but we did come back and we didn’t lose our heads and I believe that comes from the maturity that we’ve built through a lot of pain and frustration through the last couple of years. It reminded me, when I watched Jimmie do one of his interviews afterwards, it reminded me of 2008. We won Atlanta and Jimmie was having a terrible day. I thought, ‘Man, we smoked him in the points today. That’s awesome,’ and then I looked up at the scoreboard and I think he finished second. I was like, ‘How in the heck did he finish second? Things were going terribly.’ But they came back and I could see that look in Jimmie’s eyes like, ‘Man, I didn’t know they finished fifth (meaning Carl at Kansas last week).’ They were probably really counting on putting a pretty good beating on us in the points, so I think to win the championship you have to not have bad days, and I think our team is better prepared to recover from some days like that than we have been in the past. I don’t know if that answers your question, but I was very proud of it. That’s the best way to put it.”
WHERE IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL AT THIS PLACE? “The All-Star Race helped a lot. That car was very good. Our car the next week was really good, too. We didn’t finish very well. I think we had a pit strategy issue like a lot of guys did, but I think we came back here and, like I said, we’ve been relying on what we ran at that race. If you look at the scoreboard just for qualifying practice there are a lot of our cars up there. They’re all pretty fast. The proof will be how we run on Saturday night, but I do have a lot more confidence here than I’ve had in years past. I mean, we’ve come here and been lost – just terrible – and I feel like we have a lot better shot now. I felt like that on Friday at Kansas too, but I do feel we’re looking pretty good here."
WHAT KIND OF STRATEGY DO YOU HAVE FROM A CHASE PERSPECTIVE? “I want to have the biggest lead I can get. Right now, it’s one point, but I’d like to leave here with a bigger lead and then have a little bit of insurance for that bad day that’s inevitably gonna happen. You go to Talladega, Martinsville, the new Phoenix surface, I mean, nobody knows what’s gonna happen and you need as many points as you can have so that you can absorb that bad day. We led the points for a bunch during the regular season, but we had some bad days that used up a ton of points. I think at one point we had a 40-point lead or something like that and one broken valve was all it took to wipe that away. So I’d much rather be out front."
ANY IDEA HOW IT WILL PLAY OUT AT TALLADEGA? “I don’t know how Talladega is gonna play out. We’ve been talking about it a little bit, but I think it’s going to be tougher. There’s gonna be more of a chance for mistakes, more of a chance for having wrecks and engine trouble. I think it’s just gonna be more difficult because you’ll have to swap the lead more and there will just be more guys trying to match their bumpers up and getting frustrated. So I think it’s gonna be more in the driver’s hands too, so I think that’s good. I think it’ll be better. The harder it is at Talladega, the better it is."
BUT WE’LL STILL SEE TANDEM RACING? “Yeah. That race will be won by two guys teamed up together, it’s just putting yourself in the position to have that opportunity at the end, I think, is gonna be a little tougher."
DO YOU FEEL THE UNPREDICTABLE NATURE OF THE CARS HAVE MADE THIS CHASE MORE STRESSFUL AND WILL YOUR STUNT DOUBLE BE WEARING YOUR UNIFORM WHEN HE DOES THE HUMAN CANNONBALL THIS WEEK? “I think that’s a good way to put it, it is more unpredictable. I truly went into Kansas thinking, ‘Boy, I sure hope we don’t finish second or third in this race. I’m here to win this race.’ And then about 15 laps in I thought, ‘Man, I’d give anything to finish second or third in this race.’ So you just don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what’s gonna happen. Your best race track could end up being your worst nightmare. You just don’t know. I’m glad to hear that’s stressing Jimmie out. That’s good news. As far as the cannonball shot, I don’t know what the man will be wearing."
DO YOU LOOK AT THE COMPUTER AND TRY TO BREAKDOWN WHAT’S GOING ON? “Yeah, we have a pretty good group of engineers and we talk quite a bit about where we’re losing time on the race track and things that we can work on. I think this sport is probably headed more and more in that direction. When the gains are so tiny that they’re almost imperceptible, it gets really tough to just go out there and do it by the seat of your pants. You’ve really got to understand where you’re slow.”
YOU’RE THE ONLY GUY WITH FOUR TOP 10’s IN THE CHASE. SOME THINK IT MAY COME DOWN TO YOU AND JIMMIE AT THE END. CAN YOU BEAT HIM THE LAST WEEK IF IT COMES DOWN TO THAT? “Of course we can beat him. We beat him in 2008, he just beat us before that race. We beat him last year. We can do it. The trick is getting to that point and being in a position to capitalize on that race track. That’s a race track – Homestead – where we feel we can go to and win every year that we go there. It’s a great track for Roush in general. The Fords seem to run really well there. I don’t know if the marketing campaign with Ford weekend helps that or not. I don’t know what they’re doing, but I’m glad for it. The thing that he does is he puts himself in a position to win and he doesn’t take himself out of the championship, ever. That’s what we have to go do and we have to do it better than him. I hope he’s the only guy I’ve got to worry about though. I think there might be more."
WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATION WITH SOME OF YOUR TEAMMATES WHO AREN’T IN THE CHASE. SHOULD THEY LET YOU BY TO GAIN POSITIONS? “I don’t really have an expectation. I hope that they would help out and I think they will, but everyone is racing for different things. They’re racing for wins and sponsorship and you’ve got to do the best you can. Put it this way, if I’m out of the picture and Matt’s in it and there’s something I can do to not hold him up, then I’m gonna do that. I’m gonna do the best I can to make sure I don’t hurt Matt’s chances. We’ve got a pretty tight group over there. Everybody seems to want to help each other. We’ve been through a lot together and I feel really good about my teammates."
AT WHAT POINT THOUGH DOES THE CHAMPIONSHIP BECOME A PRIORITY? “All situations are different and no one likes to hear about team orders. Fortunately, all of us are competitive enough that you don’t hear about it very often. There aren’t many times people are really trying to help someone else, ever. And there are only a couple times when a guy can really help you, but I believe my teammates would do the same thing I would do for them. If they need something and there’s a way I can help them with it, then hopefully they’ll do it. There’s a fine line. You don’t really want to help a guy, you just don’t want to hurt him. That’s the thing. I think with a teammate I’m more cautious just to be a little more careful around them. New Hampshire was a good example. I was being too aggressive. I got into Matt and spun him out and we need to be doing the opposite of that. That was a good reminder for me of how much is on the line and we talked about that – my team and I did – and I think everybody is conscious of it.”
SHOULD THERE BE REGULATIONS ON THAT DOWN THE LINE FROM NASCAR AS FAR AS HELPING TEAMMATES? “I think there are limitations. If people are bringing out cautions on purpose, stuff like that. I think NASCAR is very, very aware of that possibility and I think they’re watching it very closely. I don’t know what they would do, but that possibility is there and it’s real. We haven’t asked any of our teammates or entered into any of those discussions, but if you can affect the outcome of a race or a championship by doing that, there are gonna be people who try it and people who do it. I just hope that NASCAR keeps that out of it because once you start going down that road, I think it becomes very difficult to run your race. I hope that doesn’t become a part of it.”