Phoenix II: Edwards - Ford interview

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, will be trying for his third straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Edwards, who is third in the point standings by 77 points to leader Tony ...

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, will be trying for his third straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Edwards, who is third in the point standings by 77 points to leader Tony Stewart, spoke about the chase before Friday's practice session.

CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Office Depot Taurus

CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE ARE ONLY TWO RACES LEFT? "My whole career, starting at the short tracks, the season was 18 race long or 22 races long. To run a season with 74 races or something between the Busch car and the Cup car seems like a long season, so, to me, it's one of those where it feels like three or four regular ones, but I can't believe there are only two left. I don't know what I'm gonna do in the winter time."

DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT IF YOU DON'T WIN THIS TITLE THAT IT'S BEEN A GREAT SEASON? "Absolutely. There's only one way to approach this kind of competition, I think, and that is to just go into it 100 percent and give everything you can and see what comes up. So far, it's going great. We've had a blast. We've been winning races, but just because we're coming down to the last two races we're not gonna change anything. I'm still going into Phoenix this weekend with the number one goal being to do our very best and have the best race we can have. If we end up winning it or running really well and closing on the points leader, that's awesome. But as soon as you start thinking about the other variables and you get that feeling like, 'Hey, I have to win this championship,' I think that's not as productive as just going at it with the intent to have fun and do your very best."

HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE AFTER WINNING TWO STRAIGHT? "Winning two races in a row is unbelievable. At the beginning of the season I didn't think we'd win two races period, so to win four and two in a row and to be third in points right now is unbelievable and it does help my confidence. A lot of times out here, especially at the beginning of this season I'd be running along and I'd start to feel like we're a bad run or a bad tire run or people are passing me and I'd say, 'Man, this is bad.' I'd almost panic. Now I have a little more of a sense that, 'Hey, we can do this. We can win these races. If we can do our best, we'll be fine.' I'm getting better at not panicking and having a little more confidence in general."

WHAT IS THE STRATEGY TO CLOSE THE GAP? "As odd as it is to say, the strategy is to almost be a little bit conservative. The only way we're gonna win this thing, really, is if Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have a little bit of trouble. They have to have a little bit of trouble and we have to run perfectly. If we have any trouble at all. If I run over the curb and spin out. If I bump into somebody and cause a wreck or damage my car, we're gonna be out of this thing. We don't have an opportunity to do that, so 95 percent of these last two races are gonna be just getting to the finish, getting the car right and being conservative. That being said, in the last tire run if we've got a chance to win, we're gonna go 100 percent, but we have to be there. That's the number one thing."

HOW DO YOU RACE AGAINST JIMMIE AND TONY? "Honestly, I just race them the same way as you race anyone -- just try to beat them. That's all you can do. I definitely would be more careful around those guys. As awesome as it would be to win a championship, the last thing you want to do is win and have some sort of asterisk next to it where you bump into a guy or something. That's not how you want this thing to go. I wouldn't want them to race me like that, so I think we did a good job the last few weeks. Everyone in the chase has done a great job. I don't think there will be any bumping for points."

WHAT'S IT LIKE HAVING THAT THOUGHT IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD? "I don't know that it changes anything racing a guy that you're racing for points. It just makes me a little bit more aware. You want to treat these guys how you want to be treated because it's just too delicate. One bad day or one bad lap can ruin your whole championship hopes, so I definitely try to race these guys exactly how I'd like them to race me."

IS THERE A DIFFERENT DYNAMIC WITH YOUR TEAMMATES NOW THAT IT'S CLOSE TO THE END? "No, I don't think anything has changed between my teammates and I. They're so awesome. Two of the greatest phone calls I got in the last couple of weeks were from Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth just congratulating me on how well things are going for us. Everyone has good times and everybody has times where they struggle and we're having an awesome time right now, but Texas could be the last race I win for three years. You never know how this is gonna go, so it's really awesome. I feel like my teammates have given me a ton of support and nothing has really changed. I think everyone is real excited."

HOW IS IT TO GET AROUND THIS TRACK? "Bob Osborne and I were just talking about it. It is a tough place, but it's a lot of fun. Luckily, the good run that we had was the last time we were here. We've got those notes and I think we have a pretty good strategy. It's gonna take track position and we're gonna have to qualify well. It is a little bit hard to pass. Late in a run it's not that bad, but it's a short race. It's relatively short and the track is relatively small, so it's gonna take a perfect race car. You can't make mistakes. You can't bump into people. Things like that can't happen.

HOW MUCH HAS HAVING MARK AS A TEAMMATE HELPED? "Having Mark as a teammate has helped me a ton. From my first couple of weeks at Roush in the Truck Series until Texas the guy is just a class act. He's one of those guys that he treats everyone just like they treat him. If you treat him fairly and you race Mark in a respectful manner, he will return the favor more than enough. He's a great guy."

THIS TRACK DOESN'T RELY ON AERO AS MUCH. WHAT WILL SEPARATE THE TOP GUYS HERE? "That's right. In this sport there are tracks where the car and the engine and the aerodynamic package can carry a team a lot farther than the driver can. I'm definitely aware of that, but at the same time I really enjoy short track racing. I haven't won a short-track race in the Cup Series yet. We won a few in the Busch and Truck Series though, and it's just tougher to come to these places. It will take not only a great race car, but you have to drive the car very well to run well at these short tracks. The car can't make up for as much of it. The shorter the track gets, the more the driver plays into the equation."

WHO HAS THE EDGE AMONG THE TOP THREE? "Honestly, Tony Stewart probably has the advantage. He ran his first race here, I think, in 1993 in a Silver Crown car and I had never raced a car in 1993, so he's got an advantage but races can go any way. We were faster than him in the spring. It's probably just because we had our car set up better, but I would say Tony probably has the advantage coming into Phoenix. That's just the way it is."

ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE HERE AT THIS POINT OF YOUR CAREER? "Absolutely. I never thought I'd really get paid to drive a race car. Everything past some go hiring me to drive his dirt late model is above my expectations. To be standing here talking to you guys and be coming up with a way to win this championship is definitely a dream come true."

SO WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS NOW? "Honestly, I feel like if we do our jobs correctly we can win this race this weekend. We had arguably the fastest car on the race track at the end of the last race. Kurt Busch may have been a tick faster, but if we can just repeat our performance that we had in the spring and not get the flat tire, I think we'll be all right. If that happens and then we can do it again at Homestead, we can be fighting for this championship. But like I've said 100 times, it's gonna take perfection and it might actually take a little bit of bad luck on the other guys' part because they deserve and probably will run just as well as us at these places."

THOUGHTS ON HOMESTEAD. "Homestead is great. We just tested there the other day. I think it's a fun track and it definitely plays to our strong point. We have great race cars and a great aerodynamic package and I love those mile and a half race tracks. That's a great place to finish up and it won't be over until it's over."

IF YOU'RE 30 POINTS OUT OR SO WILL YOUR STRATEGY CHANGE? "No, the strategy won't change. I don't see any way we could change. We're just gonna go as fast as we can, period. If we were 190 points ahead going into Homestead, that's the only way we would change our strategy. That's the only way."

ANY NERVES SETTING IN NOW THAT IT'S CLOSE? "Just the regular level of nervousness. I used to get so nervous going to the local Saturday night track for a race eight years ago that I couldn't hardly deal with myself. I've just learned how to deal with that a little bit better. I don't really have anything to lose, so I don't see any reason to be nervous. Yeah, it would be the greatest thing in the world to win this championship. I would be the happiest guy, period, in the world, but at the same time this is my first full year. I haven't probably earned, really, the right to win a championship yet. This is my first year, so I'm not gonna put extra pressure on myself to try to do something this extraordinary. If we can go out and perform really well and do this, it will be spectacular. And if we don't, I'm still gonna have a smile on my face."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Mark Martin