Qualifying for Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 was cancelled due to rain, meaning the starting lineup will be set via the NASCAR rule book. As a result, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth will start on the front row by virtue of them being first and second, respectively, in the point standings. Both drivers visited the Martinsville infield media center to talk about their good fortune.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Scotts Ford Fusion
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOT QUALIFYING AND STARTING ON THE POLE? “Qualifying, I think, is one of the most important parts of this race and it’s no secret that’s been a tough thing for me and Matt as well, so I think it’s best-case for us that we get to start on the front row, and even better is the pit stall selection. I think that’s gonna last all day no matter how much we have to work on the car or things we have to do, that first pit stall will be great. This is my first time having it, I believe, so it’s the best qualifying we could have hoped for.”
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – “It’s always nice to start up front, but I don’t think any of us have any idea (about the track) because we haven’t practiced yet, but we started right by each other in the spring race because they dropped the green and I switched lanes to get in front of Carl before the start-finish line. Lane choice is important and Carl is gonna pick the top, so I’m looking forward to already being on the bottom, but nothing has obviously happened since we were here last. I don’t have much to add.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – HOW DOES STARTING UP FRONT MATTER EARLY IN THE RACE BECAUSE THE BACK OF THE FIELD WILL PIT IF THERE’S A CAUTION IN THE FIRST 60-70 LAPS AND JUMBLE THE FIELD. “I think we obviously want to lead a lap and get that point, so if I can hang on for one lap, maybe I’ll get to lead one, that would be great. Like you said, anything can happen during the race, but I believe the pit stall selection is more important. Matt got black-flagged on the start – on the first lap of the last race – and he still made up his lap and drove all the way up there and had a really good run. So if your car is fast, you’ll probably end up in a decent spot anyway. The only bad part about having qualifying rained out is if, for some reason, we would have qualified well anyway, we maybe could have had a bigger advantage on the folks we’re racing in the points, but as it stands now they’re starting right there behind us and our closest competitors will have good pit stall selections as well, so it almost takes qualifying out of the equation by being rained out as far as the Chase is concerned. You can’t gain a big advantage on someone or lose something, but I believe the pit stall selection is the biggest thing and our 99 team got the best pit stall there, so that’s good. I’m hoping Bob will pick the first one. I think he will.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – “I don’t think I’ve ever qualified good here. I’m pretty sure we never qualified in the top 10 here if we had to get the car on the track, so I don’t know about top 20, but it’s not a good track for us qualifying. I can’t recall everything that happened in the last race, except for that. But I think we did get some long runs and our car was pretty good on a long run. This is one of those places where your car is a lot different on a 30-lap run than what it is on a 100-lap run. You’ll see some guys that are real fast taking off and their cars turn really good and it seems like they end up getting really loose and then there are guys that maybe start a little slower, but are really fast at the end of the run if you get a longer run or on older tires, so our car was pretty decent if we could run more than 20 or 30 laps and we could actually make some passes. Jimmy made a couple good calls and we made some good stops and got back up there, but certainly it’s easier when you can start up front. The only aggravating part about it is you don’t have anywhere to go except backwards, so it gets aggravating if your car is not real fast and you’re losing positions."
DO YOU GO INTO PRACTICE SETTING YOUR CAR UP FOR LONGER RUNS? “I think you want both in a perfect world. I think you want to find some kind of compromise. I don’t think you want something that’s real fast for 20 and real slow for 120 because, like a lot of tracks, I think track position is fairly important and you’re gonna try to keep that track position even if you have some used tires at the end depending on how many laps you have on your tires, so I think you want to try to find kind of a happy medium. You don’t want to start so slow that you get shuffled off the bottom right away, but I think certainly having some speed 50 laps into a run is gonna be important as well.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – IT LOOKED LIKE SOME GUYS STAYED OUT LAST WEEK TO KEEP YOU FROM LEADING A LAP. IS THAT THE CASE AND ARE WE GOING TO SEE THAT FROM HERE ON OUT TO KEEP GUYS FROM GAINING POINTS? “I thought about that when we were out there trying to stay out and lead a lap, but that’s their job is to do whatever they can. That’s all of our jobs is to beat everyone else and not just on the race track but in the points. I didn’t think about it until it was going on because we kept staying out and somebody would stay out each time in front of us. I thought that was a pretty good strategy on their part, if that’s what they were doing."
WILL WE SEE MORE OF THAT? “You might. I hadn’t thought of that, but should have. I guess we should think about those things. As it gets closer you know exactly who you’re racing, you’ll probably do a little bit more of that. I think that’s just good strategy. I will try my hardest to not let Matt lead a lap on Sunday.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – “I think Talladega is a little different though, too. I know what you’re asking, but I think one thing you’ve got to think of is all these guys were trying as hard as they could to stay in the back, so that’s why they were staying out. They knew they had to come out of the pits last, so they were just staying out until one to go and then go in the back and I don’t believe you’ll see that happen again this year. I think it’s totally different.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – “And some of that was fuel too, I think. You wanted to stay out as long as you could for fuel, but I thought about it when Mark stayed out and he was the only car in front of us. I thought maybe they were doing that, but I wouldn’t fault him for it."
THERE WAS TALK ABOUT TEAMMATE RELATIONSHIPS YESTERDAY AND YOUR INCIDENT WITH MATT CAME UP. DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU WERE UPSET ABOUT THEN AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND HOW YOU’VE GOTTEN OVER THAT? “I don’t remember exactly what I was upset about that day, but the deal is now I understand Matt and appreciate him as a teammate and as a friend. I feel like he’s one of the guys I’m closest to in the garage area, and if it could come down to me and him racing for the championship, that would be an honor for me. I think in motorsports at any level you’re gonna have problems and issues and arguments and people that you’re frustrated with, but I think now more than ever we realize as drivers that we’re all probably more alike than we are different and we’re all working for the same things. I think there’s a really good camaraderie in the garage and I’m proud to have Matt as a teammate.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – WHAT WILL YOU BE HAPPY WITH OUT OF HERE AND DO YOU HAVE A PICTURE AS TO WHAT RACE FROM HERE ON OUT YOU CAN MAKE SOME GAINS? “Martinsville hasn’t been one of our best places. I guess I’ve said it the last few weeks and we weren’t able to do it last week, so I think my situation is different than Carl’s, but in our position I think we’ve got to run in the top-five every week and try to hopefully finish there every week. I don’t care which track it is, so it’s hard to say how you’ll leave here satisfied and what’s good enough. I don’t know what’s good enough. Your goal is to win every week and certainly there are weeks you have the opportunity to do that and there are weeks where you don’t have that opportunity and when you don’t have that opportunity, you’ve got to get the best finish that you can possibly get that day, and I think Carl’s team has been a good example of that this season, especially lately, and the 29 as well. Even days where they’ve been off, they’ve been able to get really good finishes and that’s important when you’re trying to race for a championship. I really approach it like any other track, you go out there with the idea of working as hard as you can at it, try to win, try to get the best finish you can that day.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – “Yeah, and sometimes your goals can change throughout the race. If we start the race somewhere and you’re bad and you’re terrible and the car is not fast, your goal just becomes to get the very best finish you can. You kind of shift, I do at least as a driver, from, ‘Hey, I need to go win this race to I need to do everything I can to get every last point I can.’ But you don’t know. You’re right, we’re not that great here and we know that, but we’ve had some flashes of real speed and if that’s the case on Sunday where the cars are fast, then I’m sure both of us will be satisfied with nothing less than a win."
IF YOU CAN’T PRACTICE WILL YOU PUT A MORE FLEXIBLE SETUP UNDER THE CAR? “I don’t know. I’m not the guy to ask about setups here. I always feel like we end practice and we’re gonna be great and then about 50 laps into the race it turns into a mad thrash trying to fix the car. What we’ll probably do is put whatever Matt had on it the last race and hope for the best. In a perfect world, you would want something. You’re exactly right, you would want something that you could adjust on more because you don’t have as much practice and you maybe don’t have as much knowledge built up as to what exactly the setup is going to do.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED -- ARE THERE SITUATIONS ON THE TRACK WHERE YOU REALIZE YOU MAY NOT BE IN A GOOD SPOT AND YOU BACK OUT OF IT OR IS IT JUST ABOUT GOING FOR A WIN AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “I don’t approach racing any different. There are four races to go. That’s a ton of races. If you asked me that same question at Homestead and you had a point lead you were trying to pad or maintain, or only needed a certain finish maybe things would change, but, other than that, I think you do the things that you’ve done your whole career. You race hard and you never want to not finish or having something happen to your car and get a bad finish, so you go out and race like you’ve raced every week to get to this point. You race everybody hard and fair and clean and hope you’ve got a competitive car that you can finish up front with.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – “We’ve all raced long enough and been in enough points battles that you just can’t help but think about, ‘Hey, let’s look at the big picture here.’ Now last lap and racing for the win and all that stuff kind of goes out the window, but the middle of the race you definitely think, ‘Okay, hey, let’s not get in a mess here,’ and flatten a tire or something like that – tearing up the race car – so there is a balance in trying to survive to the end so you can be in a position to race hard."
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT NOT GETTING ANY PRACTICE? “Not really. I think Bob does a really good job of predicting the setup and I think if we had no practice, which it looks like we’re gonna have practice, but if we had no practice I would be fine with that. I think it would give us a little advantage. That’s my opinion, so I wouldn’t be worried about it.”