BUSCH: Preseason Thunder - Edwards, Shepherd visit media

Roush Racing's Carl Edwards and development driver Peter Shepherd took part in afternoon press conferences today at Daytona International Speedway as Busch Series testing continued at the 2.5-mile speedway. Edwards, who is a pre-season favorite...

Roush Racing's Carl Edwards and development driver Peter Shepherd took part in afternoon press conferences today at Daytona International Speedway as Busch Series testing continued at the 2.5-mile speedway. Edwards, who is a pre-season favorite to win this year's Busch Series title, and Shepherd, who was shaking down the No. 17 Ford that Matt Kenseth will drive in the season-opener, spoke about their upcoming seasons during the lunch break at today's test session.

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CARL EDWARDS-60-Scotts Fusion

HOW HAS TESTING GONE SO FAR FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "So far it's been good. Our test has been great. The cars are really fun to drive. I guess it's because of the wicker or whatever. They group up really well. My car is really balanced. It's fun. You go in the corner and it actually slides a little bit and you can tune the car. I guess because of the tires and the heat yesterday, it made it real slippery, which I really enjoy. I think it's gone pretty well. I think you can tell from all of the guys wiggling around - even somebody got upside down and I don't know exactly what happened there - but it's kinda slippery. It's going to be a very racy race, I believe."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE THE EARLY-SEASON FAVORITE TO WIN THE BUSCH SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP? "In racing, I've learned over time that there's nothing for sure. We've got a great team. Scotts came on board; we've got great sponsors. We've got the same team we had last year, and, yeah, if everything stayed the same, heck, you'd only have to run one season and then you'd know who is going to win for the rest of eternity. The fact is there's anything that could happen. I think that the new guys coming in and some of the teams shaken up, you never know who could come out here and dominate and win 10 races. Hopefully it's us, but as far as a reason to watch, it's awesome racing. It's really fun."

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE AS THE EARLY-SEASON FAVORITE? "Honestly, it doesn't matter to me. I've been under the radar most of my career, and then last year was different. I was at the newsstand yesterday and I was looking at some of the magazines, the preview magazines, and a year ago a lot of them said we were going to win the Nextel Cup championship and all this stuff. It really doesn't matter what people say or think, you have to go out and perform the job, and sometimes people forecast good and it doesn't go that well, and some people forecast that they aren't going to do any good and it goes real well. I guess that's the long version of it. Really, it doesn't matter to me. When the green flag drops, you have to do the same job no matter what anybody expects. I've learned, especially lately, but I realized quite a while back that if you perform your best and ignore all the expectations from other people it usually works out like it's supposed to."

DOES YOUR AGE GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE IN THIS SPORT WITH SO MANY CHANGES OCCURRING? "I don't know if my age is really a factor. I know that I have a lot of enthusiasm for racing. I really like to race, and everybody knows that. Last season, for instance, in the Cup Series, our Office Deport team, we had a year - it wasn't terrible or anything - but we didn't win a race and we didn't make the Chase. That was kind of a downer for me. It wasn't what we expected, and I'm so glad that I ran full time in the Busch Series because I got to win races at Charlotte and at Nashville, and Gateway was unbelievable to win that race. To finish second in points, that was a pretty good year. I feel like, logistically running the Busch Series is a little bit tougher because you more things to do, but for me personally, for my personal satisfaction and my enjoyment of my season, I like running the whole season, so I've got an other championship to chase. It's kind of like getting to race two seasons. It's really fun. I don't know how long I'll do, but right now I'm having fun. There's really no reason for me not to. But on that note, though, I do see guys like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr., and guys that don't run really much other than their Nextel Cup cars, and they do really well. I honestly don't think that's the determining factor of how you're going to run your Cup car, whether or not you want to run Busch."

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER RACING PLANS THIS SEASON? "Hopefully we'll run a few more races. I got run both in the USAC Silver Crown Series with the new cars. I've got a team - Carl Edwards/RE Technologies Racing - in Memphis and they've got both types of cars, the old-style cars and the new-style ones, so I enjoy that and hopefully I'll get to do that a little bit this year. Maybe get to race a little bit with my little brother Kenny in some Dirt Late Models and just whatever comes up. Usually the most fun ones are the ones when you show up somewhere on a Friday night and you're sitting around the motorhome and somebody says they're racing up the street, and you go race. I don't have a plan yet, but I'm sure I'll do it."

ANY PLANS TO RACE IN THE TRUCK SERIES? "I don't know about the trucks. Running at Dover last year was a blast. I think that's the only truck race that I've run in the last year, and it was fun. I've been talking to another Ford team about maybe running a truck race or two. I might run a race or two for Jack. It would have to be a fun track, one that I really like, like Dover or something like that; it would be a real blast."

YOU COME FROM A REGION THAT MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO GO OPEN-WHEEL RACING OR STOCK-CAR RACING. WHEN DO YOU MAKE A CHOICE IN WHICH DIRECTION TO FOLLOW? "It's very hard. I know what you're saying, but the reality of it is that I never made a choice like, 'Hey, I'm going to race stock cars.' My choice was, 'I'm going to go race whatever someone will pay me to race, or let me drive for free.' Something that I could go do. That was kind of my choice. It turned out that I got to drive for Mike Mittler. If Mike Mittler had owned Infiniti Pro Series cars, that's what I would have been bothering him to drive. That was the only paying racing job within 100 miles of my house, so I went and wore him out. I think right now with the way our society is with the exchange of information, and everybody kinda knows what everybody is doing, I don't think there's really a path. There are guys out there like Timmy McCreadie who are unbelievable race car drivers, and people are figuring it out. They see these guys racing Late Models or USAC cars and I think it depends on chance on who they end up partnering with or who contacts them. I don't know that there's any set path right now. But, it is interesting to kind of try to make patterns out of who goes where. You never know. Sam Hornish is driving a Busch car; it's crazy."

"There isn't a pattern, but the one thing that is neat about NASCAR and the thing that I noticed right off bat at Michigan two years ago when I started Nextel Cup racing, is the level of intensity and the talent that is in the Nextel Cup Series is unbelievable. It's more than I could have imagined, and with that, any competitive driver out there, they all know that and they want to come up here and race against these guys. To me, in my mind, I guess NASCAR would have been the ultimate, maybe on par with Formula One. But, heck, I didn't care how I got there. If someone wanted to pay me to drive a race car I would have raced boats or something."

YOU HAD PETER SHEPHERD DRIVE YOUR SILVER CROWN CAR LAST YEAR. COMMENT ON HIS DRIVING TALENT. "Pete Shepherd, number one, he's a nice guy. His family is awesome and they're really nice. He does a great job. I got to spot for him at least one of the Silver Crown races last year. He ran really well for us. He does a great job in the ARCA cars, and I'm pretty excited to see him race a little bit more this year. I think just like anybody out there, he's willing to work as hard as it takes. He's not in it for anything other than to go out and be the best driver he can be. Guys like that, I think all deserve a chance."

DID YOU DISCOVER ANY WEAKNESSES WITH YOUR BUSCH TEAM LAST YEAR AND HOW DID YOU ADDRESS THEM? "Last year we got beat a lot by Kevin Harvick, and I noticed on the short tracks, towards the end of the year at Memphis we ran really well, but at Bristol and at Martinsville we were not in the same ballpark. I feel like some of that is some engineering stuff that we can work better on. Other than Kevin and his guys, we didn't have to work much harder, we could pretty much keep up with everyone else. I could work a little bit on my driving by not making mistakes, and those engineering things, we have addressed them and we're doing some things now that we didn't have the funding in place for last season. We should be faster."

DOES IT HURT THE SERIES WHEN A DRIVER DOMINATES THE POINTS LIKE HARVICK DID LAST YEAR? "There are so many dimensions to it. If that's what someone watches the sport for is to see a good championship hunt, then that's one thing, but I would say that for the average fan that shows up for a Busch race on a Saturday and buys a seat in the grandstand and sits down, they're going to see a great race whether Kevin Harvick is leading the points or not. It's just going to be a good race. Last year, I don't think at the end of the year that the points breakdown reflected the type of racing that we had. It sure didn't reflect the racing that went on at Michigan with Dale Jr. and me and those guys, and that had nothing to do with the points race, and it was exciting. I feel like as long as the Busch Series hangs its hat on what it has - its great racing and a variety of drivers from different points in their careers - it'll be exciting no matter how the points racing goes."

WHY IS IT DRIVERS LIKE PETER SHEPHERD AND DANNY O'QUINN WEREN'T ABLE TO GET FULL-TIME RIDES THIS YEAR? "I don't work in the marketing office everyday, but I know that both Danny and Peter, both of those guys are guys that got thrust into positions with fairly new teams and new personnel, and they have to perform and be able to compete with guys like Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth and all of the other Cup drivers who come in and race every weekend, plus all of the guys that are regular Busch guys. It's very difficult. My little brother is a good dirt racer. He races really well up there in Omaha (Neb.), and he's real fast and we went and tested a truck the other day. He was pretty good and somebody called him the other day and was talking about some Busch stuff. I told him, 'Look, you don't want to run any Busch races this year.' It's almost like running Nextel Cup, and I think sometimes - and I'm not saying this is the case with Peter or Danny - I just think that they get put into some positions where it's like, 'go perform at almost the highest level of the sport or you don't get to perform at all.' That's a tough position to be in. I was fortunate that I got to race in the truck series for almost three years before I had run a Nextel Cup Series race. In those three years I sure learned a lot. If I would have been forced to do that six months in, that would have been extremely difficult."

DO YOU RACE DIFFERENTLY IN ONE SERIES COMPARED TO THE OTHER GIVEN THE CHASE FORMAT IN NEXTEL CUP? "No, not really. I'm just learning how to kinda points race a little bit. I'm not very good at that, but I'm learning and I've been trying to do that better. As a driver, at first when I started coming down here as a driver for Jack, it was like I lived for every lap time. If a lap time was bad, I was like, 'Man, this is terrible.' Then I started to live for the race, and now I'm trying to live the season and make it the best overall that it can be, and that's really hard to do. You have to be able to look at the big picture. The Busch Series I think has helped me with that. It's a little more forgiving if you make a mistake or have a bad day; it's not usually the end of the world because there aren't so many guys at the top of their game. I guess hopefully in the next year or so I'll be better yet."

***

PETER SHEPHERD-17-Arby's Ford Fusion

HOW HAS TESTING GONE SO FAR? "So far, this whole week has been great. Starting back with the truck testing, we had a very strong truck test, and that was good. We seem to be pretty strong here in the Busch cars, too. Everything that has happened with Roush and me in the past has been great. I started in that Driver X deal along with a lot of other guys. I did the ARCA and some Silver Crown stuff last year for Carl, and it's just kind of grown into this. Like I said, lots of testing and lots of track time and I'm having a ton of fun."

EXPLAIN TO A FAN WHAT IT'S LIKE TO GO INTO A HIGH-SPEED TURN. "It was maybe two or three years ago, my dad and I would sit off of turn four, so I was always wondering the same thing. You go in there and you think to yourself that there's no way that it's going to be able to make this corner at this speed. Then you turn the wheel, and as soon as you turn the wheel you realize that this thing handles pretty good and you're all right. It's just overcoming, I guess you could call it the fear of just your initial turn in, and after that you just feel a lot of g-force and you have to stay on the pedal. You know the you have to be on the pedal to be fast, so it's just something that you know you have to do."

WHAT IS YOUR RACING SCHEDULE FOR THIS YEAR? "To be absolutely honest, I have no schedule whatsoever right now. I'm just taking things how they come and having fun testing. Like I said, I've just got so many laps and just waiting on the good word for them to tell me what's going to happen for sure. At this point I'm not 100 percent sure, and I'm not worried either. I know that they're going to do the best thing for my career possible, and whatever it is, they're going to make the right decision, and they always have and I trust them 100 percent."

WILL YOU BE HERE COMPETING IN THE TRUCK RACE AT DAYTONA NEXT MONTH? "Like I said, it's still up in the air. You hear news every day and things sound good and then they sound different. That's something that I'm not 100 percent sure on. I don't want to really comment on it if I'm not 100 percent sure and lead everybody the wrong way. I'm anxious, and whatever happens, like I said, I'm going to be thrilled to death. If that does happen, I'm ready for it and we'll see how it goes."

TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE LAST YEAR WITH THE NEW SILVER CROWN PAVEMENT CAR. "I think that the Silver Crowns were a success for what they wanted to do. Once they put a lot of drivers in them, there was a lot of positive feedback in the way they did run. If you want to get into a NASCAR-type car, like a Busch car or a truck, or even a Nextel Cup car, I think it's one of the best places to put a driver for development. The way they handle, you have to really drive them off the right rear, and it puts you up to speed fast. When you get out of a Silver Crown and get into a truck, ARCA, Busch car or whatever it may be, it kinda slows the speed down a little bit. I think it's a great thing, and once they get more cars out there and work a few more kinks out of them, I think it's going to be maybe even the place to be to put the development drivers in the future."

WHY HAS IT BEEN DIFFICULT TO FIND FUNDING THIS YEAR? "I think more or less, it's nothing to do with anyone's ability, it's just the struggle that every team has trying to find sponsorship, and it comes down to that. It's hard and it's a lot of money to run one of these teams, and to run it out of your own pocket is nearly impossible. You need to have that kind of backing, and unless you have that kind of backing it's very challenging to do. I don't think it's anything against mine or Danny O'Quinn's ability at all, I think it's just a matter of getting stuff on paper. And if they do start to put sponsors down and stuff like that then I'm sure in no time we'll be getting something."

COMMENT ON THE BUSCH SERIES HAVING A RACE IN CANADA. "It would be neat to go to Montreal. It's not a hometown or home province, but it's my home country, and it would be an honor to get there just to watch the race and just to be at the event. Like I said, there's been no decision at all about being at it or entering it or driving it, but if there was an opportunity I would be thrilled. I'd hop in it in a heartbeat and have a lot of fun."'

HAVE YOU EVERY WATCHED A RACE IN MONTREAL? "I've never watched a race there, but one of my good friends at home, he runs that CASCAR - and now the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series - and he sent me a bunch of DVDs and stuff like that. It's in the back of my mind if I do need to race there."

IS YOUR POPULARITY GROWING IN CANADA? "With NASCAR getting as big as it is in Canada, it's growing huge, and it has been everywhere. You see it everywhere at home now as well, I still call it home. It's getting popular, and it seems like my name is getting out there a lot more. Just thanks to companies like Inside Track magazine, who put my name out there, it's getting big and I just want to get as big as NASCAR it does itself, and hopefully I can keep performing and hopefully be one of the household names, not only in Canada, but North America-wide in this sport."

WHERE DO YOU FIT IN THE ROUSH SYSTEM? "Well, so far with testing, I believe that I have got more laps than any other driver. We did a Car of Tomorrow test over at Lake Havasu in Arizona and ran like 1,180 miles in that, so I think I'm up there among the test leaders in laps in the Car of Tomorrow. Like I said before, it's just a matter of things coming together, and I'm not worried where I'll be because I know I'll be in a good position. Sponsorship is a big thing, but I'll get by without if I have to. Whether it be ARCA races or Silver Crown again, or whatever it may be, I'm just happy to do it and thrilled to death to do it."

SHARE YOUR FEELINGS ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW. "The COT is an interesting machine. Where I tested was like a five-mile oval, so you don't get a huge feel for it as you would testing on a mil- and-a-half or a place like Daytona, even. It feels very stable and it drives a lot like a truck, in my opinion, just with the experience that I have. That big wing on the back really stabilizes the car, and it seems to have a lot of downforce and it feels real good. I think that that car is going to make NASCAR more competitive in so many ways. You're still going to see the great drivers stand on top of the other drivers that are struggling with it and stuff like that, but I think it's going to make it more competitive, and you're going to see a lot more guys running in bigger packs toward the front."

WHY DID YOU TEST AT A TRACK SO BIG? "That was more or less just a coolant test. We had like 40 rad combinations that we were trying out and stuff like that. I think it was successful and that's basically what it was for.

HOW MUCH TESTING HAS ROUSH DONE WITH THE COT? "I'm not 100 percent sure, and all I know is what I did and that's how many miles I ran. As far as how they're doing, I'm even sure of that. Everyone has a bounce in their step around the shop it seems like. They're happy, and like always, everyone at Roush is so motivated to get into the seasons and wing races. Along with every other team, they just want to win races and have fun. A lot of guys work endless hours to get the thing going and I can't see them having a rough year. I think that Roush's programs will be very strong this year."

WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU PASS ALONG TO YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS BACK HOME? "I would tell them that things are going well and it's a dream come true for me. I just want to thank everybody who supported me back at home for having faith in me and giving me the opportunities. I've had a lot of teams give me a lot of opportunities back at home, and I want to thank them and just thank everybody for sticking with me. I'm going to do my best, not only for myself to get to the top, but hopefully get to the top for everybody else at home and give everybody else faith that if they really want to it, they can do it."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Pete Shepherd , Peter Shepherd , Sam Hornis