NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards visited Infineon Raceway on Wednesday, April 9, to help promote the upcoming Toyota/Save Mart 350, June 20-22. He also took part in a Mini Triathlon with Colin Gibson (13) and Trueman Gibson (8), featuring a mountain bike ride, run around a portion of the road course and a grape stomp. The goal was to promote fitness among children. The Gibson brothers are from Santa Rosa in the North Bay. Below is a transcript from the post-event press conference.
Everyone’s well aware of your fitness and how hard you work. What’s it like to come to a track where you’re normally racing cars, and now you’re riding a bike, running and stomping grapes?
CE: Well, my man (Trueman Gibson) here got of to an early lead, but his brother and I took off and got him in the end. It was a lot of fun. For me, physical fitness and trying to lead a fit, healthy lifestyle is a really big part of my life and it’s helped me a in a lot of ways. When I was these guys’ age, I used to make fun of people who worked out. I thought it was kind of silly. To see kids like these taking it seriously and having a lot of fun with it, it’s really cool.
And, you know, I’ve never actually seen this media center before. I kind of like it and I hope I’m back here later this summer.
You mentioned that you have this race penciled on your calendar each year. Why would this be such an important win for you?
CE: What’s so special about Infineon Raceway is it’s so difficult. I grew up racing on a three-eighth mile dirt track in Missouri. To come to a twisting, turning, up-hill, downhill road course where you’re shifting gears in a 3,400-pound stock car, against guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Boris Said and Scott Pruett is a very, very tough thing. To be able to come here and win a race, I think for any driver, and I know for me would be one of the most satisfying wins in all of NASCAR. So, I really think a lot of this place and I hope I can get a victory here.
You’ve just been on fire this year with three wins, are you just kind of driving away?
CE: You know, all a driver can do is do the best he can. I’m doing the best I can and our car has been great. So, that’s been a really important part. The guys have been working really hard. I don’t want to question it too much, but if I could bottle this up, I would. We’re having fun and that’s the most important thing.
How would you rate the vintage of the grapes you stomped today?
CE: The grape juice… I don’t know how well you guys cleaned your feet this morning, but I’m not drinking it. They’re not drinking it. I’d stay away.
Can you explain that race car drivers may be more fit than people think?
CE: As a race car driver you don’t have to be really fit, whereas if you’re a tri-athlete you’re going to find out who’s going to be really fit. I swim like a rock, so I can’t imagine that part. I asked Colin if there were sharks out there in the Bay and he said “Yes, but I don’t swim out there. But I’m going to swim there later this year.” I think being fit helps you in general with your life. We’re at the point now in NASCAR racing that one-half or one-tenth of a second per lap can make a difference, so if at the end of four hours you’re feeling a little better, you can get a little more out of the car.
What do you think it will take for you to get a road course win?
CE: We probably have to get a little better gas mileage first. We were extremely fast, Jamie McMurray was leading, I think I was running third or fourth at the last race and we both ran out of fuel. (Juan Pablo) Montoya got the win, which he deserved because he was really fast, but we’ve got to get a little better fuel mileage. We’ve been working on that. It’s just strategy here. From the driver’s seat to the top of the pit box, you have to be perfect to get the win.
What kind of fitness would you recommend for kids who want to become a driver?
CE: My trainers at Carmichael Training Systems could probably tell you exactly what to do. The number one thing that stands out to me and helps me to stay fit everyday is that whatever I do is going to affect me. I want to make sure that the things I eat and the activities I do are benefiting me, that they’re not detrimental. I guess every time you pick up something to eat, you think “is this going to make me stronger?”
Describe your own fitness regimen and does that make you accepted among NASCAR drivers or the opposite?
CE: Mark Martin was the guy that I first recognized as my inspiration to start training and getting in shape. Initially, I didn’t think that racing was ever something you’d train for. I saw Mark and a story he did when I was 17 or 18 years old. It showed me that a guy like that could maybe stay faster later in his career. I partnered up with Carmichael Training Systems and they help me figure out exactly how to work out at different parts of the year. I do lots of cardio, lifting weights, just trying in general to be as prepared as I can. I think years ago it used to be the exception, but I see more and more drivers in the gym in the infield every year. I think the guys are recognizing the importance of it.
How exactly do you translate your training from the gym to the track?
CE: I try not to talk about the specifics too much because I don’t want anyone to know exactly what I do, but the thing is just to be as healthy as you can. There’s no one, particular thing that’s going to help you. Just in general, if you have an injury you heal faster, if it’s hot you don’t get tired as quickly, those types of things.
Does fitness help you do the back flip?
CE: The back flip is actually pretty easy to do. That usually has to do with the 100,000 people cheering. You’d be amazed what you can do when you have that many people cheering for you. Starting on the door sill helps, too. Everybody thinks it’s difficult, but starting fro that height it’s pretty easy to do. Doing the back flip is actually the easiest part of winning.
How did the back flip get started and have you ever fallen?
CE: I’ve definitely fallen on my rear end, but it was at a dirt track and it wasn’t on TV, so I don’t have to watch it replayed. Eventually I’m sure I’ll fall down, and it’ll be a big hit for everyone. I saw another driver, Tyler Walker, do it when he won a World of Outlaws race, and I thought it was pretty neat. Since I was 12 or 13 I could do it, and I started doing it at the local dirt track. I won my first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and I decided to do it. I saw it on SportsCenter the next day and people really seemed to like it. People suggested I shouldn’t do it. When I first did it, the next day the shop manager asked me what the heck I was doing, so now I try to do it on the grass so it’s a little safer.
Because you’ve had so much success early in the season, does that help you know exactly what you want when you get to the track? How much of an advantage is that?
CE: Greg (Biffle) and I have both had a lot of success this season. The thing about this series and the way the season breaks up, is that as long as you can make it into the Chase, there’s no reason not to go to the race track every week to win the race and take chances. We’re not quite at that point yet. If we didn’t have the penalty and didn’t have the engine problem at Atlanta, we’d be in a really good spot. We could just go for broke. But, I’m holding back a little bit. I feel like we’ve got a championship team and I want to make it to the Chase.
It seems like whenever Roush Racing has success at a race track it continues from year to year. What are some of the reasons for that?
CE: I don’t know. Jamie McMurray’s been the fastest guy at this place for Roush Fenway. I think in general, for a team to run good at a track takes a certain combination of things. Jack (Roush) and the guys are all really, really smart. We’ve got a great engineering staff. When someone has success somewhere, we look at that team. We had success at Texas. I guarantee you when we go back to Texas, a lot of the teams will be set up very much like our set up. That sharing of information is key to continued success at a race track.
For Colin and Trueman, do you ever feel like exercise isn’t fun?
COLIN: You know, you do PE at school and it’s not fun. You’re running a mile or whatever, and I do it and I don’t even break a sweat, and everyone else is taking all day to finish it.
Carl, do you have any advice for kids who are afraid to go in the direction of exercising because it’s not what everyone else is doing?
CE: It’s just like anything in life, it’s everyone’s personal decision. For me personally I can say it’s a great thing for me, and if you want to do it it’s your decision. You’re the only person who can decide to do it. For me, there’s a real great amount of pride and ownership and feeling like I’m investing in myself, and that’s a really good feeling. I don’t think it really matters what everyone else things.
COLIN: Plus, it’s not just exercise. When you go out for swims, it’s fun. When you go for bike rides with your friends, it’s fun. Half of it’s just playing, not exercising.
If it hadn’t been for the penalty and the engine problem, you’d be fourth place in points now. How do you look back on that now?
CE: The only way we look back on a penalty, we definitely don’t let it affect things in a negative matter. You have to gather whatever you can from it and learn. We ask what mistake we made that got us that penalty and just turn it into a positive. This sport moves way too fast to look back. I learned that early on. That, in particular, was not something I personally could have affected or changed, so I just have to push it aside.
Was 100 points fair?
CE: I think 100 points was definitely steep because there was no intent there, but I think NASCAR would be in a very difficult situation to try to prove intent and prove a level of intent, and then decide on a penalty. That was a simple enough decision to make. And, it was early enough in the season that it won’t really make that much of a difference.
You get your crew chief back next week?
CE: I get my crew chief back after Talladega. So that’ll be nice to get Bob (Osbourne) back. It’s amazing the little nuances of that relationship that I didn’t really value, but now I do. Having different people on the box, it takes twice as long to communicate now than it used to because we knew each other so well. It kind of crept up. I didn’t really realize what value it had until it’s gone. Sometimes it takes two or three communications on the radio, where it used to take one. We were able to win without him, but we’ll be better with Bob back. Not because of the talent level, but just because of the relationship we have.
Is there a sense of vindication in winning after the penalty?
CE: There’s a huge sense of vindication to win and to be able to... I know personally and the people in the sport knew that no matter what they said, they knew what happened there therein Las Vegas. It felt good to win that race. Knowing that we won for the right reasons, not because of the part that came loose.
Yesterday ESPN ran a story about Aaron Fike that said he actually drove a car while he was high? Can you imagine that?
CE: No, I can’t. It’s hard enough for me to get the car around the race track and I’m in the best shape I can be in. That’s too bad. I hope Aaron’s doing all right.
Can you give us a preview for what to expect the rest of the season?
CE: Boy, I’m just working on my schedule for tomorrow. I feel like the Car of Tomorrow is throwing a real curveball at everyone. The car is different. We’re going to tracks like Texas that we haven’t raced this car on. Look at Jeff Gordon this weekend, one the greatest drivers this sport has ever seen, and he struggled with that race car. You’re going to see those teams figure it out and rebound, and you’re going to see a lot of shuffling in the points. You’re going to see teams like ours struggle and there will be things we have trouble figuring out. I think there’s a lot of chance for change and a lot of innovation, and that’s going to be the story of the year. Whoever times it all right is going to be the champion. You can’t forecast it right now, I can tell you that. Right now, I love the Car of Tomorrow. I’m writing thank-you notes to the people at NASCAR for developing it. I definitely didn’t feel that way at first. I was embarrassed in our first few races because we were terrible. It’s the same race car for everyone and I think in the end the driver can make a little bit more of a difference. I hope that’s how it is.
If you had to pick out a single difference between old car and new car, what would it be?
CE: From the driver’s seat that you have to be a lot more precise with the new car. You have to drive it a lot more precisely. The car won’t carry you as much. You have to really make it do what you want and stay on top of it the whole time. I think Kyle Busch said it best that when he “steps out of the car he feels like he went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson,” and I that’s a pretty good analysis of the situation. It’s a pretty demanding car to drive.
With the way Hendrick ran last year, how confident were you that your team could run with them?
CE: The way the Hendrick organization ran last year, I was honestly pretty concerned. They were spectacular, but toward the end of last year, we won the races at Bristol and Dover, and we were great at Phoenix, so I started feeling a little better. This off-season when we tested I knew we had something as fast as we were at California and Vegas at the test, and I feel very good about things right now. That’s how this sport goes. Somebody finds something and they get on top, and everybody catches you and somebody passes you. You have to stay on top. The run Hendrick had last season was spectacular. I have a lot of respect for that organization.
Your mom’s been your number one fan. How important was your family support in your career?
CE: My family’s support was a huge part of my success. Not particularly with racing so much as just as a human being. My parents taught me a lot about being a person and being a man. I think that one of the things that I see a lot of is I have people walk up to me with their kids and they say ”how can I get my kid into racing?” and I always tell them “the first thing, your son or daughter needs to be asking me the question, not you.” I really value that about my parents. They didn’t speak for me and they didn’t push me to do anything other than what I wanted to do. They let me be my own person. That’s one of the things I’m very grateful for.
What are your thoughts about the open-wheel drivers who’ve joined NASCAR?
CE: The open-wheel guys, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world that these guys are coming over and racing with us. It’s great for me to have an opportunity to race with guys like Juan (Montoya), Dario (Franchitti) Jacques Villeneuve, and Sam Hornish. Those guys are legends. But I’m telling you, I used to watch these races on TV when I raced on my local dirt track and thought I could race with those guys. The first Sprint Cup Series race I ran was at Michigan. When they dropped the green flag, it was like these guys didn’t get the memo that this is a 400-mile race. They were racing at such a different level then I had ever experienced. Now with this new car, I watched Sam Hornish in his first time at Bristol and he did an unbelievable job. I have a lot of respect for him. There is no tougher form of motor sports in the world, I don’t think, than the Sprint Cup series right now.