An interview with Carl Edwards
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. We welcome you to a beautiful day here at Phoenix International Raceway for day two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session. We welcome Carl Edwards.
Carl, talk to us, after one day of testing here at Phoenix, your thoughts on the new track.
To me it's going to be pretty amazing to be the penultimate race and have all those opportunities for something crazy to happen, it could shake everything up.
CARL EDWARDS: I was able to come here for the Goodyear tire test. We got a sneak peek at the place. I kind of knew what to expect coming into the racetrack yesterday.
The first thing that shocked me were the amount of fans here. Three thousand fans showed up to check out the new race surface. Felt like a race weekend. The bridges through the garage, there were fans up there. There were fans all over the place. Met lots of people.
As we ran the track, it got a lot better with rubber. As treacherous as this place was in the Goodyear tire test, as tough as it was to drive, it got better the whole day. I think we have a lot to look forward to once the track gets more rubber on it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Carl.
Q. There's been a lot of talk in the media that this is going to be a wild card race in the Chase because of the new track configuration. Do you consider it to be a wild card event?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes. Whenever you introduce something new like this new surface and new track layout, there are going to be guys that figure it out quickly and there are going to be guys that struggle. It's not necessarily the guys you expect.
This race, I think we're all going to come here with a little bit of nervousness, a little trepidation on, hey, do we have the right setup. As a driver, I have to ask myself, am I driving the right way around the racetrack. The way the surface is, it's unforgiving so there could be some accidents and things happen that we don't usually see at Phoenix.
To me it's going to be pretty amazing to be the penultimate race and have all those opportunities for something crazy to happen, it could shake everything up.
Q. With the front straightaway being widened, the radius in turn two being extended out, do you think that will make for better or safer double-wide restarts and could you comment on what we used to call the dogleg but is now a pronounced turn. Does that have the possibility of being an action place on this track?
CARL EDWARDS: The best way to put it is this track before, although it was very difficult, it was very forgiving. This new surface is so perfect, has different characteristics of grip. When you lose traction, you lose a lot. When you combine that with the side-by-side racing, the way the back straightaway is now configured, that's going to be kind of a choke point of the racetrack where two guys could really get themselves into trouble.
There are some opportunities here for some problems that we haven't seen at this racetrack. I don't know how all those dynamics are going to work out. I think as we see the other series run, we'll learn where the problem spots are.
20 to go here, second race to the end of the Chase, we'll see what happens. Not necessarily good for the racers, but good for the fans. It's going to be a little stressful.
Q. With the testing going on these two days, you're basically going to rubber in one groove. The outside groove still remains pretty dirty. What is your impression overall on how this place is going to actually race when you come back in November?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, that's one of the things we're all concerned about. As the track is taking rubber, it starts to feel a lot better. It's starting to be a little more forgiving. Like you said, it's only that one groove.
I just talked with Robin Pemberton and Ryan. They're going to have some softer Goodyear tires and some cars come out and run tons of laps in the second groove, try to rubber in a second groove before anyone runs on the track for the race. They just told me that before I came up here.
If we can get a substantial amount of rubber spreading out that racetrack, I think it's going to be a much better race. They're going to work on that. That's going to be good.
Q. We really didn't talk after Dover about you tied for first in points. What is your strategy now for the next seven races?
CARL EDWARDS: We led the points I think for 13 or 15 weeks. I feel that our team, we know we can lead the points. We know we can finish well enough to stay up front. But our strategy, it hasn't changed much. Right now it's essentially as if we haven't run three races. Those nine guys separated by 19 points I think was the way it ended up at Dover, so nine people separated by that small of a window, it's still as if we're just starting the Chase.
All we have to do is keep doing what we've been doing, do the best we can. We got lucky at Dover. We need that luck on our side. But we're tied for the points lead because we've run well enough to be there. If we can just continue that, I think we have a real shot at this. I feel really good about it.
Q. (No microphone.)
CARL EDWARDS: I do believe that the winner of the championship is going to win a race or two in the Chase. I feel you're going to have to run so well, you will win a race or two. We should have won at Dover. I think the more important thing is going to be the bad days. I truly believe that. You're going to have guys run out of fuel or wreck and take themselves out of that group of nine guys that are all competing. It's going to slowly whittle itself to seven, six, five. By the end of the Chase, you're going to have four guys, three guys going into Homestead with a chance. Then it's going to be who doesn't have that bad race at Homestead.
Q. (No microphone.)
CARL EDWARDS: Even that, though. I thought about that a little bit on Sunday night. How would I have acted if I would have made that pit road penalty? If that was Homestead, we were racing for the championship, would I have been able to handle that pressure.
I think the fans, they're going to see two or three or four guys going to Homestead, just like they did last year, and you're going to see who can deal with it, who can do the job.
It's going to be tough. I hope we're in that position that we can do it. But it just feels like the pressure's up and the anxiety is up. Everybody knows that one mistake can cost them a shot at it. There's a lot of pressure on everybody.
I think all those things put us in a better position than we've ever been to win the championship.
Q. Carl, at the end of the Dover race on the radio you told your crew, We're going to win Kansas. Was that a Joe Namath prediction?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, that's my plan. That's my plan. We'll be there tomorrow afternoon. I'm excited to be there. I really truly love racing at Kansas. It's one of the most fun racetracks we go to. The surface is nice. The groove is wide.
You know why I want to win there: it's my home track. It would mean the world to me to win that race. I feel we've run well enough at these mile-and-a-half's. I feel like personally I'm very, very motivated to win that race. I think my guys feel they can do the job on pit road.
So, yeah, I was a little fired up after Dover. I hope we can come through with my prediction there.
Q. If you could size up the Chase and the competition so far, you're the only driver with top 10s in each of the three races. You left some points on the table at Dover. Does it feel like you've been the team most on its A game so far?
CARL EDWARDS: I feel like other teams have been faster than us at times. But I feel like on average we've got I guess the best average finish. Some of that is luck. Some of that is bad luck on the other guys' part. But I do believe our team is as strong or stronger than it's ever been.
It's a little bit different than 2008 when we were winning all those races. We don't have just one trick that we're doing better. We haven't figured out something with the new car like we had in 2008.
What we're doing right now is we have good pit stops, we're qualifying better, our teamwork is better. I feel like we've all matured as a group. I think all those things put us in a better position than we've ever been to win the championship.
Jack and I talked about it this week. If we can just keep doing what we've been doing, we don't have a parts failure, we don't have any more of these penalties on pit road, mistakes by the driver, things like that, somebody is going to have to beat us. They're going to know we're there.
Hopefully we can keep the pressure on these guys.
Q. Carl, we talk and read a lot about the pressure on the drivers in the Chase. I'm curious, from your standpoint, the pressure on the crew chiefs. Do you see Bob Osborne a little more uptight? I know he's a very serious guy. Is he different during the Chase?
CARL EDWARDS: Did you say 'more uptight' (laughter)?
I think it was David Newton or somebody wrote an article about that recently. I don't remember who. We talked about it in the media center at Dover. The question has always been, you know, what's more important, the driver or the car. Now I think you can make that a three-part. There are three options: the driver, car or crew chief. I think all three of them are important. I think without all three of those things you're not going to win a substantial number of these races.
I'm sitting here right now looking at this racetrack at Phoenix. This track now is going to be one of those tracks where a two-tire call or a no-tire call could be the call that wins the race. Those calls are very, very difficult. I sit in the racecar and I can't decide what we should do. It tears me up trying. I don't even know if I want to give an opinion.
Dover last week we ran 50 laps, had 50 laps to go, who knows what the right call is there. Do you get four tires or two tires or no tires? Those are hard gambles to make, hard decisions to make.
I think right now, more than ever, a crew chief who can make those decisions is extremely valuable.
Bob and I, we work very well. We worked hard. We made wrong decisions this year. I feel that we've learned from them. I wouldn't choose any other crew chief in the garage over Bob Osborne and his ability to win these races.
Q. Carl, how are the tires there? Do you feel like you have the right tire for the Cup car there? Would you try to lobby for any changes before November?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I thought a lot about that yesterday. We sat here as a group, Kurt and Kyle, Tony, Jimmie and I, we sat in the Goodyear building when we were out here tire testing. We went through all of our thoughts on all the tires they had, reasons for which tire we should use, which tires we shouldn't. We all pretty much agreed that the tire we got here is a good choice.
We're in a box here because with these new surfaces, they have so much grip, you need a tire that doesn't wear excessively. You need a tire that can handle the heat. So what ends up happening is you end up with a little bit of a hard tire. This is my analysis of this. You end up with a little bit of a hard tire that's a little difficult to drive. That makes it tough. There's no way around it. Until these tracks really age, they're kind of tough to drive.
So I think that Phoenix and NASCAR deciding that they're going to run the track in a ton before we come back here and race, run that second groove in with rubber, I think that's going to help. If they're able to do that, spread that groove out, then everything's going to be fine. I think we're going to have two grooves of racing, I think we're going to have guys that can move around.
By the end of the day yesterday, the tire felt pretty decent. Felt like you could be pretty aggressive. At the beginning of the day in that tire test, it was tough, though.
Q. Carl, I wonder, and I think it really is sort of a mental game to try to keep right on track when you're driving in the Chase, it's so competitive, have you watched other people, followed other folks that have won championships? Certainly at Roush Fenway you have Matt Kenseth. Are you looking at that?
CARL EDWARDS: I've always tried to pay really close attention to people that are successful. But I think right now at this point in the sport we're kind of in unchartered territory. I think there will be more guys who have the ability to win. I believe that with the strategies, the winning strategies, the calls that need to be made, adds another twist to it.
We talk about Phoenix here. Having a new surface, that adds another twist to it, who can adapt to the new surface the quickest, keep their head on straight, not get frustrated.
What I'm saying is there's not just one specific list of things you can say, Hey, here is how Jimmie won the championship last year, this is what we need to do. I think this year is different, different things we're going to have to deal with.
But, yeah, just like all the guys in the garage, I watch what Jimmie and Chad are able to do. I watched how Matt Kenseth goes about his business, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, all those guys who are able year in and year out to succeed. I try my best to emulate the things I see there.
Q. Carl, you've had just an incredible year on the Nationwide side. Can you talk about what has gone into your success.
CARL EDWARDS: Mike Beam and all the guys at the shop have been the biggest part of that success. A year ago, a year and a half ago, we were chasing the 22 car and the Gibbs cars. We were just trying to keep up.
It's pretty amazing what we've been able to do. 10 races in the last year Mike Beam and I have won together. The new Mustang is great. Ford has put a lot of effort into the engine. I feel like it's an honor to get to go drive that car, get to race for championships. To have been able to do it for the last seven years has been a lot of fun.
I believe running that Nationwide car at this race will help me with my Cup race. I'm excited about that, to be able to get that track time.
But the success, it really boils down to Mike Beam, our crew chief, and Scott, our engineer. Those guys have just brought cars to the racetrack that some races we don't even need to practice them. Some races we unload, don't even need to practice, win the race. It's spectacular what we've been able to do.
Q. Carl, you talked earlier about the pressure in this Chase. How does it compare with the pressure that you felt like has been out there in other Chases? Secondly, when I asked you about getting over the mistake at Dover the other day, you kind of said that, Hey, I may be up all night thinking about it. I couldn't quite tell if you were joking or not. How have you been able to handle it? Has it been easy to move on?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I wasn't up all night, but I sure thought about it a lot. Jack called me the next day on Monday. I thought, Oh, boy, this is going to be an ugly conversation. It was pretty cool. He said, After the race, I was mad just like you were. I said, I know. He said he thought about it. He was really nice. He told me he was proud of how our team came back and how we dealt with it. That meant a lot.
Looking back on it, I thought about it a little bit more. I think everything happens for a reason. That was a really, really good lesson. That mistake made me think a lot, elicited a big emotional response from me. Hopefully that will keep me from making it again. That's good. As I look back on it, I'm okay with it. Wish I would have won the race, but I think it was a lesson worth having.
How that applies to me personally, I have more true confidence and a little more calm approach to this whole championship.
As far as the pressure's concerned, I feel a little different about the Chase this time than I did in 2008. I think I'm a little more at ease with the whole situation. I feel like I'm excited at the opportunity to go race every week, not really nervous. I feel like if we do our job right, run the way we should, we should have a chance to compete for it. In a sense, I'm just having more fun competing than I did in 2008. I'm just enjoying the competition. That's neat.
We're only three races in. If we're eight or nine races in, who knows what will happen. Right now I'm just enjoying it.
Q. Going back to the track, can you just give a visual of what you see going around the track now compared to how you used to see it? Can you really know what the race is going to be like before you get 43 cars out there racing?
CARL EDWARDS: So visually the racetrack is much different. The surface is fresh black asphalt. It's glass smooth. They say it's the smoothest track they ever put a surface on.
It's a little bit different to drive. The old surface had a lot of bumps, patches, character. You could really visually see what was going on on the racetrack, how fast you were going. Now it's literally perfect. It's a perfect surface. The visual cues are a little bit different than they used to be.
The back straightaway is the biggest change. It's a totally different racetrack back there. It's no longer a flat dogleg. It's a banked kind of corner. It's a lot different.
I don't think you can really predict how the racing is going to be. I think it's truly unpredictable. I think that's one of the things we're all trying to figure out, what's going to happen when we come back. There's more rubber on the track. Two-wide restarts, 43 cars. I don't know how the aero is going to play in. I don't know how big of a factor that will be here.
I think the true questions that everybody is wondering is, Are we going to be able to get that second groove worked in? They have the variable banking so the upper groove has one degree more of banking than the lower groove. If we can get some rubber up there, I think you'll be able to see some opportunities for passes on the outside.
But nobody truly knows. That's what we're out here trying to figure out.
Q. I was curious how you are different personally than you were in 2008 as a driver, just sort of your attitude.
CARL EDWARDS: I think I'm different a number of ways. But I've learned a bunch. I feel that you learn the most through your failures, not through your successes. We definitely were not able to close the deal in 2008. We went through a very tough time in 2009. Through all of that I think we learned how strong we can be.
The thing I'm most proud of is we didn't collapse. Our team, we didn't start firing people, pointing fingers. Roush Fenway Racing buckled down, worked harder, worked smarter. We came back and were able to win the last two races last season, lead the points for most of the season. I feel we're a threat at every racetrack we go to.
How that applies to me personally, I have more true confidence and a little more calm approach to this whole championship. Nothing will surprise me. If we go out and we're able to win it, I won't be surprised by that. If something crazy happens and we aren't able to win it, that won't surprise me either. I've been there and done that, too.
Like I said, I'm excited every week to go and compete and have a chance to win it.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, thank you very much for your time today.