An Interview with Carl Edwards
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR cam video teleconference in advance of Sunday's AAA Texas 500. Our guest today is Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Carl is currently leading the points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup holding onto an eight-point lead over Tony Stewart. Carl has three wins at Texas Motor Speedway, which is the most of any current driver. Roush Fenway Racing is the all-time win leader with eight victories.
That is one of the toughest things to do in this sport, is to be in an accident, be having a bad day, have a bad pit stop, and to rebound from it.
Our question from Twitter today is, Carl, do you have any type of strategy lined up for the last three races of the year or do you take it one race at a time?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't think there's a specific strategy other than to go to Texas and try to build on the success we've had with our Aflac team. We've run really well there. There could not be a better racetrack for us to be going to. I feel like we made it through the first seven races of the Chase better than we expected. Now we just go these last three races and go for broke.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for Carl Edwards.
Q. If the worst-case scenario happens, you're involved in an accident, talk about the mindset you have as a driver and the confidence you have in your team considering what they've done for you both in accidents and just dialing in bad racecars this year.
CARL EDWARDS: I would not change a member of our team. I feel like we've got the best team in the garage right now. I feel that, yeah, we've not had the fastest racecars for the last few weeks, but I think our ability to take those racecars and take those really bad days and turn them into something positive, I think it says a lot about our team. We've come a long ways in the last few years. That is one of the toughest things to do in this sport, is to be in an accident, be having a bad day, have a bad pit stop, and to rebound from it.
Q. Carl, how have you developed in having the grace under pressure? What are the lessons you've learned? How have those things helped you maintain composure?
CARL EDWARDS: Historically I've been a guy that could lose my composure as fast as anyone. It's not natural to me to stay calm and try to keep moving forward. My natural reaction is always to get really excited.
But I think through some of the bad times that we've had, the frustrations we've had, I think all those things have helped me to realize that, Hey, look, the goal right now is to go out and win this championship. We've been working hard towards that goal. I think as a team Bob Osborne and I are able to approach problems methodically and calmly. I think that adds up to a majority of the reason we've led the points for half of the season, those lessons, we've been applying them.
Q. After Kansas and the decision that went wrong as far as the setup on the car, have you changed your approach at all? What is it like trying to make these decisions of what to do for Sunday when you had almost a near disaster just a few weeks earlier?
CARL EDWARDS: I think that Kansas race, looking back, I'm glad it happened because we did step outside of the box a little bit on our setup. We maybe had a little more confidence than we should have and we learned something there. We can hopefully apply that to Texas. Texas is a little different than Kansas. Homestead will be a good place to apply those lessons.
I believe that that race turning out well for us was a blessing. But if I could go back and change it, I wouldn't change it. I feel that that race and the things that we went through there might help keep us from making that mistake at Texas or Homestead.
Q. Looking back at the intermediate races in the Chase, Chicago, Kansas, Charlotte, what from those tracks translate to Texas and Homestead?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the only thing you can take from Charlotte is your engine package. I feel like we learned a little bit there. I feel pretty good about our engines, really good about our engines, at Texas and Homestead.
I think the way the car handles, Kansas is a pretty good test for those places. Maybe even Chicago. But you never know especially at this point in the season. If you look at the points standings, there are five or six guys that I think have a very legitimate shot at winning this championship. I think you'll see guys under that pressure try different things, maybe do different things, risk maybe a little more.
So I think it's really hard right now to go to these races and pick a favorite or pick a strategy that might work the best. I think it's still really up in the air.
Q. It appears the mind games have already started. When is the last time you were involved in any kind of mind game over a championship or even a local track and how were you at it?
CARL EDWARDS: I'm fine with it 'cause I don't participate. My job is to go out here and do the best I can, win these championships. I just got done talking to Tony. We joked around about it a little bit.
It is kind of fun. It's fun to go back and forth, give each other a hard time. At the end of the day, I think Tony and myself would both be foolish if we thought all we had to worry about was one another. That would be great. That would be the best case.
I think you've still got three or four guys behind us that are just as dangerous, maybe even more, in this championship.
Q. Carl, do you think it would have been possible for your team to be working well enough to be first in the points with three races to go if you had not announced your plans to stay with Roush Fenway before the Chase began?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know. I don't know about that. The thing that I reiterated to my guys today is that they're all here in the positions they're in because they're the best at what they do. I'm here because I'm fortunate enough that Jack Roush hired me and I choose to be here at Roush Fenway Racing. These last three races, the best way for me to put it, I wouldn't get in anyone else's car the last three races. I felt like I had the best engines, best crew, best crew chief, owner. I feel like I'm in the best position I can be in.
That's why I'm here at Roush. So I guess for me it's really not worth revisiting and saying, Hey, what would have happened if I announced something else? Because I didn't. I announced that I'm staying here at Roush for all those reasons.
Q. Carl, I know things are going great for your team. Guys like David Ragan, he's working to promote UPS, trying to sell himself to get a sponsor, a ride next year. Other guys are out there doing the same thing. How have you seen David handle what he's been through this year? What does that say to you about the kind of state of where NASCAR is? The economic situation is not back where it needs to be.
CARL EDWARDS: I think that's a really good question.
The first part of it, I can't say enough positive things about David Ragan. Not only is he a nice guy, he's one of the strongest people I know. He's a very, very tough person in a lot of different ways. Mentally and emotionally, he's one of the most tough, stable, strong people that I've met. He's a young man. I feel he has a huge future in this sport.
I think if he has to step back in his career as a driver for a year or two, knowing David, I don't think it's going to hurt him. I think it will only make him stronger.
Second, I think that everyone, from folks at NASCAR all across the country, everybody realizes that things are tough right now. At the end of the day for our sport to work, we need to keep delivering these great races to the fans, keep things exciting. We need to give the sponsors the value for their money. We need to make sure we're doing the things that David is out there doing today, talking about how great UPS is and Ford.
I don't know the state of the sport. I know here at Roush Fenway Racing we're doing everything we can to deliver for our sponsors, everything we can to make sure our guys have jobs and get to enjoy this thing.
Q. Carl, you talked earlier about being able to turn around a few bad weekends, getting a good result out of that. Over these next three races, how important is it that you're going to need to have a dominating weekend? Can you get by on what you've been doing the past four weeks or so?
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, we could get by on what we've been doing. That's not what we want to do. That's way too much stress. That's no fun. Fortunately this week we're going to Texas. Right or wrong, I am pumped to go to Texas. You never know how you're going to run, but I feel good going there. I love that place. I love everything about Texas, from Eddie Gossage, down to the fans, the way they make everything such a big event. Our performance there has been spectacular. Our hope is we go to these places and run really well. We plan on going to Texas, winning the pole, leading the most laps, winning the race.
I think in a way, a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders in that we made it through the toughest races for us, now we have these tracks that everyone on the team is excited to go to.
Q. What is about Texas and Atlanta that fits you?
CARL EDWARDS: Texas and Atlanta, to me they drive like a big dirt track. I raced a lot at three-eighth of a mile dirt tracks. The momentum of the places, the banking, all that stuff makes them really fun for me to drive. Second, I'm lucky to be driving these Roush Fords at these races because they're screaming tracks. When we go to these mile-and-a-half tracks, one of our cars has a chance to win. You show up, you know when you're sitting in the garage, during practice, you know if you're not on top of the sheet or the fastest car, there's something you can fix and make it better. That confidence is huge.
Q. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but if you won the Chase, besides all the other things that would go with it, is there any incentive as the one that finally broke Jimmie Johnson's streak?
CARL EDWARDS: First of all, Jimmie Johnson is not out of it. I still think that he could win this championship. Second, I think for it to go down that way, whoever ends up winning the championship, if it's not Jimmie Johnson, if Jimmie doesn't finish second, there's two or three guys that beat him or four guys that beat him. I think if it came down to a battle with Jimmie at Homestead, I think that would be spectacular for the guy that could beat him.
But you just never know how this thing is going to play out. I think the state of the sport right now is so dynamic, so many things are changing every minute, there's just no way to tell how this thing's going to end. As long as it ends up with us being champions, I'm cool with whatever it comes with.
Q. How do you balance needing to run well these last three weeks but you also need to be careful about not going over the edge, wrecking out early? Is there a difficult balance there or not?
CARL EDWARDS: I think it's a really difficult balance. We all start racing because we want to go out there and race, drive as hard as we can, risk everything. That's what's fun, you know. I know right now that's how we have to race. We have to go to Texas and run for everything we've got. That's what we've been doing.
Although I plan on winning three more races, we've proven we can do that, if it doesn't happen, that's just fine with me.
If you just look at the results, it doesn't maybe quite look like that. If you go to Martinsville, those last however many restarts we had, I can't drive that car any harder. I don't know if that car should have finished ninth is what I'm saying.
If we could go into these races and compete in the top two or three, we are going for the win, I think every point you can get is going to be important. I don't feel like any of the these guys in the top five or six are going to be laying back. I don't see any of them really say, Hey, I'll take this third place, I don't need that point, relaxing in the car. I think everybody's going to go for it.
Q. Obviously you want to win every week. Is it a particular negative for you that you haven't been able to win since Vegas?
CARL EDWARDS: No, there's not. I'm glad you asked that. I thought about that a little bit. If you go back to 2008, we won nine races, more top fives, more top 10s, more points than anybody in the series the whole year. We didn't get a championship for it.
To me, there's absolutely nothing wrong with going out, doing our jobs, performing the very best we can, taking this championship home with just our one race win at Vegas. No matter how you slice it, this year has been a great year for us. Although I plan on winning three more races, we've proven we can do that, if it doesn't happen, that's just fine with me. Those are the cards we're dealt.
Q. Would it be fair to say, like the last two weeks, you play defense, now the last three races you have to play offense?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, kind of. Two things happen the last two weeks. At Talladega, Greg and I, our plan was to be there to win that race. We thought the best way to do it was to drive defensively for most of the day, then we needed another lap or two to be able to charge up to the front at the end. But that race overall, yes, I think you're right. That was kind of a defensive strategy.
Martinsville, that's all we got. We just messed up our setup. We did not have a fast car.
So all the races, except for maybe Talladega to some degree, I feel like we've been on offense. We've been going for it, doing everything we can. The problem is that we messed up a couple of those races and we had to scramble for a good finish.
But you are correct that the last three races, you're going to have to go out there and take every point you can. You're going to have to try to lead laps, lead the most laps, go hard on the restarts. I don't think you can go there and not do that and expect to win this championship. It's just too close and too many things can happen.
Q. As far as Matt is concerned, a week ago everybody was talking it was going to be in-house Matt versus Carl. All of a sudden the bottom dropped out. He's probably not gone gone. Is that kind of sobering when you see your teammate fall off that far that fast?
CARL EDWARDS: It's a reality check, for sure. I mean, if you look at the way this sport could possibly go, the way this season could possibly go, Tony and I could both have trouble at Texas. The guys behind us could finish one through four, one through five. We could be forgotten a week from now. They will not be talking about us. That's just one week.
When you add all that can happen over the next three weeks, to me, I think you'd be foolish to count Matt Kenseth out, I think you'd be foolish to count Jimmie Johnson out. We lost 37 points at Pocono. We lost 37 or 38 points at Daytona through just a fluke problem and accidents.
I still think until we get down to Homestead, I don't think we can point to favorites. I hope I'm one of them. I hope I'm a favorite. But it's simple math. There's a lot that can still happen.
Q. What is keeping you calm this time of year? How much are you leaning on your family to help keep you grounded?
CARL EDWARDS: I feel like I'm surrounded by a great group of people, my family, my team, the people that are close to me. I feel like I'm kind of crossing the threshold into becoming, I wouldn't call myself a veteran, but I'm learning all the different ways you can mess this thing up. I've lost a couple of these points battles, 2005, 2008, when I thought they were right there within our grasp and I messed it up.
I guess at the end of the day the thing that's keeping me calm through this, keeping me focused, is realizing that, number one, anything can happen. Two, the only thing I can do is go do my very best, our team can do our very best. I have a great group of people around me not to get worked up, get ahead of myself, just go race this racecar.
Q. If you're able to pull it off, what will be the first thought that comes into your mind?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know. I don't even want to speculate on that. I hope you'll be down there. If we're still in it, I hope you're down there, it would be neat to be able to share that moment.
Q. Carl, Eddie Gossage, he has a promotion billing this race as an epic Texas showdown, kind of like a boxing match, a poster, quotes from you and Tony. Is this something you can have fun with as long as it doesn't become a circus?
CARL EDWARDS: I think Eddie always does a great job of making things fun. At the end of the day that's what racing is about. We're going to Texas, one of the biggest races we go to, one of the biggest races of the season, they pay as much as any race of the year. The fans love racing there. It would be perfect, fine with me if it came down to Tony and I the last lap at Texas. If we could separate ourselves from the rest of this pack, that would be wonderful.
But, yeah, I really have fun going to Texas. I think Eddie does a really good job of making things fun but still keeping the focus on the good racing they have there at Texas.
THE MODERATOR: We do appreciate everyone's participation today on our call. Thank you for joining us.
Carl, best of luck this weekend and the remainder of the Chase.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks a lot.