Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, held his weekly Q&A session following the first of two practice sessions on Friday at Darlington Raceway, where he addressed a variety of topics. CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Aflac Ford ...
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, held his weekly Q&A session following the first of two practice sessions on Friday at Darlington Raceway, where he addressed a variety of topics.
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion
IS THIS ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING TRACKS WE GO TO? "I was driving through turns one and two and I noticed my forearms hurt because I was squeezing the wheel so tight. This place is very fast and very treacherous now that they've re-paved it. There's not much forgiveness at this place because it's so fast and there's so much grip. Goodyear has a well-performing tire. It's crazy."
HOW DOES THE RE-PAVE CHANGE THE RACING? "I wish there was a way to age these places quicker. I loved the old pavement, but what's different about this is it's not as abrasive. The tires last longer. It's a little harder to pass because the grip level is so hot and you're riding on that knife edge and if you get under someone and get a little loose, there's no room for error. This makes it more treacherous."
DOVER IS COMING UP. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT TRACK? "This place and Dover are a lot alike. They're fun race tracks because they're so fast and the driver can make a big difference. At Dover when you drive off into turn one, it's a lot like driving off into turn one here at Darlington -- the car kind of lifts off a little bit and then it settles and the sensation of speed is really high."
IS THIS THE TRACK WHERE THE DRIVER MAKES THE MOST DIFFERENCE? "I'd say as far as the ovals go there's more in the driver's hands here. With the new surface the car setup is more important than it used to be. It used to feel like 80 percent driver and 20 percent car and now it's probably 40 percent driver and 60 percent car, but that's still more than a lot of the tracks we go to. I'd be glad to run here every week. I like Darlington. I like the fans here. I like the way the track is shaped, the history, all the things make this place fun."
IS THIS THE LAST PLACE YOU'D LIKE TO COME IF YOUR TEAM WAS STRUGGLING? "No, if you're struggling, then I'd say you want to come to a place like Darlington because if you're off a little bit on your engineering or you don't have everything quite figured out with the car, the driver can carry it a little more here, maybe. So this is one I've been looking forward to and our car is pretty fast. Greg is real fast, so I think it's good to come here if you're having trouble."
DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT THE WHOLE PIT CREW ISSUE HAS BEEN ADDRESSED AND ANSWERED? "No, definitely not. We have continued troubles on pit road, but what I am confident in though is the process. We just need the time now. We need Brandon to develop as a tire changer and he needs to work with the guys, and everybody needs to build that chemistry that makes them good on pit road. So we're a long ways from where we need to be, but, hopefully, the process we've got in place works."
HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE SHOP TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT AND RALLY THE TROOPS? "I went to the shop a couple weeks ago and met with all the pit crew coaches and went out and watched pit practice and talked to the guys a little bit. The problem is not in practice. They're decent at practice, the problem is just working together in the hostile environment that is the race. I stand by my guys 100 percent. I don't spend a ton of time at the shop, but practice is practice and the race is the race, and we just have to figure out how to get them to work well together at the race." IS IT PRESSURE DRIVEN? "I don't know. Those guys know and that's what they have to work on. It would appear that whatever happens at the race track is giving them a hard time. I've talked at great length with Robbie and the pit crew coaches and we do have a great way for those guys to practice. Now they're doing two-a-days -- practicing more -- hopefully we don't have any trouble with that, so they're working hard and it's just gonna take time. Either they can do it or they can't and time will tell."
THE SENSE IS THIS WILL BE A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING RACE, WHICH PLAYS TO YOUR STRENGTH. "The hotter it is the better and the longer the race the better. This place is gonna be really grueling on Saturday. There's gonna be a lot of Vitamin Water drank during that race tomorrow night."
THIS WOULD BE A BIG NOTCH IN YOUR BELT TO WIN THIS RACE, WOULDN'T IT? "Oh yeah. This would be a great win and that's all there is to it. Daytona would be huge. Martinsville would be huge for me. Any of the road courses and this place ranks right up there with all of them."
WOULD THIS BE LIKE A FOURTH MAJOR IN NASCAR? "Yeah, I'd say it's right up there with Bristol and Daytona, especially for all the guys in the garage and the folks that have been around this sport a long time, this place is really special. I'd say if you win here, it means you've done something. It would be a huge sense of accomplishment for me."
ARE THE PRACTICES HARDER HERE? "Yeah, look at all those cars that crashed."
ARE YOU MORE WORN OUT HERE AFTER PRACTICE? "Oh yeah. I just ate some lunch and now I'm gonna go rest a little bit. We ran two hours in the Nationwide car and an hour-and-a-half here and this is tough, and it's relentless now that it's re-paved. You can't relax, whereas when the tires before got old you'd kind of slow down and have a little more room to play. It's not like that now."
CAN YOU ADAPT TO THAT? "We have to adapt to it. The race went pretty well here last year. I was pretty nervous when we came after the first couple runs on the new pavement, but it'll age and it'll get a little more forgiving, but right now the right foot has to be down and you hope that car will do what you want it to do."
SO IS THE PAVEMENT BETTER? "Yeah, I think it's a little better. I noticed I could get a little sideways and I could still drive. It wasn't as unforgiving as it was before, so that's good. I wish we had a little time machine where you could just speed it up, where there was a process where we could make it age just like that old pavement because that stuff was great. I guess it just takes time."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF NASCAR'S DRUG TESTING POLICY AND HOW IT RELATES TO SOME OF THE OTHER SPORTS? IS IT TOUGH ENOUGH? "I feel comfortable with the people I race with here. I feel that NASCAR is aware of how serious of an issue it is and I, personally, have never felt like I'm at risk or there's anyone at risk because of the way NASCAR handles its drug policy, so I would say we're doing well."
-credit: ford racing