Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings and trails leader Tony Stewart by 14 points. Edwards held his weekly Q&A session with reporters after the final practice session at Dover International Speedway on Friday.
HOW HAS PRACTICE GONE AND WHAT’S YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND? “Practices have gone very well. I lost my voice a little bit, so that’s why I sound like this, but practices have gone great. I really love racing here. It’s a fun race track. We were just watching the replays of Matt’s win in the Cup Series earlier this year. We felt like we had a car that could win that race and practice has gone really well today. I feel we picked up right where we left off. We’ve got one of if not the fastest car, so that’s good. Nationwide practice went well. It looks like Brad is really fast and we’re fast too, so we should have a good race there. That should be a lot of fun. Ricky is really fast as well, so I think that’s gonna be a great race. I hope the weather holds off for tomorrow."
YOU ONLY HAVE ONE WIN THIS YEAR BUT HAVE ONE OF THE BEST FINISHING RECORDS IN THE GARAGE. DO YOU HAVE SOME LONG-TERM STRATEGY OF WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP VERSUS BIG WIN SEASONS? “Exactly. This is all by design (joking). We said, ‘You know what, we’re not gonna try to win them. We’re just gonna go out and try to lull them into thinking that we’re not able to.’ I think this season has been different than previous seasons in that when you have a dominant car it is very easy to fall victim to someone else’s strategy. I felt like it’s interesting that the only race we’ve won this year we did not dominate. The races that we dominated we weren’t able to win and it all comes down to that last pit stop. Matt and I talked about it after he won the race here earlier this year. I called him and I was a little jealous because he won and our car was so fast and he said, ‘Man, it was an easy situation for us. We were running 10th all day, so of course we’ll take two tires and go see what we can get,’ and it worked. If you look at Darlington, that Dover race, I know there are a couple other races – Phoenix, we had a dominant car. I think in the end that as long as we can just run well and keep running the way we’re running, and we can learn from the ones we let slip away, I wouldn’t put it past us to win two or three of these races in the Chase. But if we don’t, at least we know that we are running better. But, no, it’s not be design, it’s just the way it is."
ARE YOU TRYING TO WAIT FOR EVERYBODY ELSE TO MAKE THEIR MISTAKE AND FALL OUT? “There are two ways to do it, but you kind of have to do them simultaneously. You have to do two things. You have to not make any mistakes, but also go as fast as you can. If you watch guys in just the first two races, guys have put themselves behind through mistakes or miscalculations with fuel and we can do that just as easily as anyone, but our goal is not to. At the same time, we are coming here to win these races and if I have a shot to win this on Sunday, then that’s what I’m going for. We’re not holding back anything is the only way to put it. We’re going as fast as we can every week."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FINISH AHEAD OF THE 48 THIS WEEKEND? “It’s important to beat them every week, I think. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that of all the cars that you want to finish in front of, you want to finish in front of those guys the most because the last five years they’ve been the guys to beat at the end. But we aren’t fixating on them because if you look, there are guys that are quietly mounting some pretty good charges. Tony isn’t doing it quite so quietly, but he’s a guy that no one was really talking about as a championship threat until a couple of weeks ago. Brad has been really fast. It looked like Kevin and the 29 car were really good in practice and I don’t think he’s historically very good here, so anything can happen. The way these pit calls are going at the end of these races, if you look at what we were talking about earlier, if it comes down to the last pit stop, anyone in the top 15 could snooker everybody and go win this race, so I guess what I’m saying is, yeah, it feels good to beat Jimmie, but I’m trying not to focus on him because he might not be the guy to beat at the end of the Chase. He might be the wrong person to focus on."
IS THE WINNER OF THIS CHASE GOING TO BE MORE LUCKY THAN GOOD? “I guess the fewer races that you determine the championship by the more luck is involved, but we don’t have a point system like we used to. We have a Chase and that’s what we’ve got and I don’t think it’s luck. I don’t think a pit call is luck. I think it’s easier to make that risky call when you’re in 10th and you haven’t done anything all day and you think, ‘Hey, why not? Let’s take two tires or no tires or let’s gamble.’ It is easier, but, yes, I do feel like we’re at a time in this sport right now where the fastest car probably wins a lesser percentage of the races than they used to because it is harder to pass and it is more dependent on your strategy."
IS THAT A GOOD THING FOR THE SPORT? “You can always say ‘if’. There is an ‘if’ for anything. If the pavement at Darlington was like it used to be, there’ s no way you could stay out on tires and win the race. If we weren’t so aero dependent, there’s no way you could get two tires here and hold people off for 35 laps. I mean, it’s just the way the racing is and everybody races under the same rules, so I’m not gonna live in the past and put the guys down because they won a race by out-strategizing us. That’s not the right way to look at it. What I have to do is figure out how to win these races no matter what, whether it’s strategy or beating them on and off pit road. You look at what Brad did in the night race at Bristol, taking advantage of the pit stall. You could look at that and say, ‘Maybe he shouldn’t have won that race, or he really should have because they did a good job of picking a pit stall and executing that.’ I think with our racing now the winner has to do more things right and there are more things that can take the fastest car and put them back in fifth or sixth. I don’t know if I’m answering that right, but you guys see it every week. You don’t know who is going to win."
IF YOU KNOW YOU’RE GOING TO GET A DECENT FINISH ARE YOU MORE LIABLE NOT TO TAKE A GAMBLE, AND ARE YOU MORE OF A GAMBLER THAN BOB OSBORNE? “I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t even know what the gamble is. When the caution comes out I don’t know how far we can make it. I don’t know how fast guys are running on two tires, so it really ends up being in the crew chief’s hands and it’s really tough on them. I’d say that since I’ve been racing these cars I’ve always been the guy that says, ‘Hey, I don’t care if we lose a couple of spots, get me four tires and I’ll make it up. I’ll go pass these guys,’ so it has taken a little bit of a change for me to just say, ‘Hey, two tires is OK.’ It’s hard for me to not key that button and say, ‘Hey, just give me four and we’ll make it work.’ So in that respect I’m less of a gambler than I need to be."
IT’S GOING TO BE 25 DEGREES COOLER ON SUNDAY. WILL THAT MEAN ANY CHANGES ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL TOWARDS YOUR CAR? “The only thing is the sun went away. I’m just taking a guess at it, but I bet the track temp is probably similar right now with the warmer outside air temperature and no sun as it will be on Sunday, so we’re kind of banking on it being similar."
DO YOU HAVE TO THROW THE CREW CHIEF INTO THE EQUATION WHEN TALKING ABOUT FACTORS FOR A RACE? YOU ALREADY HAVE DRIVER AND CAR. “I hadn’t thought of it like that. There’s always a question of is it more car than driver. When you say car you kind of include the crew chief in that, but I see what you’re saying – that on race day the calls that are made. I’d say you’re exactly right and I’d say that’s a good way to think of it. The driver has to do his part, the crew chief has to do his part and the shop has the build the car to be fast enough, but I think you’re right in saying you will not win these races repeatedly if you don’t have the right calls on the pit box. If you look at the guys who have won races this year, I’d say a huge number – it feels like half or more of the races have been won by kind of a gutsy pit call, so it does take that crew chief right now."
HOW DO YOU KEEP BOB OSBORNE COOL? “He’s been doing really well lately. He’s been in a good mood. I still can’t believe he sung on the radio. That was insane, so I think Bob is having fun. The other day it was New Hampshire and we were slow in practice – it might have been qualifying when I qualified poorly – and he wasn’t saying much. I said, ‘Come on Bob, we can’t get frustrated.’ He said, ‘I don’t get frustrated. I get serious and I get to work.’ I thought that was pretty cool. He just works hard and he truly cares about it, so I’m just glad to have him as a crew chief. I think he does a really good job and I believe we understand each other really well. He puts up with me talking all the time and throwing out all these ideas and I put up with him just being serious and working hard and brushing me off all the time, so it’s pretty funny that way.”