NASCAR Craftsman Truck Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Ford F-150, is returning to the track where he made his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start just one year ago. Edwards, who competed in seven Craftsman Truck Series events in...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Ford F-150, is returning to the track where he made his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start just one year ago. Edwards, who competed in seven Craftsman Truck Series events in 2002 for Mittler Bros. Racing, will make his second start at Memphis Motorsports Park this weekend hoping to improve upon a 23rd-place finish there last year. The 23-year-old Columbia, Mo., native is coming off of a career best second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago, and currently leads the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings.
CARL EDWARDS-99-Roush Racing Ford F-150
YOU'VE HAD SOME GREAT RUNS TO START THE SEASON, BUT YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE FINISHES YOU WERE LOOKING FOR UNTIL THE LAST RACE AT TEXAS. WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS?
"Our pit stops are getting a lot better. That's huge part of why we ended up front at Texas. I think we came in sixth on the last stop and we went out second, so the guys have really stepped up to the plate as far as pit stops are concerned. I think the low point of the season so far was crashing the two trucks at Dover. After that, I sat down and recalibrated my thoughts as how to approach these races. At Texas I really took my time and didn't take too many chances and we ended up being there at the end. I think I've been one of the limiting factors up until Texas. I really kept pushing the issue and putting our truck in positions that it didn't need to be in. We feel like, right now, the crew has its act together and they're fast in the pits and hopefully I'm able to be patient enough just to be around at the end. I think we're going to have some good finishes with that combination. For us, we're at a good point right now, and it was a pretty big momentum builder having Jon (Wood) and I running that well at Texas."
ARE YOU ABLE TO USE JON'S SETUPS TO HELP YOU GET ACCLIMATED TO THE TRACKS QUICKER?
"Jon is unbelievably talented. It's pretty neat that we feel the same things when we go testing and when we're at the track in practice. I can go over to him and ask, 'Is your truck doing this?' There's no problem understanding one another. We seem to drive almost identically and feel the same things, so as far as setups, the two teams can try different things and whichever one works better, we can just go right to that setup and have faith that it's the right one. I have a lot of respect for him as he drives and I trust him, so it really helps me a lot."
TEXAS WAS THE FIRST TRACK THAT YOU'VE RACED ON THIS YEAR THAT YOU HAD PRIOR EXPERIENCE. DO YOU FEEL THAT HELPED YOU ACCOMPLISH YOUR SECOND-PLACE FINISH?
"It definitely helped and I've been to all of the tracks that we're going to in the next month and a half. I've been to Memphis, Milwaukee, Kansas, and Gateway. I've been to all of those tracks and we tested at Nashville. It's a different feeling when you go to a track that you have experience at. It's more of a 'we're back here' feeling rather than having to go out and look at the race track for the first time. Going to Dover or Darlington earlier in the year, I had no clue what they were like. Until you go there and see them you don't know. For me, I feel so much more comfortable going to these places that I've been to before."
WITH ALL OF ROUSH'S TEAMS NOW BEING LOCATED IN NORTH CAROLINA, HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TALK TO THE WINSTON CUP DRIVERS TO GAIN ADVICE?
"I think I've leaned on all of them and I hope they're not tired of all of my questions. All five of the Winston Cup drivers have been unbelievably helpful. I just spoke with Biffle yesterday and he had a lot of really good advice going into Memphis. He's run well there in the Busch cars and trucks. It seems like every week I end up asking one of those guys for help. I'm the newest guy, and even Jon Wood can help a lot. I've talked to him when we get to places. I say even Jon Wood, but he can help a lot. All of them have helped."
YOU MADE YOUR FIRST CRAFTSMAN TUCK SERIES START A YEAR AGO AT MEMPHIS. HOW DIFFERENT OF A FEELING IS IT GOING BACK THERE THIS YEAR AS A MEMBER OF ROUSH RACING?
"This time a year ago, I was the most nervous that I've ever been in my life. And now I feel, I feel so much better going back there having some races under my belt. I think it should be a lot better. I'm a pretty realistic person. I've grown up watching Jack Roush dominate in all forms of racing, so I've thought of them as able to win everything. To come in here and expect anything less than to be a race winner, I think is selling yourself short. I hope that we can win a race. I really want to get the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year award, but I'm really realistic as well. I need to get laps. Most of these tracks are going to be new to me; they're definitely going to be new in the trucks. I'm just excited to run all of these races; I think we'll just be fine."
HOW DID THE OPPORTUNITY TO DRIVE FOR ROUSH RACING PRESENT ITSELF TO YOU?
"Like everyone, I've read about Roush and the way they do the development program since I was racing locally in Missouri, and I always thought it sounded really awesome. I met Max Jones this past summer and he showed me around. Everyone seemed really nice and it seemed like a great program. They had a lot of things going on then and they didn't have an opening, they didn't have anything that I could just jump into, so I just went along this winter and planned on running for Mike Mittler (owner, No. 63 Mittler Bros. F-150) for the full season. It looked like sponsorship was really holding us up there. Mike is an amazing guy, he's worked really hard, but money is almost impossible to come by now and he was really stressing as to whether we could run the whole season. Then the call from Roush came and they asked if I would be interested in running the whole season for them. It just fit. I thought that there wouldn't be any better opportunity than this to go run for a team of this caliber."
MOST OF YOUR EARLY RACE EXPERIENCE WAS IN THE SILVER CROWN DIVISION. HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START RACING THOSE TYPES OF CARS?
"I don't know when it struck me, but there was a point that I just decided that racing was the number one thing, that everything else in my life essentially took a back seat. We've had some interesting things happen since I made that decision. Most of all, it's just been a big struggle. We've always tried to bite off a little more than we could chew. Like with a Silver Crown car. Ken Schrader and my dad are cousins. I've known Kenny my whole life and we bought a Silver Crown car directly against his orders. He said that's ridiculous and don't do that. He said that nobody could drive a Sliver Crown car, which is run on pavement, straight out of Dirt Modified. That made it really hard to convince my mom to help lend me the money when she's been told by a top-level racer not to do it. But, we got the car and it's a neat story. We went up to a little track in Missouri to practice, which was kinda death defying in itself. I had the car set up all wrong, but then we got there and the guy at the track said there was a little bit of snow on the track. He said you might want to bring some snow shovels because there's just a little bit of snow on track. And so, we got there and shoveled snow for at least two hours, three or four of us, before we could run the car around. It's always been like that. We've always had to borrow a truck, a trailer or fuel or tires. I'm just so fortunate now because we've never had the resources to do this properly."
YOU'VE PAID YOUR DUES TO GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO DRIVE FOR AN ORGANIZATION LIKE ROUSH. TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT INDIANAPOLIS RACEWAY PARK IN 2000.
"In 2000, I got a ride to IRP with Gene Beach, the guy I ended up buying up the Silver Crown car from. Gene helped me a lot. We bought the car for a bottom dollar price with no extras, but he helped us get the team going. I rode to IRP with him just to go to the Silver Crown race to try and beg someone to let me drive something. He gave me a ride there in his truck. My dad dropped me off at an exit on the interstate and Gene picked me up. Well, we got out there and I met up with Tim Kohuth that night and said if I wanted to stick around for the truck race that I could sleep on his hotel room floor and come to the race. I thought that was awesome and I was going to do that for sure. We went to the truck race the next day and there were 10,000 people there and I figured someone had to be going back to St. Louis and I'd meet someone that would drive me back towards home. I started talking to people before the race start and nobody was going back that way that night. I had school the next morning and had to be back the next day and I started stressing out that nobody in the pits was going that way. I had to take a paper plate and wrote 'need a ride to St. Louis' and stood by the front gate of the race track. I thought someone would pick me up and it was awful watching all of those cars drive by. Finally, one of my buddies that I knew from back home drove by, and said, 'Carl?' It was Tom Frasier, a guy we race with, and he gave me ride out to the interstate and I hitchhiked home. That was pretty interesting. It was so wild watching the end of that race there on the road course of IRP, walking out there with that sign and thinking I'd never get to race there. It seemed so far away from getting to race there, but then we went back there last year and raced with Mike and it was just a whole different world. I've been on the outside, scraping my way to get in and it makes me appreciate being able to drive at these events."
ARE YOU WORKING ON YOUR COLLEGE DEGREE STILL?
"I've got two semesters left at the University of Missouri in Columbia. It was really hard for me to do school and racing because I was funding school and funding racing, and that was impossible. I had a good scholarship that I passed up to go racing last year. I enjoy school a lot and look forward to finishing.
WHAT TYPE OF DEGREE ARE YOU IN THE PROCESS OF OBTAINING?
"I'm just going to get a degree in General Studies. I was an engineering student for about a year, and it was really difficult to do that and race at the same time. I just ended up going into a general studies program. I really enjoy anthropology, psychology and sociology."
YOU HAD AN INTERESTING JOB LAST YEAR.
"I was a substitute school teacher. That's what I did last year to help pay for some bills. I really enjoy kids. I hated school growing up and sat there in class looking out the window, so it's neat to go back to school and make it fun for the kids. I know I always enjoyed it when someone would come in and try to change things up. I've learned that teachers are the most underpaid people on the planet. That's the hardest job in the world. I substitute kindergarten through 12th grade back home in Columbia, and I don't get to do it enough. I really enjoy it. It's so funny because the kids are amazing. It makes me more nervous to stand up in front of all of those kids than I am to race. They keep you on your toes, and there's always that one paying me back for my all of my bad actions when I was their age; that one kid that is impossible. It's just so much fun, and being a substitute is so much easier than being a full-time teacher because you just walk in for one day."