Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, held a Q&A session in the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center Friday morning to discuss a variety of topics. CARL EDWARDS - No. 99 Office Depot Taurus - THOUGHTS ON ...
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, held a Q&A session in the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center Friday morning to discuss a variety of topics.
CARL EDWARDS - No. 99 Office Depot Taurus - THOUGHTS ON OFFICE DEPOT EXTENDING THEIR DEAL. "I think Office Depot does everything for our team. It allows everyone to go back and prepare for the next two or three seasons at least, and it allows Bob Osborne to just go out and build whatever he has to build. It overall takes a huge weight off of everyone's shoulders and lets us go racing. That's pretty cool."
HOW ARE YOU MANAGING YOUR TIME RUNNING BUSCH AND CUP? "Sheri Herrmann does a great job. We sit down and make the calendar every week and try to come up with a reasonable way to go and do all the things that I've got to do. Other than that, as long as I get a little bit of free time, I'm good to go. I like racing a lot. The last few weeks have been really, really frustrating finishes, but our performances have been great. I feel like, other than the issue at Chicago, we had an awesome race car. I think we did a great job as a team. The same at Daytona. Really, I'm just getting used to the pace. I'm trying to get kind of acclimated to the pace of how everything is going. I feel like I'm getting to the point where it's becoming a little bit normal. It's not really any extra pressure. It's pretty fun."
ON WEDNESDAY YOU WERE IN A MATCH RACE WITH SOME CUP GUYS AND YOU OWN A SILVER CROWN TEAM. "I'm really excited about the USAC Silver Crown Series. They're kind of starting a new era in Silver Crown. They're gonna run on some of the ISC tracks and the 1.5-mile race tracks. They've developed a new race car and I'm in the process of teaming up with Roger Johnson and the 191 Silver Crown car to become kind of a part owner of that team and I'm really excited about that. I think it's gonna be neat. It will be something cool to be involved with and we're gonna start by going racing at IRP in August. We went and tested on Monday and it was fun. Ford gave us an engine for the car to use and it's unbelievable. It's probably the nicest Silver Crown car I've ever driven, so I'm hoping it goes well. And then we ran that match race with Dave Blaney, Ken Schrader, Sammy Swindell and Bentley Warren the other night at Stafford, and Schrader won the thing. I finished fourth out of five and what happened was that they all said we were just gonna fool around and have a play race to put on a show for the crowd. Well, they dropped the green and here goes Sammy Swindell and Kenny Schrader - voom. I was like, 'Man.' It took me all 15 laps to catch up with them, but we had a good time. I spun Dave Blaney out. That was the only thing that went wrong, but we had a great time. It was a blast."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TIRE SITUATION OF LATE? "I spoke with the Goodyear engineers right after that race. Initially, I was hot. I was so mad. Here I am, we go out there and I'm driving as hard as I can and we blow a right-front tire. Then after I thought about it, I realized that Goodyear doesn't have any competition in this series. The way the guy explained it to me was he said, 'Look, Carl. This tire is not as good as it could be. We made a mistake. We want to produce the best tire for you guys and do the best thing that we can.' He said, 'You blew the right-front tire. I don't have any excuses.' And I really respect that a lot. The thing that made it so frustrating for me is not the fact that the tire blew, it's that I didn't notice it's the same tire we ran at Michigan, and I blistered some tires there, and it was the same tire we ran the day before in the Busch car, and I didn't specifically realize that, 'Look, we could blow a right-front tire or a right-rear tire.' So I'm deeply frustrated with myself for not racing accordingly. That's the first race I've gone out and drove as hard as I could and the tire has not been able to keep up and I just haven't experienced that before. But as far as Goodyear and my feelings towards them, it meant a lot to me that that engineer came down and sat with me. We looked over that tire and he said, 'Look, it looks to me like the tire blistered and came apart. There's nothing I can say to change it. We're gonna work as hard as we can.'
"At first I was mad, and after talking to him I realized, 'Hey, you know what, we're all in this together,' and I really feel like they're gonna do the best they can. So I feel good about what's gonna happen with our tires, and I do like the fact that the tires wear out. I would have liked the fact that they wore out that bad. If I would have thought about it, I would have raced accordingly and I would have been fine, but mostly it was just my fault for not noticing that was gonna happen."
MORE ON TIRES. "Matt Kenseth didn't have a tire issue. Dale, Jr. didn't have a tire issue. If I was a little bit smarter, I would have been like, 'Man, this is awesome.' It's a new variable. As long as you know it going in. All I asked the Goodyear guy was, 'Hey, for some of us guys who may not be as experienced or quick, maybe come down and just tell us that we might want to watch out for this.' That's the only thing and they're awesome. They did a great job. They help me out with my dirt tires. They build awesome stuff, so I don't think they did anything intentionally to make a product that wouldn't hold up. It just turned out that way."
IF YOU WERE ONLY RUNNING CUP, DO YOU FEEL YOU WOULD BE MORE FOCUSED? "That's a good question. I think maybe for a veteran guy that would be the case, where you're not gonna learn a lot. A person with a ton of experience may not learn as much from running the Busch Series on Saturday as I can. In my case, I don't feel we'd run as well if I didn't run the Busch Series. I feel like it's helped me. I don't think we would have won that race at Atlanta in a Cup car if I hadn't run the Busch car. I don't think, even though I'm not the greatest points racer yet, I don't think I'd be as good as I am if we weren't running that Busch car. So it's helping me. Physically and mentally it's not something that is draining at all. There is still enough time in the week to get re-set every week, and I think it's an advantage."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT FIRST WIN IN ATLANTA? "It was kind of surreal. We won with our Charter Ford in the Busch Series and that was the biggest win of my career. It was amazing. That was Saturday and then on Sunday, about 25 hours later, I got out of the Cup car and thought, 'This is out of control. I can't believe we just won this race.' That was monumental. It was a big deal for me. I can't really describe it. It meant a lot."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS PLACE? "I love New Hampshire. It's a beautiful place. I love coming up here. We ran really well here in the trucks. We should have won one race and finished second, I believe it was, to Jimmy Spencer. We had an awesome race. It was exciting. I came here with the Cup car last year and it was one of my first races. We finished 20th, I think, but I didn't feel real comfortable. I didn't do a very good job and I'm hoping Kurt's success here last year, and leaning on his setup a little bit, and maybe the experience I've gained in almost a year will help me a little bit. But it's a fun race track. I'm looking at these modifieds out here right now. I'm hoping to get to race a modified here some day, but for right now I'm hoping we run well. It seems like it's got two grooves. You can kind of run that second groove and it's a track that's not so much aero or anything like that. It's really how you drive the race car and it's fun. I hope we run well here. We had a good run at Phoenix, so I've been looking forward to this one. They say it's a lot like Phoenix."
DO YOU THINK MOST CHASE CONTENDERS VIEW THIS AS A PRESSURE RACE TO PERFORM WELL BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE THE CHASE STARTS IN SEPTEMBER? "Yeah, there's a lot of emphasis on this race for us in particular just because the last few weeks we've had bad weeks. We're 12th in points and if we just had a little bit different luck or a little bit different results, we'd be sixth or seventh in points. We're getting down to the point where you're still in that window with eight to go where if you just have decent runs, you can set yourself up and gain points and do all that. But every week that goes by you get exponentially farther away from being able to make leaps and bounds in the points. With this being the eighth race before the chase, everyone is really focusing on it and being one of the tracks that's gonna be in the chase, this obviously has huge importance to be able to run well here."
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE HAVE BEEN BACK-TO-BACK SWEEPS? "I think it's a race track that is very specific. It's a flat race track. It probably leans more toward the mechanical setup of the race car, not so much aero, and driving style is probably pretty specific here to this track - a lot like a Pocono or something like that. I think that's probably why you've seen back-to-back sweeps at a place like this because if a guy can do it here, he can do it. That's just the bottom line. It's not a track where you can pick up a little bit of an aero advantage and go out and gain 10 spots. I think you really have to do it right here in the driver's seat with the springs and shocks to make it work."
ARE THERE ANY TRACKS YOU DON'T PARTICULARLY LIKE? "Truly, whether you like it or not, you have to convince yourself that you like where you're going because if you don't what are you gonna do. I mean, are you gonna go out there and be mad or not like the place? For me, really, I've raced at a lot of race tracks and all the ones that we go to in Nextel Cup are really nice compared to a lot of the places I've gone and raced."
WHAT ABOUT IN OTHER SERIES? "Let me throw some place under the bus (laughing). If you run well somewhere, it doesn't matter if it's 1000 degrees when you go back and the fans are all throwing stuff at you and you have fights with people afterwards, as long as you run well it's awesome. It's great. So there are places, like going back to Martinsville, I'm nervous about that one. I haven't run well yet in a Cup car at Martinsville. We've run decently, but we haven't had a good finish there, so I worry about that one a little bit. I'm sure if we go out there and run great, it will be one that I really like. Talladega is one where I've run two races there - one in a Busch car and one in a Cup car - and we got wrecked in both of them. I don't sit there and have dreams about going and running through the flowers at Talladega or anything. I worry about that one a little bit, too. But as far as liking a race track, I really do like most race tracks. If we were to go out here and cut a dirt circle in a field and go race on that, I mean, it's not a real nice place to race but it would still be awesome. I look at it like that. They always ask guys, 'What do you think about this place,' and they always say, 'It's awesome. I love being here.' But, really, we kind of do. We like going racing, but, yeah, there are places where we don't run as well and those are the one you kind of go, 'Mmmm,' but all it takes is one good run and you love it."
ARE YOU STARTING TO FEEL SOME HEAT TO GET IN THE CHASE? "Yeah, I definitely have. I was talking to Claire B. Lang earlier about this. We started out the season and Jack Roush told me, 'Look, you're not gonna win a race. You'll be lucky if you don't hurt yourself. You're gonna go out here and learn all this stuff.' He was like, 'Don't expect to go out here and do great.' And then our team has just been awesome. We've had great runs. We've won two races, and I think the expectations have kind of changed within all of us. It went from just hoping to finish these races and gain points to, man, I want to go win every week. I do feel I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well and to try to prepare as best I can to make that chase."
WAS JACK TRYING TO TAKE PRESSURE OFF OF YOU AT THE START? "Yeah, he was. Jack Roush was definitely trying to take a little bit of pressure off of me. I think that's pretty cool of Jack and everyone, I think, has recognized that. I don't need anyone to prod me, really. I need folks to help me out and take pressure off of me. That's the way I operate."
HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED YOUR POPULARITY AND DEALING WITH THE MEDIA? "It's neat. It's Friday morning. I get to wake up at 7:30 and come talk to all of you guys (laughing). It's neat. It's fun. Like all the race tracks, all of you guys are great. I love you (laughing). But the media is cool. You guys are fun. We're all in this together and we're delivering a fun sport, something that we all love, to a lot of people. For me, I like to be very productive. I have a lot of fun when I get something done and it feels cool to be able to talk to you guys and know we're getting our message out for Office Depot and for Charter and for me and the things I believe in and all that stuff. I get to get my message out to a lot of folks. The people enjoy it and it's fun. Plus, I get recognized every once in while in public, which is strange. It's fine, but it's kind of different. It's fun. I have a good time with it."
YOU WERE IN PEOPLE MAGAZINE. "I was pushing a car in a tank top. Everybody made fun of me. It was a fun photo shoot. We had a good time with it. That's where I got these boots. I have no style whatsoever. Like zero. I cut all the sleeves off my t-shirts and just kind of go with it. When they showed up and did this photo shoot, that was pretty surreal just to do something like that and do something different than going to the race shop or working on race cars or driving race cars. That was pretty wild."
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED AT POCONO AND BEING THE LEAD CAR IN THAT SCENARIO? "I think green-white-checkered finishes are the most awesome thing in the world. I know as a fan that's all I'd want to see. I wish they would stop every race and have a two or three-lap shootout to the end. The only guy that doesn't like a green-white-checkered is the guy that's leading the race, and I was definitely that guy at Pocono. I did not want to see that race go green-white-checkered just because I felt like we were gonna win it if it didn't. All it did was give Brian Vickers an opportunity, and Mark Martin for that matter, to come up and challenge for the win. I don't know. Those are long, long caution laps at Pocono to think about that. My stomach was just upside-down. I was so nervous, but to put it all in perspective, I figured it was gonna be an awesome show for the fans one way or the other. It was gonna be fun and exciting and just to have an opportunity to win a race like that is fun, so that's kind of how I try to deal with that pressure. That's probably one of the most nervous moments I've ever had in a race car - that green-white-checkered."
WHAT DID YOU TRY TO DO? "I just tried to put it in perspective and realized that we had been running up front. There are just so many things that go through your brain. I was thinking about the whole lap. How the lap was gonna go. When they were gonna throw the green flag, how the restart was gonna go. Where I should drive in turn one to, number one, block Brian a little bit, and, number two, to still come off onto the Long Pond straightaway with enough momentum that it didn't effect my lap. Man, it was tough. Then I think I went just a little bit early. I was nervous about that. I thought they were gonna black flag me, so I was freaking out about that. That would have been a terrible way to lose a race, but, looking back on it, it was just exciting. The amount of energy that was built up in me and the excitement level and the nervousness I felt was something that you just can't go get everyday, so I was pretty happy about it."
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON RACING THESE LAST EIGHT RACES? ALL OUT TO WIN OR MORE WATCHFUL OF POINTS? "We actually had a meeting about that the day before yesterday. We sat down at a table and Jack just said, 'Carl, you've gone out the last three weeks and had terrible finishes. You've put your car in places where you probably will learn not to.' He said, 'You can go out here and if you do everything right and you give it 100 percent and you drive the wheels off it, you might win three more races but you'll probably wreck three or four more times and you won't be in that chase. Or you can go out here and run and try to finish fifth every week and you'll be awesome. You'll be in the chase and you'll have no problems.' He said, 'I don't care what you do, just realize that those are your options.' I was like, 'Wow, ok.' And those are the two different ways to race. I think what I'm gonna try to do is I'm gonna do my best to go out and use the first 75-80 percent of the races just to race for points. If at the end of that, Bob Osborne and I will talk and say, 'What do you think the best strategy is?' If we feel like we can go out and drive the wheels off of it and try to win the race, that's what we'll try to do. Otherwise, I had a few goals at the beginning of the season - to win a Nextel Cup Series race and to be in the chase. We've already won two races and I think now is definitely the time to go race for points. That's something I'm not really good at yet, so I'm gonna take these next eight races and work on that. If we don't make the chase, you're gonna see one hell of an aggressive driver for those last 10. We're gonna win some races, so that's the bottom line."
HOW BIG OF AN UPSET WAS WINNING POCONO? "I just didn't know what to expect. It's a lot like coming here to New Hampshire. I just didn't really know what to expect. We came into Pocono and I looked at the race track. I think I rode my bicycle around it that night or something with my spotter and we just talked about all the different parts of the race track and I just didn't know how it was gonna go. You don't know. To come out of there with a win, I just couldn't believe it. It feels very strange. It's weird when you go to a race track and you run up front the whole day. The race track looks different to you. It's a different feeling than going and running in the middle of the pack all day. You just get a different sense for the race track, so Pocono is definitely one in my mind where I truly believe we have a chance to go back there and win again. I feel like it's an awesome race track for me. I don't know if it really set in. It's almost like it went too well. It just went great. We had an awesome car all weekend. I really don't know how to explain it. I haven't had that good of a race in very many race cars very often."
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HANDLE NEXT WEEK WITH PIKES PEAK AND POCONO? YOU WON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT GETTING BACK AT 4 A.M. THIS TIME. "I might stay up to 4 a.m. just because it worked last time. We can race matchbox cars. I don't know how it's gonna work with the schedule. I think what's gonna happen is I'm gonna run practice at Pocono on Friday and miss all of practice and qualifying with the Busch car in Pikes Peak, and then go to Pikes Peak on Friday night. We'll race the Busch car from the rear, but I won't have any laps in the Busch car at Pikes Peak, and then come back to Pocono. We'll have to start in the rear because somebody else will qualify the car at Pocono, and then come back and race from the rear at Pocono. Jason Hedlesky and I were talking about it last night and he seems to think I ought to go practice the Busch car and qualify it, and get my starting spot and miss everything in the Cup car because of our success at Pocono. I've never raced a Busch car at Pikes Peak, but, right now, the plan is to miss qualifying in both series - miss all of the practice in the Busch car just for those two hours of practice in the Cup car. I hope that's the right thing to do. We had a great test at Pikes Peak with our Charter Ford. I mean, we had an awesome test. It went really well. We've got Hank Parker to help us out there again, but we're just gonna see how it goes."
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY BECAUSE YOU'VE HAD SUCCESS THERE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A CUP RACE THERE? "Yeah, I think it would be an awesome place to race Cup cars. They've got a beautiful facility. The fans are awesome there in Kentucky and they do it first class. The track is definitely unique. It looks a lot like a standard one-and-a-half mile race track, but it's a really fun race track to drive because it's not very standard at all. I think it would be a fun place to race a Cup car. So would Nashville and some other places as well. They're all awesome race tracks, but my opinion is as a driver. I'd like to race at the Springfield mile or something too, on dirt."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE 97 CAR HERE AT THIS TRACK? "I think Kurt is just a spectacular race car driver. He's unbelievably talented and I think he runs really well at these flat race tracks. Places like Bristol, Martinsville, Phoenix, New Hampshire, they are true driver's race tracks. It's the guy who can break down the race track and repeatedly run perfect laps. I think Kurt is just a spectacular race car driver, so I don't think it's his setup specifically. I know Jimmy Fennig is really awesome, his crew chief, but I think Kurt is just that good of a race car driver to be honest with you. He's truly talented and I think that's why he runs well at these places."
WHAT DO YOU LEARN FROM HIM? "Just how fast a car can go around some of these places. He's amazing. As a driver, he's really good. He helps me out with just explaining to me the nuances of places. The first time I went to Bristol I asked him about it. I asked a lot of people and he's the only one that gave me extremely specific information - stuff that I don't know if I would have noticed right off the bat about every inch of the race track. He talks about inches and not feet. It's pretty amazing. Kurt's that good."