Darlington Raceway 500
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference at Darlington Raceway
An interview with Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski
It was our best finish, but definitely not our best run.
KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post-race press conference. Our third-place finisher is Brad Keselowski. Brad, certainly your best showing of the 2011 season. Have to feel pretty good.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It was our best finish, but definitely not our best run. We're probably about a 15th-place car. Just kind of played some strategy there at the end and still kind of in the same boat. We've had a couple races where I felt like we were pretty decent. Bristol, so forth, caught some bad breaks.
Today honestly we weren't so good and caught some good breaks, kind of stayed out, made something of that last few restarts, was able to get a third-place finish out of it.
I'm proud of the result. Not really how we got it, but proud of the result. Still we got a long ways to go to be fast and to earn it. We got a lot of work to do, but a good team effort to kind of get a solid finish out of a mediocre day.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Brad.
Q. The decision to stay out on old tires, was that yours or the crew chief?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I kind of had been yelling at Paul all day. At the end he told me to do what I wanted to do. I saw everybody pitting. I kind of figured they would all wreck on one of the last restarts, it would come down to a green-white-checkered. It did. Caught a good break there. There's no guarantees that will happen.
Was able to hold off the 4 car, everybody but the 99 there at the end.
Q. On the restart, you pulled up in front of Carl. What were you looking for right there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Which one? The last one?
Q. The last one.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The last one, basically Regan with his older tires, it was going to be hard for him to get going with the gears. I restarted next to Regan before in the race, saw he was struggling even in normal situations. I timed the restart about a car length or so back, gave him a huge push into turn one, which was enough to get him the drive he needed. That helped him clear the 99. I just fouled him up in the hole, kind of logjammed it, which kept Carl from getting back next to him.
Your thought is to just get all you can and dig and claw. I knew I was no match for Carl. His car had been way faster all night. Had two more tires than what I had, which was zero.
This has always been one of my favorite tracks. I think it was '94, '95, somewhere in there, this racing video game came out called NASCAR Racing. This was the only track I ran.
I don't know, for some reason I always liked it. I always said I had the advantage from that all along, ran well here, at least on the Cup side. I used to race with Denny Hamlin and stuff on the video game. This was one of our favorite places to come. It's that way in the real world, too. Maybe that's why I run here better than some other places.
It's a place I respect. It's a place that you have to respect. It's been good to me.
Q. The restart before that last restart, what did you see? We're looking at 18, 29. Did you see any of that stuff going on?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I didn't see any of the wrecks back there. I'm sure there are some angry people. It's the basic same old thing, kind of what happened last night. You line up a bunch of faster cars. They all kind of lose their heads because they have to make hay real quick. Someone is going to lose out on that deal. Sounds like that's what happened.
KERRY THARP: Brad, good run out there tonight.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you, guys.
KERRY THARP: Our race runner-up, still our points leader by 23 over Jimmie Johnson is Carl Edwards.
Congratulations. Solid run out there tonight. Talk about how things went out there for you this evening.
CARL EDWARDS: I definitely underestimated that restart a little bit. I saw Regan spin his tires and I heard him pedaling a little. I thought, Don't beat him to the start/finish line. We have an advantage with these tires. I didn't want to lose that way. As soon as I started pedaling to stay even with him, Brad and him locked up, they were gone. Then I was chasing.
Man, I really felt like that was our race to win. We had a great lead that we earned all night. It was unfortunate, we had that yellow.
Regan is a heck of a guy. That's NASCAR racing. As upset as I am to have lost that race, I'm happy for Regan and his accomplishment. But, man, I'll run that one back a few times in my head.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Carl Edwards.
Q. This is the second surprise victor we had after Trevor. Talk about how NASCAR has changed in the last few years.
CARL EDWARDS: I think that's the wrong way to look at this. I think Regan is as good as any driver out there. Those guys have earned what they have. There's a reason they sit not on poles, but they've been out-qualifying everyone. It's just a matter of time before they put a whole race together.
I think, myself included, all of us kind of underestimate them a little bit. But that will occur no longer. Those guys, you know, they got to Victory Lane. This is NASCAR. It's an equal opportunity. If you can do it, then you earn it.
Q. Carl, did you and Bob contemplate staying out when the next to last caution came out? Also, how surprised are you that Regan beat you on old tires?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn't contemplate staying out. I thought about it. But I thought new tires would be such an advantage with 20 or 25 laps. I thought what we did was the right call.
I think if it would have gone green, if we wouldn't have had that caution, if I would have had more than a lap to work Regan over, I think we would have run right by him.
But we didn't get it. It turned into a green-white-checkered. I was surprised. When I drove down into turn three on the last lap, I sincerely planned on driving right by him. His car stuck a lot better than I thought. It surprised me. I really thought it was going to be a drag race to the start/finish line. He stayed out front.
Q. Carl, whether this is accurate, does it just seem sometimes like the most impossible races to win are the very ones that you want the most?
CARL EDWARDS: In the case of Darlington and me, yes, that seems to be true.
From my first trip here, Bobby Hutchens, Jeff Burton, Jack Roush, everyone that helped me get prepared for this race told me how much history there was here. I talked to everyone. I studied tapes. I got help from all these guys.
That first truck race, we were running I mean great, running down Ted Musgrave for the win, we had some trouble. Then one time we were running down Jeff and Greg for the lead in the 500, I think we had an oil pump belt come off or something like that.
Then tonight I let myself for a minute imagine what it would be like to win this race. It felt really good for a minute, but it wasn't meant to be. I'll keep trying. It's sad we have to wait a year to come back here. I love racing here. This is as good as it gets for a driver.
Q. Can you talk about being in close quarters with Keselowski, given your history? Were you happy you kept it together and raced each other cleanly?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I told him after the race I thought he did a really good job, because he did. He gathered it up underneath me. I couldn't see his elbows in there, but I could imagine they were flying all over the place. I was between him and the wall, and I was in a safer spot if something did go wrong, but he did a good job.
Q. You were talking about having the better tires. How much more did aero play into this? Did aero overcome the advantage of the tires?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a very good question. I think that was a big part of it. It seemed aero played a bigger role here than I think it ever has. It was a larger factor in how fast your car went than the difference between the cars. So even if you had a faster car, sometimes you could catch a guy, you just couldn't overcome that bad air that you'd be running in trying to pass him.
It seemed aero played a bigger role here than I think it ever has.
There at the end, I think that might have been part of it. Regan did a good job. Looked like he was going to drive into the bottom on three. Let it wash into my path. Did a good job of mirror driving there. Kept my car from having the most grip it could have.
Q. Why was there a University of Georgia decal on your car tonight?
CARL EDWARDS: The folks from Aflac were here. Dan Amos was here. He brought Georgia football and basketball coaches with him. There was a lot of folks pulling from Georgia for that racecar tonight. I wish I could have got the win for them.
Q. You told a story on TV working for Regan Smith's car. Can you go over that story for us.
CARL EDWARDS: I was driving Mike's truck. I had run I think seven races and I couldn't run any more and still hold the rookie eligibility for the next year, so Mike hired Regan to drive at Phoenix. I was kind of heartbroken. I was a racecar driver. I didn't want to go work on that truck while somebody else was driving it.
I went there and I felt kind of honored when it was all over, to have worked with him and met his family. They're really good people. We changed the engine right there in the garage. I just decided, All right, I'm going to go ahead and work, swallow my pride. I'm glad I did because I got to know Regan a little bit better and he's a good guy.
He could have treated me any way and he treated me like gold then, so I got a lot of respect for him.
Q. This is one of the toughest tracks, yet there are more drivers that seem to like it. Can you explain that? He studied video. Did you do any of that?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think the iRacing stuff can help you here. I think the reason we racecar drivers like this track is because, you know, it's so difficult that the driver can make a difference in the outcome. It seems like it's a real driver's racetrack. If you really dig down deep and do your best, you can make something happen here. That's really fun. As a racecar driver, that's as good as it gets.
Q. You had a history with Brad last year. We saw Montoya and Newman. I guess Montoya was into Jimmie Johnson tonight. Then you saw the Harvick/Busch thing. Are you worried that this thing is getting a little out of hand?
CARL EDWARDS: No. I haven't really paid much attention to the details of everything that's going on. That's the passion of the sport. I've been involved with my fair share of that stuff. I guess I'll just sit back and watch like everybody else and see what happens.
Q. (No microphone.)
CARL EDWARDS: It depends. It is nice to just go out and race and to be upset after the race for finishing second, not being in an altercation with someone. That's kind of nice. But this is racing. You're going to have stuff like that. I think all of us out there know that can happen anytime and we're prepared.
KERRY THARP: Carl, thank you.
CARL EDWARDS: Thank you. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, all you mothers.