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Q&A with Ford driver Carl Edwards

7th in NASCAR Chase and fading
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

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Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, stands in seventh place in the latest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings going into Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  Edwards is 162 points out of first-place with six races to go and talked about how he can get back into the hunt for a championship, Jimmie Johnson’s reign on the sport, and how he has matured as a driver over the years during this week’s NASCAR teleconference. 

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – CARL, YOU ARE 162 POINTS BEHIND THE LEADER JIMMIE JOHNSON, SO I GUESS IT IS PRETTY MUCH TIME TO START A RALLY RIGHT?  “Yeah, it is definitely time to start a rally. We went into California and felt that was going to be the race that put us up there to the lead or close to it. We had trouble with a part in the distributor, which is something that I don’t think I have ever had before. I don’t think I have ever had that particular part take me out of a race. Now we have six races left to go run the way we know we can run and if we can maybe reel off a couple of wins and have solid top five finishes, and Jimmie (Johnson) can have a little trouble, then it could be anyone’s race. That one race, California, really swung things in the wrong direction for us.”

ARE YOU HAVING FUN WITH YOUR SECOND JOB POST-RACE ON ESPN?  “Yeah, I was having a lot more fun with it when we would finish each race and were marching toward the point lead. That was a lot easier. This last week wasn’t so much fun. In a way, I think that sitting up there after the race and looking at the points and the lap-tracker information and getting an overview of each race from that perspective, immediately after it is over, I think gives me a little leg up. I really enjoy doing that and I look forward to continue doing it for the rest of the year.”

WE ARE AT THE HALFWAY POINT IN THE CHASE THIS WEEK. IS IT GOOD FOR YOUR CREW GUYS TO SETTLE IN AT HOME IN CHARLOTTE FOR A WEEK OR SO BEFORE THEY GET BACK OUT ON THE ROAD?  “Yeah, it is good. I guess we have only had four Chase races and to me the last four races feel as long as the first 26 of the season. I imagine I speak for a lot of people in the garage in saying that the pressure and the intensity level of the competition right now is higher than it has ever been. To be able to have a race close to home and have a lot of the guys be able to bring their families out to the races and sleep in their own beds at night is a well-needed break.”

YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THE SILVER CROWN AS A DRIVER AND TEAM OWNER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SHANE HMIEL’S CRASH AND THE SERIES ITSELF?  “Shane and I spent a lot of time together when I first came down to North Carolina. He is one of the nicest and most decent people that I have met in this sport. He is a very good guy. My partner that owns our Silver Crown team with me, Chris Santucci, called me from the race track, sent me a text, and told me what happened. We talked immediately after Shane’s accident. I think I speak for everyone in the garage in saying that we are all thinking about Shane and hoping that he comes out of this just fine. Knowing Shane, it is hard to imagine him in any sort of physical pain. He is such an upbeat, outgoing guy and we just hope that he is doing well. As far as the series goes, that Silver Crown Series, if that series wasn’t around I wouldn’t be where I am at now. That series helped me and a lot of other drivers. It is one of the greatest series on earth and I am proud to be part of it as an owner. I think this is a tragic event and hopefully it has a happy ending.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CHASE, JIMMIE LEFT LOUDON 92 POINTS BEHIND DENNY HAMLIN, BUT IT ONLY TOOK HIM TWO RACES TO MAKE UP 100 POINTS ON DENNY. IS THERE ANY REASON WHY IN TWO RACES YOU CAN’T MAKE UP THOSE SAME 100 POINTS ON JIMMIE AND BE RIGHT IN THE HUNT AGAIN?  “There is no reason it can’t happen other than Jimmie Johnson and those guys just seem to have an ability to overcome or to not even have to deal with the bad luck that a lot of other teams have to deal with. I think we saw this weekend the mathematical possibilities that can happen. Our team went from where we were, like 53 points out, to 162 points out in one week.  That was at a track that should have been kind of a gimmie for us. We run very well at California. Statistically or mathematically anyone can be leading the Chase in three races, so we just have to keep that in mind and go forward. Racing is a very humbling sport. You can do everything right or have things not go your way. The only way to make sure you have success is to do everything right and hope for the best.”

LOOKING AT THE RACES AHEAD, ARE THERE ANY OF THE UPCOMING TRACKS WHERE YOU FEEL YOU HAVE THE BEST SHOT TO MAKE UP POINTS?  “Charlotte is an unknown. I just don’t know what is going to happen there. We have been on and off there. If you look at Texas, that is one and we have run spectacular there, so I look forward to that one. Homestead and Ford Championship Weekend has been great for Roush Fenway Racing. Even Phoenix and Talladega I feel like I have learned a lot at those places. Matt Kenseth almost won Martinsville in the spring, so I feel like our team can do it. The problem is when they throw that green flag and everyone goes four-wide down in the corner at 200 mph and you just don’t know what is going to happen. This is such an amazing sport, and I am just going to do my best and hope it works out.”

ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO RIDE YOUR BIKE TO GATEWAY?  “No, I can’t ride my bike there. All my guys that usually ride with me are all confused because I can’t go with them. I don’t know if they are going to ride or not. I will go to Martinsville, and Bob and I talked about this yesterday, we are going to qualify then stay in Martinsville and practice Saturday morning and I believe the schedule works so I can fly over to Gateway and get in the car. I assume Erik Darnell will be the guy to set the car up for me and he has done a great job in the past. I will just fly in, race, and leave. It will be very different for me because the St. Louis weekend is usually a neat, long weekend for me.”

WHAT DOES THAT TRACK MEAN TO YOU AND WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE LAST RACE THERE?  “That track is really special to me. I can’t believe it isn’t going to be on the schedule next year. It breaks my heart. I guess in my mind I haven’t accepted yet that it is the last race. I hope they can work something out in the future and we can race there more often. If that is indeed the last race, it would be a very special one to win. It is already special that I got a trophy from earlier this year. Each of my wins there are special because it is so close to home.”

YOU MENTIONED THE SUCCESS OF JIMMIE JOHNSON. DO YOU AND HIS COMPETITORS SCRATCH YOUR HEADS SOMETIMES AND ASK YOURSELF HOW THEY ARE DOING THIS? DO YOU STUDY WHAT THEY ARE DOING AT RACES?  “Yeah, and it isn’t just one thing that they do. They just have an ability to do well at everything within the sport. They qualify well. They have good pit stops. They make good strategic calls from the pit box. Jimmie does a great job driving. The most amazing part of it is that they have been able to do it over such a long time period. In 2008, our team scored more points, won more races, went head to head with Jimmie and lost the championship by just a little bit to him, but I felt then that I understood the level he was at and that we could beat him. The problem is that we went into 2009 and our team was not able to perform at that level and his was again. It is not just how they perform, because we all perform very well sometimes, it is the fact that they are able to do it over a five or six year time span. It is spectacular.”

WHEN DO THE DRIVERS GET TO A POINT OF “JIMMIE JOHNSON FATIGUE” WHERE THE DRIVERS JUST THROW THEIR HANDS UP AND SAY ‘WHAT DO WE DO’?  “That is a darn good question. I know personally that I will never throw my hands up. It is just not the way I am built. It is amazing. When I sat there in the banquet last year, the pre-banquet stuff actually, I sat there and we did the roast and I got to see all of these things. I just couldn’t believe that they had won four in a row.  It is pretty amazing. If I put myself in his position and think about what that would feel like to run that well and be that dominant over this amount of time, I guess in a selfish way it motivates me to do everything I can to be in that position. I don’t look at it as Jimmie is holding us down; I look at it as he is showing us what can be done. We just have to go do it. It is right there within our grasp, for all of us. We all have the ability to do it. For me, he is motivating. I am telling you, until it is mathematically impossible, winning this championship for any of us is right there.”

IT HAS BEEN NEARLY TWO YEARS SINCE YOU WERE LAST IN VICTORY LANE IN THE CUP SERIES. DO YOU PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOURSELF WITH EACH PASSING WEEK, OR DO YOU JUST LET THE CARDS FALL WHERE THEY MAY?  “I definitely take a business as usual approach. It goes both ways in this sport. If you’ve run really well recently, it really doesn’t matter. Once you show up to the race track you have to do it again. If you have run really poorly, it doesn’t really matter. Any week can be the start of the turnaround. Even though we haven’t had a victory, we have had a stretch over the last month that has been better than I have ever had in my career. As a team, we have turned the corner. Last week was an anomaly with that part failure. If we keep running how we have, the wins will come. I am at a point in my career where I have won enough races that I have enough confidence and perspective to realize that all we have to do is make sure everything is lined up and keep running well and those wins will come.”

CAN YOU SHARE WITH FANS WHAT IS MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT YOUR WORK IN THE BOOTH WITH ESPN?  “The great thing is they only have me up there for about three minutes, so I don’t get a lot of time to mess up. A lot of you guys have done stuff like that. The hardest part is to put aside your own views on everything and just try to give an objective perspective about it. For me, when I watch tape of a race, I have a lot of preconceived notions about what their car is doing or how it might be set up or what a person might be thinking in a situation. As a commentator it isn’t your job to give those opinions, you are just supposed to explain the best you can objectively what happens on the race track. It is just difficult sometimes. It is really fun. I get an opportunity to look at the race immediately after the race from an outside perspective. That is something I haven’t done a lot of in the past. I think it helps me and my team.”

CAN YOU COMPARE YOUR APPROACH TO DRIVING YOUR FIRST YEAR IN CUP TO THIS YEAR?  “It is funny, I think that Max Jones was the first one who really told me, ‘Listen, you think you have worked hard to this point, the work is just starting.’ That is true and I guess it is like that in anything. You don’t really reach a station in life and just rest, otherwise you go backwards. That first year was so crazy. It was the longest year of my life. It felt like 10 years of everyday life. We were testing all the time and there were so many new things. I learned a lot though. If I could go back and do that first year again, I think we would dominate. We had such good cars and I made so many dumb mistakes. From a work perspective though, I work just as hard now, but I think in a lot more efficient way. I understand what the battles are and where the speed on the race track is at. I am more confident in doing it, so I guess I don’t worry as much as I used to. That saves me a lot of time and energy.”

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