An interview with: Carl Edwards
THE MODERATOR: His performance tonight wrapped up the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Owners Championship for Roush-Fenway racing. Carl, congratulations. I know that was a big, big goal for you all tonight. You accomplished it, and talk about that.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it was huge for us. That 18 team, they've been unbelievable, and for us to have closed in all the points we did over the last couple of months, I think it was 50 or so points, something like that, my guys are very, very excited about this. That was our mission tonight was to beat that 18 and to win this Owners Championship.
I just can't say enough things about Jack Roush and Ford and everything they've done with this Nationwide program. Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne have been huge helps to me as a driver. They've obviously been amazing on the racetrack.
And I'm so happy for Ricky for his accomplishment, and for us to have won that Owners Championship, that makes it really neat for all the guys back at the shop, and it's something they can be proud of.
So that was good. And the race was a blast. That was just really fun, and there at the end I learned a little bit about the different lines on the restarts and things like that. Brad did a really good job. He blocked for everything he had. I bumped him but not hard enough and then I got tight and Ricky got by me and I thought maybe Ricky would get him. I don't know about you guys, but coming into turn 3 that last lap, I thought maybe these guys will bump into each other and we'll still win this thing.
I don't know if it looked that exciting from the grandstands or from TV, but it was exciting for me. That's a good way to spend Saturday night before tomorrow's race. It was a blast.
Q. Obviously, Carl, aside from tomorrow, you as a Nationwide champion, this is your -- this must be kind of bittersweet for you because this is your last full season in Nationwide. Next year you've already committed to going to a part-time schedule. Talk about that and your feelings as you finish your last full season in the Nationwide Series.
CARL EDWARDS: Well, Mike Beam and all the guys on this Fastenal team. I don't know, I think it's eight races we won this year. We got more poles than anyone, led close to 2,000 laps. It's been a blast. It's really fun. I'm going to miss it a lot.
And I will probably run some races, and there's no telling. I might run again full-time here again in a year or two. Who knows. I really do enjoy this. Years like this make it just -- it's a lot of fun. I mean, this is -- it's from a lot of hard work. We were not this fast a year and a half ago or so when we were really struggling. They had to really go to work on the engines and the cars and moving the shop and -- so it's been a lot of fun. It's been something I think has helped me in huge ways to be in the place we're in in the Cup Series.
Q. This afternoon you talked about how you hoped this would be some preparation for tomorrow. As close as you and the 18 car were, you went back and forth, did this fulfill your hope of a proper preparation for tomorrow's race?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes. Yeah. This was very good practice for me. It was really good practice. Especially there was one point where the 18 was in front of us and had to really bear down and go for it there on one of those restarts, and that was neat.
And we also made a lot of adjustments on the car. I got to feel adjustments. I got to feel the track change a little bit as the sun went down, and I was reminded of all the things you have to be careful of not to mess up. So I think it's great practice, and I didn't hurt myself or break an arm or anything, so that was good, and I had a good time.
I actually did think about what if I win this thing, should I do a back flip or not because that would be unreal.
Q. Don't want to pull a hammy, that's for sure.
CARL EDWARDS: I know who I'd pull out of the car if I had to get out of it. That would be Ricky.
Q. When Ricky didn't make the race at Nashville last year, did you have any doubts about his abilities as a race car driver and did you have any doubts about whether he'd be able to survive whatever Jack had in store for him?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn't know if he'd be able to survive Jack (Laughter.) I mean, Jack was just -- he was on Ricky. I mean, it was not -- he was not building Ricky up. He was challenging Ricky every day, and I think Ricky has shown everyone, myself included, how good he is.
I mean, there are guys -- when I talk about Ricky with the Cup drivers, they're all -- they know when he comes up there, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with. There's no doubt that Ricky Stenhouse will win tons of Cup races and probably championships. He's truly that good.
Q. How does a guy go from where he was 18 months ago to where he is now?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the cars are better, first of all. So he was not only having -- thrown to the wolves. I mean, Ricky is a Sprint car driver, and he was really thrown in this thing headfirst at a time when I'm not sure if we -- I don't think I was winning any Nationwide races, and if I was, it was by the smallest of margins, and I've been doing this for five years or something when he came in.
So the thing about Ricky, though, he is the -- I've never personally seen a bigger example of a guy who just -- all he had to do was slow down a little bit, and he's as fast as anyone.
And I think that two things coincided: Ricky learning to get the car set up like he wanted to run these long races and the cars got a little better and however he hung onto his job was awesome and here he is. I just can't say enough good things about him. He's always been a good, solid person through the whole thing. He's just a good guy.
Q. It almost looked like old times between you and Brad there at the end. Did you come close to getting carried away a little bit in the heat of battle?
CARL EDWARDS: I thought about it a little bit, but we kept it clean. I mean, it was just good racing. It was really fun. That thing could have gone any number of ways, whether we had a restart or didn't have a restart. He did his job, and it was just -- it was just a good race. He drove his heart out.
Q. You've talked a lot this week about some of the mental lessons that you've learned that you kind of stored away over the years. Is that, do you think, part of what happened with Ricky with kind of going through the fire, that maybe that helped him make him into a champion?
CARL EDWARDS: Right. All of us in this room, it's not your successes that make you better usually. Those are nice, but it's the tough times that make you strong and teach you the biggest lessons. And Ricky, man, he -- I just can't tell you because I wish I had some of those meetings on audio tape or video because, I mean, he was getting it from all angles, and he just kept getting better and kept working and turned this whole thing around. It's just amazing.
Q. The race starts relatively late tomorrow, like 3:00. What are you doing tomorrow morning? Do you have appearances like usual or do things change tomorrow?
CARL EDWARDS: Normal stuff tomorrow, nothing big. Just have a regular day before the race. Bob and I will talk a little bit tonight like we always do about what our plan is, but there's nothing changed, got a lot of sponsor folks coming.
Paul Amos from AFLAC is going to be here. We're excited to have him here. We've renewed our partnership for a multiyear deal, so that's really exciting and had a bunch of people from Ford who are going to be here, which is really neat. I think it's cool that Edsel Ford himself has been here this weekend supporting everybody, but for me there's nothing different, no big appearances or anything like that.
Q. Why do you choose to stop the full-time in Nationwide and Cup next year?
CARL EDWARDS: Because it's been so good for me, I am a little bit nervous. It might throw me off a little bit, but I think a big test for me was this year at Sonoma. We had the Road Course Race in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and our car was no good at Friday's practice and we made the call and Fastenal was okay with us not going to Elkhart Lake.
And I was really nervous that that would throw off my -- I've been doing that for six years or something, and traveling that day and not practicing at Sonoma. But it turned out to be our best Sonoma Cup race we'd ever had with me staying there focusing on the Cup car.
As much as I learned from running the Nationwide Series, I believe that sometimes -- at this point in my career it takes a little extra energy, and it might be better to focus on the Cup car. But if it's not working, I'll be back here. I'll be racing. I'll find something to drive, I hope.
Q. Speaking of the meetings, did you happen to be at the one where Ricky came to the meeting in his work goggles or the one where he was reminded when that happened?
CARL EDWARDS: No. What's the story there?
Q. Basically he showed up in work goggles when Jack put him to work at the shop.
CARL EDWARDS: Jack's boot camp.
Q. Have you heard about that?
CARL EDWARDS: No, I hadn't heard that story. All I heard was it seemed like for months, it was just like -- it was almost like Jack turned it into a game. You bring up Ricky, he's like, Yep, we're running him into the ground. We're not letting up on him. It was like Jack made it his mission that he was going to go with Ricky to the end of the earth, and it wasn't going to be fun for Ricky until he turned it around. So it worked out, I guess.
Q. Did he ever do anything like that with you? Did he ever just try --
CARL EDWARDS: Yes.
Q. It's somewhat tough love, but it's also maniacal as only Jack can be at times. Can you give us an example of what he did to you? And on a second point, obviously the conditions tonight closely mirror what you're going to go through tomorrow night more so than any other practice you've had so far. What did you learn?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah. So my dad came here tonight. He's here. So Jack and my dad are a lot alike. When I was a little kid everything would be going well, the day would be going great, and he'd go, "I haven't beaten you for a while, have I?" Just to remind me. I'm like, Yeah, everything is going pretty good. I want to keep it that way.
But Jack is the same way. He pulled me in after one wreck that I caused and he asked me to come in and have a meeting with him and I was under the impression that this was going to be a, Don't worry; everything is going to be great; we're working really hard, and you're a good driver meeting. And he sat me down and he said, "I just want to make sure you feel bad enough about what you've done," and he proceeded to tell me all the things that I had screwed up.
He's not afraid to break you down real far and make you look at all the things you're doing, and you have to be strong to put up with that. And if you're not, it's been my observation that he doesn't have much use for you. You've got to be able to take what he's able to dish out, you know.
I think tonight was really good practice for tomorrow, but I've been doing this Saturday-Sunday thing long enough to know that it doesn't all transfer. You know, you can really feel like, Oh, hey, I've got some things figured out, and all of a sudden the race will change, the track conditions will change a little bit. And those Cup cars, they're so much faster down the straightaway and there's a lot more acceleration and braking involved to get through the center of the corner that you've just got to -- I almost have to make sure to switch hats figuratively and make sure I'm driving a Cup car and not to rely on what we've done on Saturday. I've only learned a couple things, I think, that will be helpful tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, congratulations on contributing so much to the Owners Championship.
CARL EDWARDS: And the media center. I've contributed a lot to the media center.
THE MODERATOR: You've become a constant over the past several weeks, and lots and lots of luck to you tomorrow.
CARL EDWARDS: I appreciate it, and I'll keep working on the party in case we happen to win this thing tomorrow.