|A happy Carl Edwards after wining the pole in his Ford. But in the race Stewart's Chevy smoked that Ford|
Carl Edwards did virtually everything right in the Ford 400 at Homestead in pursuit of his first Sprint Cup championship.
He led 119 laps, 54 more than anyone else. He led 90 of the first 112 laps without a serious challenge. He drove a mostly flawless race. He scored a second-place race finish for the third consecutive event.
Yet he fell short of the big prize by a margin so narrow that it really wasn’t a margin. Edwards and Tony Stewart tied for the championship at 2,403 points, but Stewart won the title using the first tiebreaker, race wins (five to one).
It was the first end-of-season tie atop the point standings in the history of NASCAR after a final race that already has been labeled as one of the greatest in the sport’s six decades.
Stewart won the race despite a laundry list of problems during the event, finishing 1.30 seconds ahead of Edwards. It was a tough loss after an eventful season, but a defeat that Edwards absorbed with class.
He was among the first in a long line to congratulate Stewart after the race.
"Whether we won tonight or we lost, I mean, tomorrow is the start of the next season," Edwards said. "I was prepared before this race began to do exactly what I'm going to go do, and that's to be even better next year and to apply what I've learned here.
"We knew we could come into this thing and we knew that of all of the circumstances that could happen, this one [the tie] was the least probable. I mean, for us to finish like that, tied, fighting for the win. That is the least probable outcome.
"And so I was prepared for anything. I knew that this was a possibility, though, and I was prepared for this. And I told myself, I told my family that the one thing I'm going to do is I'm going to walk back to that motor home, win, lose or draw, and I'm going to be a good example for my kids and work hard and go be better next season. Because, you know, we talked about it before the race, even if we won this thing, you go halfway through next season and struggle, that's quickly forgotten.
"As painful as this is right now, I know that we have—we are fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Daytona [in February] and just start all over again and go race."
After the race, Edwards met briefly with crew chief Bob Osborne, who seemed particularly shaken by the night’s results. They shook hands before Edwards continued with a raft of post-race media responsibilities.
"I just wanted to make sure that Bob knew that I believe he's the best crew chief here, and that he will be my crew chief for as long as he wants to be, and I'm behind him and his decisions 100 percent," Edwards said.
"As tough as it is for me, you know, it's tougher, I think, for those guys, the guys that prepare these cars and determine which things we are going to work on throughout the year and what strategies we are going to use. They make some very, very big decisions that they can't turn around."
Aside from the obvious disappointment of falling short of the championship, Edwards said the run through the Chase will make him a better racer for future title opportunities.
"There are lessons that I learned and things that I learned about myself, about competition, about failure and things about success; things that I could not have learned any other way," he said. "If there weren't any pressure, there wouldn’t be any diamonds, that's what my trainer says.
"We dealt with a lot of pressure, and I feel very proud of the way our team and myself and everyone has handled everything through this, and I feel that we made it all the way through, and although we didn't come out with the outcome that we wanted, that we are better because of it, you know, and I'm not trying to be philosophical or anything.
"I'm truly telling you, if I'm in this position next year, I'm going to be better at it. I'm going to be—I'll be better. So that's cool. That's something you don't get every day is a lesson like this."
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – PIT ROAD INTERVIEW
"I just have to say congratulations to Tony. Those guys earned it. They won half the races in the Chase and he is the champion and did a good job.
"My guys did a great job. We pushed him to the end and that is all I got. That is as hard as I can drive. I think it is really important to give Tony the credit. Those guys did a good job. That is everything I've got. I will go home and work harder for next year and be back and make it just as hard on them, hopefully harder.
"I am proud of Ford, Aflac and our fans. Thank you for making this fun."
THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING CHAMPIONSHIP FINISHES THE SPORT HAS EVER SEEN. WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW?
"Let me thank my sponsors, Aflac, Ford, Kellogg's, Subway, Scott's and all the fans. This night is about Tony Stewart. They beat us fair and square. I gave them everything we've got and my guys did a really good job. We came here and sat on the pole and led the most laps and Tony still managed to do a good job with their strategy, come out in front of us and that was all I had at the end. That is as hard as I can drive.
"I told my wife, ‘If I can't win this thing, I am going to be the best loser NASCAR has ever had and I am going to try really hard to keep my head up and know we will be just as hard to beat next year and the year after that.'
"I just hope everybody is proud of the way we performed and our effort. I appreciate everyone's support. I wish so bad we had that trophy, it just wasn't meant to be tonight."
FOR 40 LAPS YOU WERE LOOKING AT THE TARGET AHEAD OF YOU, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
"It was good because I could see what Tony was doing and I tried all sorts of stuff and that is as hard as I can drive that race car and that is it. I said before this thing started that I would give my best performance and I would be happy with that. I am not quite happy with it, but this is what we've got. We will make the most of it. I can tell you one thing, if we are in this position again next year those guys better watch out because that was a lot of work to stay calm and focused and perform the best we can, I learned a ton."
DID YOU KNOW YOUR FATE DURING THE LAST 20 LAPS?
"No, I don't ever quit. I was waiting for his car to run out of fuel coming to the finish line.
"The only good thing about tonight is that we didn't make any mistakes, we didn't mess up and we didn't beat ourselves. We made Tony and those guys come out and beat us and they did. Congratulations to him. He is the champion and he earned it. I learned a ton, a lot about myself and competition at this level and I will be ready to battle it out just like this every year if I get the opportunity."
HOW TOUGH IS THIS MOMENT FOR YOU RIGHT NOW?
"This moment is pretty tough but not nearly as tough as it could have been if we had a mistake or a problem. We just got out-raced tonight. They did their jobs and came back from adversity and did a good job."
WHAT DID YOU JUST TELL TONY AT HIS CAR?
"I told him I hope we do the same thing next year, it will be fun. That is a good racer. He did a good job. His team did a good job. My guys did really well, too. We aren't going to walk away here feeling like we didn't give our best performance. We did well and I stand behind all my guys and we will have that same group if I can do anything about it next year and they are going to have to beat us."
CARL EDWARDS POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
TALK ABOUT YOUR RACE OUT THERE TONIGHT AND THE EFFORT
"Well, the effort was all season. We finished the last two races last season very strong and we believed in what we were capable of this year and I think we proved to ourselves that even with adversity and the things we faced throughout the Chase with the bad runs we had and mistakes we made and recovered from that we can compete for these championships. I guess the only thing I am able to take away from this that is really positive is something I think is really important and that is at least we know that we can compete with any of these people. We can compete with a two-time champion, three-time champion now, and winning half the Chase races and still score as many points as them. That is a big deal. I know there are a lot of tests in life and I think the last three or four weeks have been a huge test for me and my team mentally. For us to keep our confidence up and keep our cool and go out and do our jobs, I am really proud of that. That is it. That is my maximal effort right there and Tony beat us. He is a champion and deserves to be the champion. He did a good job and now we will go home and work even harder and if we are faced with the same test next year hopefully we will do even better."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR THOUGHTS THE LAST 10-15 LAPS?
"Well, for me I thought back to a lesson I was reminded of at Iowa the second race with Ricky Stenhouse and that was to never, ever give up, period. I was fully prepared for Tony to run out of fuel or have a tire problem or for anything to happen. For a caution to come out and have a restart and that is all I can do. That is my job, to be as prepared as I can be. I didn't really let myself think about the consequence of what was going on, I just had to drive the hardest I could and I did. I drove to the edge and beyond and that is all I had."
I CAN'T HELP BUT THINK YOU WILL SPEND THE OFF SEASON THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO COME BACK AND BE EVEN BETTER THAN YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. IS THAT PRETTY ACCURATE?
"Yes. Here is the deal. Whether we won tonight or we lost, tomorrow is the start of the next season. I was prepared before this race began to do exactly what I am going to go do and that is to be even better next year and apply what I have learned here.
"We knew we could come into this thing and we knew that of all the circumstances that could happen this one was the least probable. For us to finish like that, tied, fighting for the win, that is the least [probable] outcome. I was prepared for anything. I knew that this was a possibility and I was prepared for this. I told myself and my family that the one thing I am going to do is walk back to that motor home win, lose or draw and be a good example for my kids and work hard and go be better next season.
"We talked about it before the race. Even if we won this thing you get halfway through next season and struggle and it is quickly forgotten. As painful as this is right now I know we are fortunate to go to Daytona and start all over again and go race."
WHAT DID YOU SAY TO BOB OSBORNE WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THE CAR?
"I just wanted to make sure that Bob knew I believe he's the best crew chief here and he will be my crew chief for as long as he wants to be and I will be behind him and his decisions 100 percent. As tough as it is for me, it's tougher, I think, for those guys—the guys that prepare these cars and determine which things we're gonna work on through the year and what strategies we're gonna use. I mean, they make some very, very big decisions that they can't turn around and change in a heartbeat.
"As a race car driver, I can make quick decisions out there and I can fix things and make things happen. They make some very, very thought-out decisions and I'm sure their disappointment is as great or great than mine."
IS THERE ANYTHING COMPARABLE YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH LIKE THIS?
"No. I wish I could do this every day. There are lessons that I learned and things I learned about myself, about competition, about failure, about success, things that I could not have learned any other way.
"If there wasn't any pressure, there wouldn't be any diamonds. That's what my trainer says. We dealt with a lot of pressure and I feel very proud of the way our team and myself and everyone has handled everything through this, and I feel we made it all the way through and although we didn't come out with the outcome that we wanted, that we are better because of it. I'm not trying to be philosophical or anything, I'm truly telling you that if I'm in this position next year, I'm gonna be better at it. I'll be better, so that's cool. That's something you don't get every day is a lesson like this."
WERE YOU PREPARED FOR THIS AND HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH TONY'S TRASH TALKING?
"It's easy. I talked to you guys one time and I said Kipling's poem, I can't remember the title of it, but when he says ‘you have to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same,' and that's the truth. There's nothing saying that this loss here tonight won't spur a chain of events that could lead to some serious success in the future and you guys are looking at someone who is not gonna miss out on that.
"I'm very aware that time is a funny thing. You can't go back and change anything, but you can sure as hell change what's gonna happen, and I will be better and I will do a good job. And, yes, to answer your question, I was prepared for this. I thought a lot about this. Like I said earlier, I feel like personally I passed the test. I didn't fall into the trap of the trash-talking. I didn't change the person that I am to go compete at my highest level. I felt like I did it my way and I'm proud of that."
THE LAST THREE WEEKS YOU AND TONY HAVE GONE HEAD-TO-HEAD. IS IT NOT SURPRISING IT ENDED THIS WAY?
"Like I said earlier, I think it's been a true test. It's been a battle. As best I can, if I step back away from this and I look at it and I say, ‘OK, here are two guys: one of which has a lot more experience in these situations than the other, won half of the races in the Chase and the other guy stood his ground and did a darn good job of forcing these guys to perform their best.' I'm proud of that and I think what you just said, the fact that it was that way, that it just turned into this man-to-man battle that was very interesting.
"That was something you don't see in this sport. It shouldn't happen. I believe it only happened because subconsciously everybody on these teams just raised their level of performance and, to be honest with you, I was very, very impressed with Tony. I think that for all the talk and all the chest-pounding he did, I could see that he was nervous about this too. They had to perform at a very high level and I honestly thought there was a good chance tonight of them making a mistake, of him over-driving, trying too hard, and they showed a lot of mental toughness to be able to watch us go lead the first half of this race essentially and not panic and not make mistakes. I thought they did a really good job."
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE FACT IT ENDED IN A TIE?
"I'd compete with him in just about anything else to break that tie if we could set up something. That's pretty amazing. I'm telling you guys, I'm not just saying this because I didn't win the thing, but I think we could run this race 10 times and it's a 50-50 deal. A little different pit stop, a little different restart here, 10 pounds of spring somewhere in the car and this race could have been a lot different. Not a lot different, but the roles could have been reversed.
"I think it's just amazing. I'm sure there will be people who will say this is fake, that this was set up, because it's just so unbelievable. It's like a movie."
WHERE WAS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND TONY, AND YOU SEEM TO BE PUTTING ON A GOOD FACE. IS THIS HOW YOU FEEL?
"I'm telling you, guys, this is how I feel. This is me. I'm not b.s.'ing you. This is me. I'm not gonna go rip the door off my motorhome and freak out or anything. I'm gonna go hang out with my family and we'll go to the beach tomorrow and go celebrate Ricky's championship. I think it's important to look back and to come up and look at things you could do differently to really analyze everything and to see where you did things wrong and where you did things right.
"My true feeling right now, my gut feeling in my heart, is that I'm obviously disappointed we didn't win. That would have been a spectacular result, but I'm very proud. Some of the best races I've run in my life were this Chase.
"Kansas was unbelievable. Martinsville, I've never used my head as much as I did at Martinsville. I've never been able to put down my frustration like I did at Dover. If I look back on this Chase with some of the things we salvaged, I mean, we shouldn't be tied we should be a lot farther behind.
"I'm proud of my guys and proud of every one. There's not one thing where I say, ‘Man, I wish I'd have done this or I wish I'd have done that.' This whole season has gone very well. I'm truly proud of this season, but it's over and we didn't win it and they did. It's not like they squeaked by. They came with a vengeance and they did their jobs."
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR OFF SEASON?
"What we now have to focus on, we have to be very careful of is not being frustrated and not letting this disappointment tonight affect us for next season. That's something you've got to do as a competitor, especially at this level, you have to realize that the past is history, it's done, we have to go be the best we can and, truly, we've never run any better than this and there's no reason we shouldn't start the next season just as tough or tougher. I think that's something we'll talk about, hopefully, really soon after everyone relaxes and gets done with Thanksgiving. We'll decide how we're gonna be the best we can next year and build off of this and not let any of this disappointment bring us down. We have to make sure we're just as tough next year."
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE RAIN CAME AND YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT FUEL MILEAGE WITH 50-60 [LAPS] TO GO?
"What they did was they stayed out. I think they almost ran out of fuel. They came down, pitted. They did a really good job of staying on the lead lap. I'm sorry, I'm mistaken, it's not hard to do because we pitted, too, so it ended up working out fine for them. But they pitted for four tires, the rain came, caution came out, and we only had a couple laps on our tires, so we came in and we were kind of stuck in a box where if we took four, we were gonna lose a bunch of track position to him, and then if it rains we lose the championship if they say the race is over. So we took two tires while we were cruising around under caution we still had the points lead, so if the rain came really hard and they for some reason shortened the race, we'd have won it that way. That's the box we were in, so we restarted and as it turns out the guys that took four tires didn't move forward a bunch, so, looking back, I don't know if we'd have taken four tires if that would have made the difference or not, but it doesn't appear so. I think if we had it to do over again, we'd probably do the same thing, we would hope that that rain didn't come and then we would get another caution."
WERE YOU SURPRISED HE STAYED OUT SO LONG?
"I was and I was trying to figure out what he was doing, but they were just gonna try to make it on that one stop and then save fuel, which is pretty risky, I thought. I really thought for a second, ‘We've got ‘em. They're on the ropes here and they're trying something that maybe they shouldn't.' The Gods were shining down on them.
"It worked out and it just worked out perfectly, and then they were able to hold us off at the end. I'm telling you, the best minds up there looking at all the possibilities and it both teams did something that they thought was best and it was darn near identical. It just wasn't much different."
WERE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT YOUR ENGINE AT ALL AND WHAT DID YOU DO DURING THE RAIN DELAY?
"I went back to the motor home and had some popcorn and hung out with the family and that was pretty fun. I wasn't worried about the engines because I saw Doug's interview on TV. He said that the 6 was a different engine, so I'm sure they were trying some stuff and if there was a problem, Doug would have told us, ‘Hey, you've got to take it easy on the engine,' but we didn't have any trick engine stuff or anything that I was aware of—nobody told me anything about it, so I wasn't too worried."
TONY CAME FROM THE BACK TWICE. HOW MIND-BOGGLING IS THAT?
"They did a good job. I think that's why the fans saw such a good race is because this track allows you to do that. If you've got a fast car and you do your job and you drive hard, you can pass people here. The fans got to see that and that was just a good job. They did a really good job of recovering from that stuff."
YOU HAD A 4.9 AVERAGE IN THIS CHASE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT BECAUSE THAT WOULD HAVE WON EVERY OTHER CHASE?
"We performed very well. I feel like over the whole season we performed really well. I don't know if anyone scored more points in the whole season than we did, I'm not sure about that, but there's a lot of pride in that. We did that in 2008 and I think we did that now. We just performed the best we can. Every week we put out the best effort we can and we were one point shy. That's just the way it is."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS RACE?
"It's neat. It's neat to be a part of something like that. It's not neat to lose, but, like I said earlier, that's a position. I can't think of another thing I could go do that would capture my attention and my effort, my focus and all of that like this has, so it's neat to be a part of something like that. I think it's good to be a part of things like this and I think, in the end, it'll just make me a better race and a better person to deal with stuff like this. It's amazing."
HOW DO YOU THINK BOB WILL HANDLE THIS?
"I think Bob will handle it well. Bob is a very, very mentally tough person, very tough. He's hard on himself. He'll figure out things that he can do better, but that's one of the neat things about Bob, he just keeps his head down and works. I think this will be good. We'll come up with things we can do to be better, but, really, we rose our level of performance. We rose to the occasion, and I truly don't think we could have done much better in this Chase with, like I said, the circumstances we had and the way things went. I was very proud of every point we gathered through the whole thing."