This Week in Ford Racing: Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is in sixth place in the Sprint Cup standings heading into this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway. Edwards, who finished second in last Sunday's...
This Week in Ford Racing:
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is in sixth place in the Sprint Cup standings heading into this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway. Edwards, who finished second in last Sunday's race at Pocono, has two career wins at MIS: in August 2008 and June 2007.
YOU'RE STILL LOOKING FOR YOUR FIRST CUP WIN THIS YEAR, BUT YOU'RE IN PRETTY GOOD SHAPE IN THE POINTS. AFTER THE POCONO RUN, WHAT IS THE FEELING FOR YOUR TEAM COMING INTO MICHIGAN WHERE YOU USUALLY DO PRETTY WELL? "Yeah, we haven't won a race yet. But I feel like our team has grown a lot over the last month or so. Our pit stops have been a lot better. Our cars have been faster. And Sunday was exactly almost what we needed. I mean, we led the most laps. We had good pit stops. We almost won the race. The most important thing that came out of Sunday was jumping up in the points because the reality of this series is that you can win all the races you want, but it really matters what you do in those last 10 races and you have to be in the Chase. You know, it's no fun being on the outside of those 12 cars, you know, looking in. Our mission right now is just to go get all the points we can so that we have a chance to run for that championship. So I feel good about it. Our Nationwide car ran really well at Nashville. It's the best we've run relative to the 18 car, who's been unbelievably fast. You know, if we can just kind of keep this going, work through the summer here, be really strong at the end of the year, I think we're going to be in great shape."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CURRENT NATIONWIDE CAR WITH THE TAPERED SPACER COMPARED TO THE CAR YOU FIRST RAN IN THE BUSCH SERIES AND THEN INTO THE NATIONWIDE? WHAT IS THE CURRENT CAR LIKE COMPARATIVELY DRIVING-WISE? "At the short tracks the current Nationwide car is great. It's fairly similar to, you know, what we ran before. You know, I started running the Nationwide Series in 2005. But the difference is now we have, I would assume we have more downforce based on the evolution of the bodies and things, and we have much less power. So at the big tracks, the Nationwide cars become completely different. If you go to a place like Texas, you know, or Chicago or something like that, you kind of lose a variable as a driver with the loss of horsepower because you're almost wide open around the race track. So it becomes very, very touchy with the setups and makes it extremely important to have your crew chief and your engineers and all those guys, you know, having those cars perfect. With a little more horsepower, kind of like the Cup car, you can make some things happen. So it's a different style of racing. It can be very frustrating when you can't get your car to do what you want, but it's good when you're fast, just like anything."
YOU TALKED ABOUT BEING SIXTH IN POINTS. THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE, BEING IN THAT CHASE. HAS IT BEEN MORE ENCOURAGING OR MORE FRUSTRATING, THESE LAST THREE WEEKS, WHERE YOU'VE HAD TOP-10 FINISHES, BUT FOR WHATEVER REASON HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO SNAP THIS STREAK? "Well, I wouldn't call it a streak yet. Because, I mean, this sport's tough. If you look at the guy that won Sunday, you know, Tony, leading the points, he's had great runs. Look how long it took them, even the way they're performing, you look at how long it took them to win a race. You have to perform like we did on Sunday for three or four races before you're going to win one of them, just based on the way racing works. So, trust me, I want to win so badly. And even though it's only been 13 or 14 races, it feels like forever. But I think if we just keep our heads down, I think we'll get what we deserve. And definitely the points feel good. I told everybody after the race, I said, I hope I feel a little better tomorrow, because I was not very happy with second. But I can tell you on Monday morning when I got up, I went and looked at the points, that felt pretty good. So we're all right."
ATTENDANCE AND TV RATINGS HAVE BEEN DOWN AT OTHER RACES THIS YEAR. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, HOW MUCH DOES THAT CONCERN YOU, IF IT'S A CONCERN AT ALL, IF MAYBE NASCAR'S RAMPANT POPULARITY MIGHT BE ON THE WANE A LITTLE BIT? "If you look at the whole economy, I guess the stock market's down, what, 35% from October of 2007 or something like that. If you look at the whole economy and the percentage that it's down, I feel like NASCAR's doing relatively well. I mean, we provide a sport, you know, and entertainment to fans, and our ticket sales and all that stuff are just based on people's discretionary income, and their willingness to spend it to come enjoy our sport. So considering that we don't that it's just fun and it's just sport, and we're only down whatever small amount we are, I think we're doing really well. And I think at the town hall style meeting we had the other day, where we talked about all being in this together and providing the best thing we can for the fans, I think if we can keep that attitude and make this sport the best it can be, when the economy comes back up, I feel like, you know, we'll literally be stronger and have more fans. So I'm positive about it. I've gone to, you know, local dirt tracks and seen nobody making any money, and a hundred people in the stands. And I'm telling you, I think we've still got a great thing going here. Until it gets to that, you won't hear me complain."
DID CONCRETE CONSTRUCTIVE IDEAS COME OUT OF THE TOWN HALL MEETING? "There were opinions discussed. You know what I mean? And there were ideas thrown around. The one thing that came out of it so far is the double-file restarts, which everyone pretty much agreed that's good. But I think the came out that's most positive is the idea that, hey, it's not NASCAR versus the drivers, NASCAR versus the car owners, we're all in this together. That's the first time I've heard that kind of message come straight from Brian France and Mike Helton and all those folks. And they really just said, 'Hey, lay it on us, what do you guys think?' It was just one hour. I think as we go forward, that kind of relationship will be good for the sport. I think that's the good thing that came out of it."
THE RESULTS YOU'VE HAD THIS YEAR ARE VERY SIMILAR TO WHERE YOU WERE AT THIS POINT LAST YEAR: CLOSE, BUT STILL LOOKING FOR THAT FIRST WIN. DOES THE START OF THIS SEASON HAVE THAT SAME FEEL TO IT? "You know, I'd have to actually look at the numbers. Do you know our average finish to date versus last year's to this date?"
OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD, NO.
"I think we're a lot better. And I say that because the worst race I've ever had in the Nationwide Series was at Kentucky last year. We got lapped twice under green by Joey Logano. That is the worst we've ever run, that I've ever run, in a NASCAR race. And, I mean, we were in trouble. I mean, we were just not fast enough. I think we ran 15th or something like that at Nashville and struggled. I mean, that was how slow we were. So I think we're a lot better. I mean, we're only 65 points out of the lead and we're chasing a guy who is extremely fast right now. So I think we're in a lot better shape. I think last year we were in a little bit of a panic at this time. And this year we're getting stronger and stronger. I feel like we're just as fast as Kyle at Nashville, and that's the first time that happened. So I'd say we're better."
THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION WAS 7.8 TO THIS POINT THIS YEAR AND 9.5 AT THE END OF THE SEASON AFTER YOU RATTLED OFF ALL THOSE WINS THAT STARTED HERE. "Right. I think we're way better. I think we're about a 12th or 13th average. Dan Stillman and I went testing yesterday and we talked about it. You know, the complexion of the season can change so quickly, just like it did last year had we rattled off seven wins at the end of the season and almost caught Clint. I think we're doing all right, considering how head and shoulders far above that 18 car is right now."
SO YOU'RE COMFORTABLE WITH DAN AT THIS POINT? "Yeah, I am. It's taken us a little while to kind of get in our groove, but I'd say we're doing really well. I really feel like it's going to be good. I was a little worried there at first just because we weren't winning races, but I'm kind of starting to realize that he is the guy to do the job. I think it's gonna be good."
ABOUT YOUR TEAM HAVING PICKED UP RECENTLY, DO YOU THINK THAT MOMENTUM IS AS HARD TO RETRIEVE AS IT IS TO ACHIEVE? "I know what you're asking but I just don't think there's any such thing as momentum in racing; it just basically comes down to will your car go fast enough and how does your luck go? And there's a little bit of what you said with a good positive attitude if you go into a race and you're coming off a win and you're feeling good you won't be as self-destructive throughout the weekend, you won't let things go bad as easily. For me, it's about how fast is my race car when we start that race, and if it's a fast race car things will go really easy. If it's not there's no amount of previous wins that can make up for it so, sometimes things go well and sometimes they don't but fast race cars make everything work well."
CAN YOU GIVE ME A FAVORITE MEMORY OR TWO MEMORIES ABOUT SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR FATHER GROWING UP AT THE RACE TRACKS, AND HOW IMPORTANT ARE THOSE MEMORIES TO YOU? "Boy, my dad and I became very close when we started racing together. He owns a Volkswagen repair shop, and we raced these little Volkswagen-powered race cars. He raced these Volkswagen cars. When I started racing, we went and bought this car. He bought it. I think he paid 1100 bucks for it. And we worked on it pretty much together for six or eight months and got it ready to go. And he lengthened the trailer. He had a trailer that was just a little longer than the little race car, so he made it a little longer and we put two race cars on it. And every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we'd go all around eastern Missouri. We'd go to Joffrey, Illinois, St. Charles, Missouri, and we'd race these little Volkswagen cars together. It was usually just my dad and me in his van, pulling, you know, stretched out trailer with two race cars on it. And we had a blast. I really enjoyed that. That was a very, very good time in my life. I'd say that racing really brought us together."
MARK MARTIN IS GOING TO BE COMING BACK TO SONOMA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO OR THREE YEARS NEXT WEEK. OBVIOUSLY HE'S HAD AS MUCH EXPERIENCE THERE AS ANYBODY. IS IT STILL A BIT OF AN ADJUSTMENT WITH REGARDS TO THE COT, NOT HAVING DRIVEN THE COT ON THAT COURSE BEFORE? "I can't speak for Mark, but I'm certain he's gone and tested. The way he's been running and the amount of talent he has, I mean, I bet he's going there for a win. So, you know, I would not be surprised to see Mark Martin up there racing in the front of the pack. I bet he's going to be one of the guys you have to beat to win this thing. He'll be up there in contention. So the other thing that I think he has going for him is his physical conditioning. You know, that's a tough race out there. And there's nobody in better shape than Mark. I try to be in as good a shape as him. I went and worked out with him once, and that guy's tough. I think he'll be fine."
I THINK YOU SAID AT ONE POINT THAT THE GUITAR IN NASHVILLE WAS PROBABLY THE COOLEST TROPHY THAT YOU GUYS GET ALL YEAR. SAYING THAT, WERE YOU A BIT SURPRISED WHAT HAPPENED WITH WHAT KYLE DID AFTER THE RACE LAST WEEK? "Yeah, really I don't even want to talk about that. It doesn't affect me. I think that's just silly in general. You know, I don't really have anything to say about that."
WITH THE ATTORNEYS SAYING THAT MAYFIELD WAS ON AN ILLEGAL, DANGEROUS DRUG WHEN HE WAS ON THE TRACK, NOW WE KNOW IT'S METH, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOU AS A DRIVER, KNOWING YOU ARE DRIVING AGAINST SOMEBODY ON THE TRACK WITH AN ILLEGAL DRUG IN HIM? "Is it certain that he was on Meth?
THAT'S WHAT THE DRUG TEST SAID, THAT'S WHAT THE ATTORNEYS ARE SAYING. "Well, here's my take on that: either one of two things has happened; either he was using meth or he wasn't using meth. If he was, then he's already out of the sport and he's not in a race car, he's got bigger problems than racing and we should probably help him out with that because he's a good guy. Number two, he's not on meth, and he hasn't used any meth, we sure as hell shouldn't be talking about it because it's extremely destructive to someone's life and their public image, so I just don't have anything to say about it. I don't think it's right that there's all this speculation going around. I think either way whether it's case one or case two. Jeremy Mayfield has always been a good guy to me and I hope he gets through this and comes out of it with a positive light."
DO YOU WORRY THOUGH WITH THE FACT THAT BEFORE THIS YEAR SOMEBODY COULD HAVE BEEN ON THAT AND NEVER WOULD HAVE BEEN CAUGHT UNLESS THERE WAS REASONABLE SUSPICION? YOU NEVER HAD REASON TO SUSPECT HIM, I GUESS? "Yeah, let me put it to you this way. In the Cup Series especially, I've never felt like I've been racing against people that are incapable of racing at this level. Most of the time I feel like I'm the idiot out there. I feel like I'm in somebody else's way or I'm screwing up. I always look up to these guys I've raced against, Jeremy included, for their level of talent and how good people have been on the race track. Man, I mean, you know, I guess what I'm saying is I never got out of the car and said, 'Man, that guy is dangerous,' or I feel like something is crazy here. I do believe what NASCAR is trying to do with their drug policy is good. I think that nobody would say it's all right to race on the race track with somebody that's impaired. And I think NASCAR's trying to do their best. You know, I feel good about it. I mean, you go through life. I mean, you don't know when you go in for surgery, you don't know if the doctor that's cutting you open has some sort of personal problem. I mean, you don't know. That's life. All you can do is do the best you can. But I do not want this to be taken out of context. I don't know what Jeremy did. I have no clue. I definitely don't want to be in the boat with all the folks that are, you know, saying he is definitely using a certain drug, because I don't know how they test for it, I don't know what goes on. I'd rather wait and see what happens."
JEFF GORDON MENTIONED THE OTHER DAY THAT THERE'S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DALE JR. FANS AND KYLE BUSCH FANS. HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE DIFFERENCE? "Man, I don't know, that's a good question. I don't know, you've probably seen more of them than I have. I've signed autographs wearing Dale Jr. hats and shirts and I've signed autographs with people wearing Kyle Busch hats and shirts and they all seem like pretty nice people to me. I think it's definitely good for the sport to have people that are polarized on things and I think that's what you've got right now you've got some people right now that you're going to have to put up those fences like the soccer stadiums where you have some fans sitting on one side and some fans sitting on the other. That's good for the sport to have people passionate about it but as far as the fans I think they take their allegiance and they stick with it and that's pretty cool."
ARE YOU STILL PLANNING ON COMPETING IN ST.LOUIS AT GATEWAY? "Oh, yeah, for sure. I plan on winning."
YOU SAID THE 18 CAR IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES HAS BEEN UNBELIEVABLY FAST, BUT HE'S GOT AN EVEN MORE DEMANDING SCHEDULE THAN YOU HAVE IN TERMS OF COMPETITION. DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT CATCH UP WITH HIM TOWARDS THE END OF THE YEAR? "I sure hope so, I could use all the help I can get. Really though, you're talking about how demanding his schedule is and whatever but when you get to the track, it's not tough. That's the part that all of us love to do. It's all of the peripheral stuff, that if you're coming out of an appearance somewhere or a production day that goes late and then you have to travel before a race, if you're tired when you show up to the track than that's when they start becoming demanding. Once you're at the track, it's good, so when you look at people's schedules you can say, 'Carl Edwards has got a tough schedule,' but there's guys out there that do more appearances and have more going on at home and are probably putting out more energy than I am just not at the race track."
ONE OF THE GREATEST PIECES OF FOOTAGE OUT THERE ON YOUTUBE IS OF YOU DRIVING DOWN THIS BACKSTRETCH IN MONTREAL WITH YOUR ARM OUT THE WINDOW WITH A MOP, TRYING TO CLEAN YOUR WINDSHIELD. WAS THAT MOP GIVEN TO YOU? I UNDERSTAND IT WAS GIVEN TO YOU TO DEFOG THE WINDOWS INSIDE IN THE EVENT THE RAINS CAME. "Yes."
WILL YOU HAVE A WIPER INSTALLED FOR THIS SUMMER JUST IN CASE? "Yeah, I think Jack was a little bit disgusted with the fact that I was trying to clean the grime off the windshield with that little thing that I had, that mop. So, yeah, he's made sure that windshields are mandatory in race cars at the road course races. That was a really fun event. That was supposed to be something to use to wipe the fog off the inside of the windshield. As the race went on, the outside of the windshield got this layer of grime and kind of like dirt and oil and whatever on it. Man, that thing worked great. It wiped it right off. It was good. My wife and I were just talking this morning; I can't wait to come to Montreal. It's one of the most beautiful facilities we go to. And the people there are great. The city is great. We don't have a tough race that weekend so I'll have more time to go out and see things. I can't wait to come."
THAT WAS THE FIRST POINTS RACE THAT NASCAR HAS RUN IN THE RAIN. IT WAS PRACTICALLY A MONSOON. HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT? YOU LITERALLY WERE WORKING BLIND OUT THERE, WEREN'T YOU? "Yeah, but when they dropped the green, I remember telling my spotter, 'I'm going to lay back, tell me where they're wrecking here in turn one and I'll do my best to avoid it.' We ended up running this race. Everybody did a great job. It was unreal how well it went. I thought it was good. I didn't have any issue with it. I wish we did it more often. It was something that was different and fun. I think if we did it enough, we'd all have systems in place so we could see a little better. That was pretty wild."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS WILL APPLY AT MICHIGAN, AND HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THAT RACE TRACK. "The double-file restarts, that's going to be interesting there. I hadn't thought about that. I hadn't really thought about that. Michigan is, for the drivers, one of the most fun ovals we go to. It's a lot like Atlanta. Even though it's shaped like California, it's different. You know, you can run all the way across its surface from the white line up to the wall and be fast. And I think that the speeds there, the different grooves and all that make it one of the most exciting tracks you can drive at. As far as the double-file restarts, I don't know which lane I'd pick at Michigan because you have such a long straightaway. You've got a quarter mile or whatever before you get to turn one. And I have a feeling it's going to look like Talladega. You know, once everybody gets past that start/finish line, there's going to be drafting partners spreading out all the way down the apron, all sorts of craziness. If we were to have a restart with 10 laps to go, that is probably going to be one of the most exciting finishes, at least one of the most exciting starts, I don't know if you actually finish the race, but one of the most exciting starts we could have. I think it's going to be cool."
OVER THE LAST COUPLE WEEKS YOU SEEM SO CALM, EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE WORKING HARD AT GETTING A WIN AND YOU'RE TRAVELING BACK AND FORTH. HOW DO YOU DO THAT, NOT SEEM STRESSED AT ALL AS YOU LOOK AT THE LOGISTICS OF THE TRAVEL? "The travel has become a lot easier. This is my fifth year of doing it. We've got pretty good systems in place. You know, last week I let Jack, I didn't let him, he offered, and he was nice enough to fly me back and forth. That made it a lot easier. I didn't have to flight plan, worry about fuel, all this stuff. I've just got good folks around me. And really, you know, even though we haven't got off to a blazing start, I have this inner confidence right now that our team on the Nationwide side and the Cup side are really going in the right direction and I feel pretty good about it. I'm just having fun. This summer stretch, this is the best part of the year. It's the one I enjoy the most. I mean, doing the stuff like Michigan to Kentucky, Sonoma to Milwaukee, you know, having fast race cars, that's what this is all about, kind of the adventure of it. This is the most fun part of the season really."
KURT BUSCH SAID HE RELISHES THIS PART OF THE SEASON BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT TO BE IN SHAPE AND IT SHOWS WHO'S NOT WORE OUT. MAYBE YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE. "Yeah, that's a good point. You know, we were testing yesterday in Virginia. The thermometer said it was a hundred degrees in the pits where we were working on the car. We talked about that a little bit. It's gonna be a hot summer. These cars, they're as competitive as ever and it's a challenge. You know, I have to agree with Kurt there. This is kind of what it's all about. It adds another dimension to the competition and I think that's good."
WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE DRIVER TO BEAT THIS WEEK, ESPECIALLY WITH TONY STEWART RUNNING SO WELL? "That's a good question. Michigan has this ability, you know, there's the chance at Michigan that there could be a real surprise, because the track is so big and so fast that if a driver and a crew chief can hit on something that really works they could go out and dominate. I mean, you look at some guys who have been real fast at these big tracks and haven't got a win, guys like Brian Vickers, Juan Montoya, David Reutimann, guys that have been kind of right there at all these big tracks, it's hard to say. I guess my answer is I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen. You know, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw a first-time winner or someone who hasn't won yet this year. I hope it's a Ford, because that's a fun place to win if you're a manufacturer."
-credit: ford racing