Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, finished third in last year's point standings. Edwards spoke about his second full season during the lunch break of Monday's test session at Daytona International...
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, finished third in last year's point standings. Edwards spoke about his second full season during the lunch break of Monday's test session at Daytona International Speedway.
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion
HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU COMING INTO THIS YEAR? "I was thinking about that last night -- just how to mentally prepare for the season -- and I'm trying to not think of it as a new season, I'm just trying to think of it as a break from Homestead to Daytona and we're just continuing with what we were doing last year. I feel really good. Our car is not the fastest one out here yet, but we have a car that we think is gonna race pretty well. It should be a lot of fun. I'm pretty excited to say the least."
HOW DIFFERENT WAS THIS OFF-SEASON? "I get recognized a lot more, which is a lot of fun. I have fun with it. I mean at the airport. I pulled up to a stop light the other day and these people are just staring at me. I'm like, 'Why are these people staring at me?' They were like, 'Hey, Carl.' That's kind of wild to me. Some other neat things that have happened is I've got a lot more calls about maybe going and running dirt races or going to do appearances and things like that. It's a little different. I'm having to actually prioritize things because there was definitely a time not too long ago when I just wished I had something to do related to racing. Now there's so much to do, so it definitely was a different off season -- a lot more attention."
HOW IS THE NEW FUSION AND CAN IT STOP THE CHEVY DOMINANCE AT DAYTONA? "Yeah, I noticed that the Disney thing over there at the Daytona 500 is a Chevy. They win a lot here. Chevy has run really well. I think that the new Fusion should be great. The Roush Yates engine guys, I went over to the shop the other day and they feel great about the new engines. I'm excited. The Fusion is a little faster. It seems to be pretty competitive so far in testing. I can't even imagine winning the Daytona 500. My number one goal is to just come out of this thing and go make it to the chase and do all of that, but to actually imagine winning the Daytona 500 and having a dominant car -- having that come to reality would be crazy."
HOW REALISTIC IS IT TO WIN THE WHOLE THING? "I was actually at the newsstand last night and I was reading The Sporting News. I appreciate everything you wrote. It was pretty nice. I walked away and went home and jumped rope for about 30 minutes. I was like, 'I've got to get motivated, man.' It is pretty neat. We did have a lot of momentum, but in that same magazine I was looking at our average finishes at all the different race tracks. I thought that was pretty neat. I told Bob (Osborne) this morning. I said, 'Really, our worst tracks are the ones that I don't feel the most comfortable at -- Martinsville, Sears Point, and the restrictor plate tracks weren't that great but I feel like I got that figured out by the end of the year. As long as we can work. Boris Said is helping me a little bit with the road course races. As long as I can get a little bit better there and we can have a good race or a couple good races at Martinsville, I think that the chances of us performing like last season are really good. We have to have the good luck, too. Look at a guy like Jeff Gordon, just some bad luck can keep you out of the deal."
I GUESS TONY GOT HURT AT THE CHILI BOWL. DO YOU EVER WORRY ABOUT THAT WHEN YOU DO OTHER THINGS? "Honestly, there are two parts to the answer. I've become a huge Tony Stewart fan. I truly think that he's one of the greatest drivers ever to live, and I think part of what makes him so great is that he goes and runs the Chili Bowl and runs at local tracks and stuff. So I look up to him for that. Him getting injured there at the Chili Bowl, it's a reminder that, hey, whenever I go do these things I need to make sure that I have the best seat I can have and be as careful as I can be. I'm telling you, I love riding dirt bikes. I love going and racing dirt cars whenever I have the chance. I'm not gonna stop doing that just for fear of getting hurt or something. I think that's part of what gives a guy an edge -- driving different stuff. I think it's cool to see the state of racing at the local level and get a fresh look at it every once in a while."
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DID MARK GIVE YOU THAT HAS REALLY HELPED? "Someday if I ever write a book there's gonna be a chapter about Mark Martin and his advice. He's an unbelievable guy. He has amazing character. He treats people exactly how they treat him. He doesn't waver. He's always as good to you as you are to him and he does the same thing on the race track. I think that's been a big thing that he's taught me, but there's just the experience level. I think my 50th Cup start will be the Daytona 500. Mark has something like 500 or 700 starts, I don't know, so there are a lot of experiences and a lot of things those guys have gone through, and anytime they're willing to share it with me I like to listen. Watching tapes and talking to Mark and talking to Matt and Greg and these guys that have been around for a while and done this is an amazing resource for me. I guess I'm like a sponge, but I just try to be efficient in learning. If I can go and talk to them and not go out and struggle, I'd much rather talk to them."
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO STAY FOCUSED WITH ALL THE OFF-TRACK STUFF? IS THERE ANYBODY YOU'RE TURNING TO FOR HELP? "I have a list of things. I write lists of what I need to do for the day and on my list today is to take 30 minutes and focus on the things that are important. I'm trying to make sure. I went and had dinner with Lesa and Bruce Kennedy last night and they're really awesome people. I was telling Bruce about some things I'm doing on the side that I think are gonna be really exciting in the year to come, and he looked at me and said, 'Hey, that's neat and everything, but you have to remember what got you to this point and you have to focus on the driving.' That was kind of a little reminder and I appreciate all of that I can get because there are so many things that come -- that I never expected so many responsibilities and so many things that seem like great opportunities because they pay really well or they're fun, but the number one thing for me is to be the fastest race car driver I can be. So I guess the answer is I don't have one particular person who has helped me with that, but if any of you ever see me getting off track just smack me around and tell me to focus because that's the most important thing I'm trying."
HAS JACK SEEN THE PREDICTION OF YOU WINNING THE TITLE? "I'm a realist, too. It's really awesome to be a favorite to win, but the reality of it is even if you have a dominant team and a dominant year like Tony Stewart did last year, I pay a lot of attention to the way that he ran and our team still closed in. Our team, with me as a driver and a new guy, because of the way the last 10 races were run -- there wasn't a road course -- but we still closed in on Tony. So I guess what I'm trying to say is we could go out and have a dominant year and just have a little bit of bad luck in the last 10 races and not win it, so I guess as far as a pure results based goal and stuff, being chosen to pick the championship is great, but I think if we can just perform well we'll be OK. I'm not going out and taking a suit and tie for the championship yet. We'll be alright."
IS THERE A POSSIBILITY YOU COULD OVERANALYZE THINGS AND NOT HAVE FUN? "Oh yeah, just like anyone I'm sure I can be my own worst enemy, that's for sure. I can run myself into the ground worrying or trying to play or whatever. I told people this a couple of times. People always ask me, 'Why are you so happy-go-lucky and all that?' Because once you get to the race track, in my eyes, once we get there and the race is getting ready to start or whatever, you can't really prepare much more. You can only react to what goes on and any plan you have, in my case, is usually a loose one just because anything can change. I won't go read all the magazines and, no, I won't be disappointed. If anything, the good stuff that people write is great, but the bad stuff just makes me want to work harder. It's almost good for me, too, so I don't really respond much to the outside pressure or opinions. I just kind of go do my best."
ARE THERE THINGS YOU FELT YOU DID POORLY LAST YEAR THAT YOU WANT TO DO BETTER? "There are a lot of things I'd like to do better. I'd like to do more for people that need help. I'd like to be more involved in the community. I'd like to be the best role model I can be for kids. I think from a driving standpoint I probably took a little bit more than I deserved sometimes last year, and some of the races I'd go through the race and make people mad and do stuff just because I'd get to a position where it was 50-50. 'Should I put this guy in a bad position to pass him, or should I just wait.' A lot of times I just said, 'You know what, I'm racing for a sponsor and to prove myself,' and I'd just go for it. I'd tick somebody off and then I'd realize later that the outcome would have been just the same if I'd have just given him a little more respect. That's something Mark helped me a lot with. That's something I'm gonna focus on this year. The last 10 percent of the race or 20 percent of the race it doesn't make a difference, but at least in the beginning of the race is just be a little more patient. I think I could do that a little bit better."
WAS THERE A BACK-UP CAREER PLAN FOR YOU IF RACING DIDN'T WORK OUT? "I had a back-up plan for a long time and I was going to college. I got my pilot's license when I was in high school and I thought, 'Man, I might join the military and try to fly airplanes or something.' That was the thing that I thought was maybe a more realistic goal. Even though it would still be a really difficult thing to achieve, I thought, 'You know what, that would be a realistic goal.' Finally, I think there was a day -- I don't remember the day in particular -- but I remember making a decision that racing was what I wanted to do and I decided I'm just gonna do it 100 percent and forgot about everything else. I decided it didn't matter if I was 45 years old when I finally got to Nextel Cup or whatever, but that's what I was gonna do and that's when things really started to go better. When I just purely focused on that, so I did have a back-up plan but it just worked better to not have one."
DID YOU EXPECT THAT HARD WORK TO PAY OFF? "I remember having arguments with my mom because I spent all my mom's money. We would have some -- not arguments but serious heart to hearts -- like almost to tears. We didn't have a lot of money and I was racing and I was like, 'I swear mom, some day I'll make millions of dollars and I will pay you back. I swear.' I felt bad for lying to her because I thought the chances of this happening are like zero, but it was all fun. I did not expect to be in this position. I'm very fortunate. I am not a religious person to speak of or anything, but I feel like there were some incidents and coincidences and some really good luck along the way that really were just amazing and I feel very fortunate to be here. But I did not expect it -- not at all. I expected to be working my tail off right now and still chasing it. I never thought I'd be here."
WHAT DID YOU FIGURE OUT ABOUT RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING? "I really don't want to say. I just figured out some things -- just a better way to do it. I feel like in the Pepsi 400 if I hadn't stuck my nose between Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton with eight laps to go and taken that little risk there, I thought we had a chance to be in the top three or four. And at Talladega I felt like it was awesome to see Dale Jarrett win, but I really wanted that thing to go to the start-finish line because I had a plan there, but I just feel like I got a little better at it. I realized the pace of it and kind of what was important during the race. As far as specifics, I don't really want to say."
WILL IT BE EASIER ON YOUR TIME WITH ONLY OFFICE DEPOT AS A PRIMARY SPONSOR? "To me it's amazing Office Depot put themselves in a position to be our sponsor for multiple years. This blew my mind. We didn't have one guy leave and go to another team. We had one truck driver who needed to spend more time with his family. He went and got a normal job, so we'll still have him around a little bit, but nobody left and I think that says a lot. I think part of that's due to the fact we have a secure team. We have Office Depot on board, so that's a big part of it. As far as my time demands, Office Depot is just the easiest group in the world to work with and it will be simpler for me. But then I've taken on all these other things that are gonna be pretty neat too, but I think everyone is doing a better job of understanding the time. Running the full Busch Series schedule makes it a little bit tougher too. Office Depot, we actually had a meeting where they said, 'What can we do for you? What do you need to be able to go do your job on the race track better?' And it's so cool to have a sponsor do that."
DID YOU PAY MOM BACK AND HOW INVOLVED IS SHE? "I'm working on paying her back. She's an amazing lady and an amazing person, and she's very involved. I feel kind of bad because sometimes I only call her when I have like real tough questions or things are really bothering me and stuff. I ought to call her just to say hi more often, but she helps me a ton. She's really involved. I'm really excited about what she's doing for me this year. We've got Carl Edwards.com, my website, and we're gonna try to make it a really, really neat website for the fans. She's running that whole thing. She's setting it up and taking charge of it."
SOMEBODY IN THE GARAGE SAID CARL IS GOING TO STRUGGLE THIS YEAR BECAUSE HE'S GOING TO FIND OUT HOW HARD IT IS TO BE FAMOUS AND SUCCESSFUL. IS IT NAÏVE TO THINK IT'S GOING TO BE EASY TO HANDLE THAT OR IS IT MORE NAÏVE TO THINK SOMEBODY WHO HAS WORKED AS HARD AS YOU HAVE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE WILL LET SOMETHING LIKE THAT GET IN THE WAY? "I truly believe that if we run poorly this season, which we could run terribly, it could happen -- it happens all the time -- that it won't be because my head is not in the right place. I truly feel like you hit it on the head there with the latter of your statements. I think it would be naïve to think I would let something go that I've worked so hard for. Not to say that it won't be a little bit difficult. I'm aware, boy, you could just ask my mom how difficult I was to deal with over Christmas just because of all the people calling and all the stuff people expect. But if there's one thing that I feel I excel at it's being kind of single-minded and focused. I'll be damned if I let anything get in the way of us having a good year and me performing."