Nashville press conference - 3a, 2010-01-09

NASCAR Nashville press conference January 8, 2010 An interview with CARL EDWARDS, KYLE PETTY, JASON MICHAEL CARROLL, BRIAN BANDAS, ERIC GUNDERSON, STEPHEN BARKER LILES KERRY THARP: If I could have your attention, we have a full table up here,...

NASCAR Nashville press conference
January 8, 2010

An interview with
CARL EDWARDS, KYLE PETTY, JASON MICHAEL CARROLL, BRIAN BANDAS, ERIC GUNDERSON, STEPHEN BARKER LILES

KERRY THARP: If I could have your attention, we have a full table up here, a lot of talent up on this stage. We'll get started right now. To my immediate left is Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Certainly one of the more accomplished drivers in our sport. We're pleased to have him here today.

Also representing NASCAR, but I think he also could be representing country music, is Kyle Petty.

KYLE PETTY: Grand Ol' Opry veteran.

KERRY THARP: Kyle Petty, certainly one of the more recognized names in our sport. Certainly glad to have you here. Certainly all the things that you do, not only in the sport but outside the sport, very much appreciated.

I'll let Holly introduce our country artists.

HOLLY: We have Jason Michael Carroll. After being discovered at a local talent competition in North Carolina, 2004, he was signed to Arista Nashville label in 2006. He released his debut album Waiting in the Country that year that produced three consecutive top 40 hits for him. The second album Growing Up is Getting Old also produced two additional top 40 country hits with Where I'm From and Hurry Home.

Love and Theft down there on the end, Stephen, Eric and Brian. After opening shows for Taylor Swift in 2008 and Jason Aldean in 2009, they're gearing up to hit the road with country music superstar Tim McGraw this spring. Featured on the Today Show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and promos for ABC's daytime programming. Their debut album released in August 2009 on the heels of their top 10 single Run Away and their newest single is Dancing (indiscernible), is quickly climbing the charts.

KERRY THARP: I'm going to start right now with Carl Edwards. Carl also has his own record label. Carl, tell us a little bit about that and your interest in the music industry.

CARL EDWARDS: We started a label Back 40 Records. We have two albums finished. It's a fun way to get some of the local folks in central Missouri, get their music out there on iTunes, get them a little bit of recording time, stuff like that. It's been a blast.

I definitely have a whole new respect for the music industry. Just a very, very tough business. It's just like anything. But that's been a lot of fun. Really enjoyable. Kyle is welcome to come in and record anytime (laughter). Very good musician. We're working out the money. Yeah, we don't have anybody that's played the Opry. That's pretty cool.

KYLE PETTY: I fill that niche right there.

KERRY THARP: Speaking of the Opry, he made his debut at the rye man at the Opry, Kyle Petty. Kyle, tell us about that.

KYLE PETTY: Yeah, I was checking credentials at the back door, so it was pretty cool to be a security guard at the Opry last night.

CARL EDWARDS: Played his own music.

KYLE PETTY: Here is the deal. I got one shot to go over there and do this. I said it last night. It is an incredibly humbling place. I grew up on country music. Beating it up and down the highway with my father in station wagons, old cars, going to racetracks all over the country, listening to Floyd Cramer and Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Merle, people like that on eight track. That's just the way it was. We used to come here. I told it out there. We would come here and Marty Robbins drove a racecar, he would bring us over, you'd stand here and see these people perform here. It's an incredibly humbling place to be.

I figured you never have a shot to do something like that. If I was going to go do it, I was going to sing and do my own stuff because then I can say I sang a song I wrote at the Opry. That's how cool it was.

Might not mean anything to anybody else. It was an incredible experience for me. I've been very blessed to be able to go and do a lot of stuff. I think you get to, when you drive a racecar, you do music, you meet people in other aspects or other places in life, whether it be actors or writers or whatever, you get to experience that. So it was a cool experience.

HOLLY: Tell us about your upcoming tour with Tim McGraw, how you got started doing that, what you're up to right now.

LOVE & THEFT: Starting in April we'll be out on the road with Tim McGraw. We've all grown up as huge Tim McGraw fans. I know he's an incredibly talented guy. We're inspired by his music and by him, all the stuff he's been doing, especially with his acting career.

We're on tour with Jason Aldean for a little bit longer in January. I don't know, we're just promoting our new single Dancing in Circles, country radio, as much as we possibly can, doing shows for different radio stations across the country. They're keeping us busy, but we love it. We're having a blast.

HOLLY: Jason, talk about what you're up to.

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL: First of all, I think I left off one of the stats with Love and Theft. We actually headlined a cruise. Wanted to make sure we were accurate with the stats (laughter).

LOVE & THEFT: We put this in our information as our very first bullet point.

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL: We'll talk about it later (laughter).

We're going to headline a lot of shows on our own this year. Maybe even pick up a tour in the fall. Right now we're focusing on our single Hurry Home that we released last year, now No. 14 on the charts. Looks like we may have a top 10 coming up with it. Knock on wood. A lot of good stuff.

Then it's kind of moving on to the next single. Then we have to focus on is there going to be a video for it or anything like that. There's going to be a lot of thought into what we're doing this year. Kind of like what Kyle was talking about in NASCAR up on the stage out there, the Q&A, in this business, we're all friends, but it's a very competitive business. There's only so many spots in an hour to fill. So trying to get out there and be a part of that, you really have to do something really standout.

That's kind of what we continue to face, I guess.

KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.

Q: Kyle, how important is this event as a fundraiser for the Victory Junction Gang?

KYLE PETTY: It's hard to put and say how important it is. What I mean, it not only brings in cash, which is important to any charity. This obviously benefits the Victory Junction Camp in North Carolina, the one we're building in Kansas, but also a great facility and great institution like the Country Music Hall of Fame. When you put those two together, the cash that it brings in.

But for us it's residual, it's the residual benefits we get from the exposure, from being here in Nashville, in a totally different area, from the events that we have, from the press that you guys generate. You know, people that aren't even at this event that will watch it on GAC, that will see it in the NASCAR publications, they'll think, I need to donate something to the camp or donate a little bit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. That's something that's intangible. You can't touch it, feel it. You get 30, 40 thousand people here, whatever the number of people that show up, the thing that we do at the Groove, there's so much that happens.

Jason Michael, you meet guys like him. They come, they're part of camp, they're part of fundraisers. There's so many connections you make here.

For us, this event probably in the last five or six years has sent 300 or 400 kids to camp, which is a phenomenal, phenomenal stat just off this event. So I think for us it's become one of our mainstays, it's become one of our main fundraisers. We have to raise in the neighborhood of six to eight million dollars a year because it's totally free. We bring kids from all over the United States and pay for them to come to camp so we're not a financial burden on their family. It's a heavy undertaking. To have events like this, have guys come out like this and be a part of it, it's a lot bigger thing for us than I think they even realize it is.

Q: Jason Michael, love the new haircut.

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL: Thank you.

Q: What prompted this?

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL: The cruise prompted this haircut (laughter).

LOVE & THEFT: He was trying to emulate mine.

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL: You said you wouldn't say anything (laughter). I guess it's kind of that old saying, you know, if you want somebody to do something, don't say anything about it. For the first two years, I was signed with the label, I kept getting calls, you need to cut the hair, do something with the hair. To their credit, when they signed me, it was down to my shoulders. I let it grow down to almost my elbows before I started cutting it.

One day I woke up, one of those months where I'd been told what to do all month long. I had a day off. I said, You know what, I'm going to be my own person today, do my own thing, I literally didn't tell management, didn't tell the label, and I didn't tell my wife Wendy either. I literally just went straight to the salon, walked in and said, Hey, I want a haircut. Am I going to look okay?

They did it. Literally I held my breath when they took the first snip. I don't know why. But at that point it was kind of like jumping in cold watery guess. But, yeah, it's something I decided to do on my own, so...

Q: That was just an aside. You've got yourself an album out. How much more difficult was it working on the album than your first album?

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL: You know, they say you have your entire life to make year first record and only two or three months to make your second. I didn't realize how true that was. I got caught up like a lot of people do on my first record, being on tour, being on the bus, going out and hanging out and going to a lot of different parties, being invited to the after party here, this and that. That's kind of actually why we decided to call second record Growing Up is Getting Old. The label came to me and said, Jason, what do you have? I said, I'll get back to you on that. At that point we realized where we went from I can sleep when I'm dead attitude to, man, I can't go out to that thing tonight. I have to wake up first thing in the morning, I have interviews, this to do, that to do, I need to go take a nap. That's when we really thought growing up was getting old, so...

Q: Kyle, you remember what the preview was like in Winston-Salem. Can you compare and contrast what this is like, how it's different, how it dovetail what NASCAR is trying to do these days?

KYLE PETTY: The preview was a totally different animal, and a totally different time in our sport. Let's be really clear about that. I know a lot of people try, the preview, I tell people sometimes the preview was one of those ideas that Wayne and the people that RJ Reynolds came up with that really was a local event that blew up into what it became in later years. It's like trying to replicate the preview, trying to replicate a great fraternity party, you can't go back and do it again, you only get one shot at it. You know what I mean. You have to start somewhere else. I think that's what this event was.

When we came here and looked at Sound & Speed, when Brian Williams, the late Brian Wills from SunTrust, when it was his baby, Don'S baby, when they were working on it, it wasn't about the preview per se. It was about taking NASCAR to a place we don't come, we don't race in this market, to bring NASCAR to a place in this market. They have their fan festivals here for the music industry in June. To do something in January, to bring a totally different audience to Nashville, to bring NASCAR to an area where we're not at right now. It's a great area, draw people from Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi, great airport, facility. To bring in the music industry at the same time, it gave it a little bit of a twist for our fan, for our core fan, what the NASCAR core fan was and is.

So for us, you know, it's a different event, it's a different feel to the event. It's a little bit of an upscale event, but everybody else can reach out and touch at the same time. The fans get to get autographs, get to ask questions. That's a piece of the preview that was there.

But we don't have 38 show cars. We don't have every driver. We don't have all that. We try to keep it a little bit more special for the guys that come and a little bit more special for the artists that participate in it.

I think if this was T. Wayne, if there was our organization starting the event today, not having the preview to compare it to, I think this is what we would have come up with. I think it's grown and evolved into what it's been for the last couple years and I think it continues to grow.

Q: Carl, there's a lot of rumblings NASCAR is going to go back to the blade spoiler, do away with the double yellow line, make other changes. What do you think needs to be done?

CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. First of all, before I tell you what I think needs to be done, I want to say it's cool that NASCAR is willing to make changes to try to do anything they can to make the racing as exciting as it can be for the fans. I mean, that's what NASCAR is about, is having the most fair competition, stuff that people want to watch, can cheer for. So that's cool.

My opinion is what they need to do is take all the downforce away from the racecars, then you don't have any downforce to lose. If I don't have anything to start with, it sure can't get any worse. That's what I think they need to do.

The blade is a good idea. Taking the front splitter away is a good idea. Taking the cars, make them drive like they used to at Darlington, like they do at Atlanta, places like that, where you to drive the racecar, that's what I think needs to be done.

I don't like to go down the corner, turn the wheel, find out how great my engineers are or aren't. That's not what I want to do in a racecar. I want to go drive.

Q: Kyle, over the years, you mentioned earlier your father, you grew up with a father who was known for his racing, set a lot of records. However, since you've come on the scene, you probably fill his shoes as well as anybody, just in a different manner, as a philanthropist, what you've done to draw attention to that, NASCAR being involved. How special is it to you to be known as a philanthropist?

KYLE PETTY: I think we're very blessed. I think we all talked about it when we were out there, how cool it is to wake up in the morning and think, My God, this is what I get to do today, this is what I do for a living, whether it be play guitars and sing or drive a racecar. It's pretty cool to be at this point in time in my life and never had an office in my life, to never have to work in an office. I like that.

I think we all feel blessed. I think we all look at whatever it is, whatever the subject is or whatever the cause is. Each one of us looks in a mirror and says, There but for the grace of God go I. That's how simple it is.

We're very blessed to be in a sport or a business where you can use what celebrity status you do attain to help other people. You know, NASCAR has always done that. The NASCAR drivers have always done that for years and years and years. You go back to Cale, Pearson, my father, Darrel, guys like that, drivers from the late '60s and '70s, they always did stuff in their communities, whether it was in a local high school. We grew as a national sport and was able to do it on a totally different level.

When Adam was killed, we as a family kind of looked at the camp and said, This is something we want to do, were very blessed to be in a sport where you're competitors like Carl, Tony, Jeff, Junior, Michael, guys like that. They said, we'll help out, do whatever you need. They built that camp. It was something that happened to us that the NASCAR community and the NASCAR drivers and that NASCAR, the foundation now, and that the fans have built.

In turn, Carl has his foundation and does his stuff. Jeff does their stuff. It's not all about the camp. It's all about giving back to different causes and different areas.

So, you know, I think if we look at it, I think it's important for all us, all of us, me, everybody sitting up here, every one of you guys out there, to be known for giving something back, however small, however big, doesn't make any difference. You can change somebody's life. Everybody in here can.

Q: For the guys with Love and Theft, from the very beginning of your career, you were on stage with Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw. Do you look at that as like an honor, or does that put some intimidation touring with names of that stature? Also, with songs you've recorded, maybe something somebody else recorded, is there one song you really identify is a song that best defines who Love and Theft is?

LOVE & THEFT: I'll answer the second one. Run Away, our first single, one of the reasons we wanted to put that song out is because we all picked up and moved from our hometowns of Charlotte, Austin and Tampa, Florida, and became runaways in pursuit of our country music dreams. When we released that, that was kind of the whole plan, we want a song that kind of says a lot about us. We were all kind of runaways. That song is about moving from something old to something new, positive. That song right there is probably one of those, for sure.

But we write all of our own songs. We're very passionate song writers. That's a big deal for us.

LOVE & THEFT: As far as the first question goes, I guess before the first show with all those folks, you're obviously very intimidated. Before we met Jason Aldean, we were intimidated. What's he going to be like? Same thing with Taylor. We've become really close friends with both of them now. We kind of know Tim, but not too well. Hopefully we'll get to spend a lot of time with him this summer. We're going friends with the Warren brothers. They'll be out there, as well. I guess that will take some of the intimidation factor out there, as well. They're best friends with Tim.

We feel privileged to be mentioned in the same sentence with those people. We've worked really hard to get to where we are now. We feel incredibly fortunate to be included on tours with those folks, to get out there and play music for people that without them they wouldn't be able to hear it. We're incredibly grateful they are able to hear us.

Q: Kyle and Carl, this event is a kickoff to the 2010 season. One of the main things that's going to be happening this year on a part-time basis is Danica Patrick coming over part-time. Is it going to be too big of a step for her or do you think she's doing it the right way by coming over part-time?

KYLE PETTY: Carl has to be nice. I don't.

CARL EDWARDS: What exactly do you want to know?

Q: What is it going to be like for her coming over?

CARL EDWARDS: It's going to be tough. Honestly, I thought at first there's no way. But then I heard just yesterday, my buddy was telling me testing she was really, really fast. I mean, you never know. What I've been saying from the beginning is I think for her to be successful over here will be a huge benefit to not only her and her sponsors but our whole sport. So I hope she does well, not any better than me, but I hope she does really well.

But I think it's going to be tough, just like it is for everyone.

Q: Can you put your analyst hat on and be blunt?

KYLE PETTY: Here is what I say. She is an incredibly talented driver. Can this be huge for her and for NASCAR? Yes, it can. Obviously open-wheel built what the sport it is right now off of her because it was a floundering sport. That's not a criticism of that sport or what they do, because the guys over there are incredible drivers, too. But the sport was not growing like NASCAR was growing. So they took her and that marketing machine, the marketing machine she is, and they went there.

I agree with what Carl says. Was talking to people that saw her test. She was fast. Going fast and racing are two totally different things. That's like being a fast ball pitcher and pitching. Carl is a driver. He can drive fast, but he can drive, too. There are guys that run Cup right now that are just fast, but they can't drive. That's blunt, sorry.

When you look at Danica, I think she can come here. But I look at Franchitti, I look at Tony when he first came over from open-wheel to run the Busch car at the time, I look at Juan, and they are incredibly talented individuals. Juan Montoya is probably car control-wise one of the most amazing human beings you've ever seen in a car, and he struggled for three years at this level before he got really where he could race. And she's not Juan Montoya, sorry. And she's not Dario Franchitti. She's not Tony Stewart.

She's not really shown over there and won races and done the stuff over there, numbers-wise, she's just a marketing machine. So when you look at it like that, from what she does on the racetrack, I hope she's successful. But let's look at the facts and be blunt about it. She's going to help the sport. She's going to help the publicity of the sport. She's going to help a lot of that stuff. But in the end, will she perform on the right side? It's going to be all on her shoulders to do that.

Q: (No microphone.)

KYLE PETTY: What do you mean by that? You're saying Penske is not a top-10 team. You're digging a deep hole here, buddy (laughter).

But, you know, she's coming into a situation where that car, the car she's getting in, has won races, okay? It's won races. If she gets in that car and doesn't win races, it's not the car, it's not the engines, the team. They only changed one thing. You know what I mean?

Somebody said the other day, will that have an impact? The question the other day was, will she have an impact on the sport? Yes, initially she will have an impact on the sport. Will she have a long-term impact on the sport? If she's successful, she'll have a huge long-term impact on the sport. If she's not successful, the only impact she'll have on the sport, she wasted two or three years on a car that a good driver could have been in and developing to come at some point in time.

Q: Carl, you've been really busy lately. You took a trip to Costa Rica, shot a commercial for Aflac, your wife is going to have a baby in a couple weeks.

CARL EDWARDS: She could be having it right now for all I know (laughter).

Q: And you're headed to Daytona. Talk a little bit about Costa Rica, what the Aflac commercial will look like, and thoughts going to Daytona and having a baby.

CARL EDWARDS: We had a really good time in Costa Rica. We were going to go to Cozumel. The trip this year was going to be extra fun because I flew my own plane and I'd never flown it to Central America or anything like that. So the last minute the weather looked really good in Costa Rica. I didn't even know where it was, to be honest with you. Three years of Spanish and I still didn't know. But we went there. We had a good time. We had a lot of fun. My Spanish is terrible.

Then, yeah, went to California, shot this really neat commercial for Aflac. I just can't say enough about good things about Aflac. They're an amazing, amazing corporation to be partnered with. They do good things for people. They give back a lot, too. Like what Kyle was saying with the Aflac Cancer Center, they treated over six thousand patients, children, last year, whether they could pay or not, whether their families to afford it. They're nice enough to use me in their marketing campaign. This commercial was a lot of fun. I got to stretch my acting skills out a little bit. You'll be seeing that I think right around the Winter Olympics. I think that will come out.

Now we get ready to go to Daytona. I just can't wait. I mean, like a lot of you guys that cover racing all the time, after a couple weeks off, I don't know what day it is, I start to think, man, what if I can't drive as fast as I used to? I want to go drive something. Excited about testing next week, then going to Daytona, it should be fun.

Then, yeah, the baby (laughter). I don't even know where to start there. I'm kind of still in denial. That baby is really well-behaved in her stomach. They say they're not that way when they come out. We'll see what happens (laughter).

Q: Carl, you talk about the yellow line rules and your accident being a product of that.

CARL EDWARDS: I don't know if my accident was a product of that. It was Brad Keselowski and I wanting to beat the other one really bad. We talked a lot about that with Mike Helton the other day. I think Matt Kenseth said it the best in the meeting. He said he thinks that yellow line rule is a good rule for most of the race because it keeps people above that slowdown area, it gives people a lane to slow down if they have a problem. Also you can't see through the cars. So I have a feeling that, you know, if we didn't have that yellow line rule, we'd be down in the grass an awful lot, even if we didn't mean to be.

What we told NASCAR, I think what we all kind of told them from Roush Fenway's driver side is the yellow line deal is good, but I personally like, and I think my teammates like, when you can see the checkered flag, anything goes. That's kind of fun. We're already wrecking every time. We might as well get to shoot for the grass, go for it.

I hope they'll go back to that. I think coming to the checkered flag needs to just be a race, no holds barred.

Q: Carl, talk about the uptick in your team's performance and what RPM brought to the table.

CARL EDWARDS: It was a tick, but we did gain a little bit at the end of the season. I was as fast as I'd been on a mile-and-a-half at Homestead. RPM, the drivers over there, we're getting Allmendinger, Sadler, Kahne, their engineers, their expertise, the things that they've been spending time and energy on. We'll hopefully be able to combine a little bit of that.

They're still not in the same shop. We're separate teams. For me to be able to have another guy of Kasey Kahne's caliber to go and talk to about stuff, his crew chief, maybe we'll be able to share some stuff with them, that would be huge.

The big thing right now is to show Kasey that we can do well enough and that Ford is the company to be with, get him to stay, to help make our team strong in the long run.

Q: Carl, I enjoy your impressive driving in the 2008 Race of Champions. You did the Americans very well, representing us well in the race of Nations. Put into perspective, how did it feel to be racing and be in the same race as Michael Schumacher, Button, all those drivers, and did you convert any European fans to NASCAR?

CARL EDWARDS: I went over there to London, Wembley Stadium? They set up a racetrack. It's cool. It's a Race of Champions. First thing, they said they had duckies in their tub. They didn't understand why I had a duck on my driver's suit. They gave me a little bit of a hard time about that.

The first race, I think I went up against Jenson Button. The track is separated. We were on separate tracks. There's a barrier in between them. It hit my barrier so hard, it moved the barrier, almost wrecked him on the other side of the barrier. The guy that decided to bring me there to represent America was pissed after that race. He was like, I don't know why I brought this idiot from Missouri.

In the next race, I got to race Michael Schumacher. I figured this is it, one of the greatest drivers to ever live. My trainer, one of my good buddies, wears this Ferrari hat all the time just to make me mad, tells me that Michael Schumacher is the greatest driver to ever live. He's standing there. I'm thinking, all I want to do is so that Dean, I can at least have a little something on him for wearing that half. Ended up being a great race. I beat Michael Schumacher. It was cool. To me, that was truly one of the highlights of my career, to be able to race him. I was proud to do that.

Q: (No microphone.)

CARL EDWARDS: I don't know. On my Facebook page I have some fans over in Europe. That's really cool. I'd like to go do some more stuff like that. I think it would be fun to go over and race with some of the rally drivers. Sebastien Loeb, if you haven't heard of him, he's probably the best driver I've ever seen in my life. I got to ride a couple laps him. That raised my expectation of him, being in that car with him. That was pretty cool.

Q: LeMans in your future?

CARL EDWARDS: Did you see my Daytona Prototype in Montreal? The first guy to almost kill himself before the green flag, I still have the scar on my arm. So, no, I'm not a great sports car driver. It's like hit the wall or win pretty much.

Q: Carl, going into year seven now of the Chase, it seemed like last season the strategy may have changed a little bit for some guys like Montoya. What is your outlook this year for 2010? Are you looking at the regular season maybe a little bit differently? Has it changed things?

CARL EDWARDS: It's tough, man. For those of you who don't know, we have a playoff format, you race to get in. The year before that I thought we did well. It's really simple. I get in the racecar, go as fast as I can. Bob, my crew, the teams have kind of a strategy where they'll try some things throughout the year. With the way that the 48 team performed, and even the 5 team for that matter, it's two goals. Make the Chase first, then be the best you can be in it. Where we found ourselves having trouble, we got close to the Chase, and we were on the edge of not being in it, so now we have to devote everything we can to just making it in. You get to the Chase, it's like we made it. That doesn't work, those guys are geared up, ready to go. If after about the first 10 races, you aren't just flying, if you you're not in the top two or three in points, just rolling, then it's really tough.

I think it's like -- for a while, people were focused on the last 10, then they were focused on the 10 leading to it. Now you got to go win Daytona, you got to be good from the beginning so you can focus. Essentially what I'm saying is you have to be fast every time, every race. You got to have something in reserve.

Continued in part 3b

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jenson Button , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Michael Schumacher , Sébastien Loeb , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Mike Helton , Brad Keselowski , Danica Patrick
Teams Williams , Roush Fenway Racing