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Q&A with Cup driver Carl Edwards

NASCAR
Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, is coming off his seventh win of the season in last weekend’s Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  As the series shifts to this Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Edwards spoke about his second-place position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup during a national teleconference Tuesday afternoon.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion – WHAT’S THE OUTLOOK GOING INTO TEXAS THIS WEEKEND?  “We hopefully have a really fast car at Texas.  We’ve had great race cars there in the past.  This spring was a great win for us and we just have to go there, like I’ve said the last couple of weeks, we have to go out and try to win all these races – which we do normally – but at this point it’s pretty much all or nothing.  We just go out to win and if we can catch Jimmie on a day where he has some trouble or something happens, we have to be there getting the most amount of points we can so that we can capitalize on that.  But I love Texas.  Someone said the last three years the person who has won Atlanta has gone on and won at Texas, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

YOU’RE SECOND IN NATIONWIDE POINTS AS WELL.  ARE YOU REALISTICALLY THINKING ABOUT WINNING BOTH TITLES?  “That’s the goal at the beginning of the season.  That’s the ultimate goal the last three or four years I’ve been running both series.  It would just be a huge, huge accomplishment.  Last week was a spectacular race for us.  Everything went our way at Memphis and the Nationwide Series.  That’s the first time in a long time we’ve picked up a bunch of points on Clint, so that was definitely a pleasant surprise.  We didn’t expect to go there and be able to close that many points on him, but I feel like if we do our jobs and we keep running like we’re running, then we’re putting ourselves in the best position to, like I say, capitalize if Clint or Jimmie has any trouble.”

IT’S HALLOWEEN THIS WEEKEND.  IF YOU’RE LEADING AT TEXAS WITH THREE LAPS TO GO, WHICH THREE OF FOUR DRIVERS IN YOUR REARVIEW MIRROR WOULD SCARE YOU THE MOST?  “At this point, Jimmie is the last guy I want to see in my mirror with a few laps to go, so that would be the number one scary guy.  It’s just the regular folks, the guys that we’re racing with in points – Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick – the guys that we’re racing against for these point positions.  At this point in the year, those are the scary guys you don’t want to see in your mirror because you know that every position you get on those guys is gonna be something good for New York at the end.”

IS THERE ANYBODY INTIMIDATING, LIKE EARNHARDT WAS, THAT YOU’D HATE TO SEE BACK THERE?  “Man, I don’t know.  It’s tough because I don’t think there’s one guy out there right now that you can say that about.  I think it changes week to week because this sport is so competitive.  I don’t know.  I’d have to stick with Jimmie.  He’s the guy and you watch how he ran that last run at the end of the race last week and I’m sure he’s just going for the win, so if I’m leading, he’s the one that I probably don’t want to see in my mirror – that’s for sure.”

ANY DRIVER SCARE YOU IN PARTICULAR TO BE AROUND ON THE TRACK?  “No, really nobody.  We’ve got a really good group of guys.  I haven’t been around somebody for a while that’s scared me.  We all make mistakes and we all do things that aren’t good.  Talladega was a good example.  Like I said, that was the place where I was worried about the idiots and I was one of them that day, so I definitely don’t have any room to say anything about somebody being scary.”

ANY THOUGHTS ON THE ATTENDANCE AT SOME OF THESE LAST FEW RACES?  HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT IT?  “I have.  I looked up there in Atlanta and one of the things I thought was really important at the end of the race was to thank the fans that came.  I don’t know the exact statistics on how far the average fan drives to go see a race, but I know that every fan that gets in their car and takes their family and their camper and spends their money and comes to the races, everyone of us as participants in this sport appreciate that.  You can’t get around the fact that right now it’s tough times and it just makes everybody more grateful for the fans that do decide to come and spend their entertainment dollars and their shrinking discretionary income on auto racing, so I think as long as we keep giving them the racing that we’ve been giving them, and keep doing all the things that we’re doing on the race track to make it exciting, we will have fans and hopefully we’ll get through this time and it won’t cost the sport anything that we can’t rebound from.”

HAS RUNNING THE FULL NATIONWIDE SERIES HELPED YOUR SPRINT CUP EFFORT THIS YEAR?  “Right off the bat when I first started running both of them in 2005, I was certain it helped me.  It was 100 percent beneficial for Sundays.  As I’ve gone along, it’s not been a benefit for the same reasons.  Now it’s different.  It was that I was getting experience racing on the race track, racing around these guys.  Now I feel like I have enough experience with that stuff that the benefit for me is just the competitive outlet on Saturday – getting the opportunity to go compete and have a good time with my guys on the Nationwide side.  We have a really great group and they’re a lot of fun and this weekend in particular, winning that race at Memphis, I believe it really put a spring in my step and made Sunday go better.  If you wake up Sunday morning with a smile from Saturday, it seems like your day can’t be worse because of that.  So I think it’s still a benefit, but now it’s just fun.”

IF YOU END UP SECOND IN BOTH SERIES WILL YOU FEEL MORE PRIDE OR FRUSTRATION?  “I’m not even gonna answer that because we’ve still got three races in each series.  I’ll let you know how I feel after it’s done.  If we win, we win and if we don’t, we don’t.  Right now, my focus is going out here and doing the best we can to win.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT COMPETING IN THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS?  HAVE YOU MET ANY OF THESE DRIVERS?  “It’s really gonna be fun.  The Race of Champions, the way I understand it, is one of the most fun events that a driver can do.  You get to go over to London and we’re gonna race at Wembley Stadium in Rally-type cars and, supposedly, they’re gonna try to set it up so that I can race against Michael Schumacher at least once, which will be fun.  That will be a blast.  I’m supposed to get in contact with Mark Webber here in the next day or two and he’s gonna give me some tips and talk to me about what to expect, but, for me, it’s an honor to go over there to represent the United States with Travis Pastrana, who has really done well over there.  Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, both of those guys have talked to me and told me how great their experiences were over there and how much fun they had, so I can’t wait.  I’ve never been to Europe, so I’ve got a whole group of people going and we’re gonna go over there and just have a good time.  I think it’s gonna be really fun.”

SO YOU’VE NEVER MET ANY OF THOSE GUYS?  “No, I haven’t.  I’m just real excited to see something new, a different culture and to see the history over there.  We’re gonna spend a couple extra days and go look around, but I’m pumped.  I’m going over there to race and, from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty tough and it’s really close competition.  They prepared the cars as close to one another as they can and I’ve seen a couple clips of the racing and it looks pretty neat.”

HAVE YOU SEEN F-1, LEMANS, STUFF LIKE THAT?  “I watch a little bit of F-1 stuff when it’s on in the motorhome or the hauler, but I’d say that my true respect for Formula One and that style of racing came with guys like Juan Montoya coming over and seeing how spectacular he was and is on road courses and how quickly he adapted to the stock cars.  I always wondered how good some of those guys were and now I know they’re spectacular.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m expecting to go over there and learn a lot from these guys and hopefully not embarrass myself or our country.  I hope we can do well.”

HAS RUNNING BOTH SERIES EVER TAKEN A TOLL ON YOU PHYSICALLY?  “That’s something I thought would be real tough at the beginning, but, in a way, this past weekend couldn’t have been simpler.  Going back and forth from Sonoma to Milwaukee you maybe miss just a little bit of sleep.  I have on that trip, but other than that, this weekend for example, Bobby East, he practiced and qualified the Citi Fusion over there in Memphis – the Nationwide car – and all I had to do was just show up and jump in and race, so that weekend was actually less grueling than going back and forth practicing all day Friday and the result was still good.  In a way, what I’m trying to say, is the tough parts are not really those split weekends, it’s mostly the weekends like here at Texas, where I’ll be going back and forth from garage to garage for six or eight hours on Friday.  Those are the ones that take a little bit out of you, but, really, the racing on Saturday it’s a short enough race and it’s fun enough, and you’ve got enough time to rest before Sunday, that it really doesn’t take much out of you for Sunday.”

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU FOLLOWED MISSOURI FOOTBALL THIS YEAR AND ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH COACH GARY PINKEL?  “Yeah, Gary Pinkel and I have become fairly close.  He’s got a pretty tough schedule and so do I, so we end up just texting each other back and forth all the time, but I’ve been following them.  He’s an inspiring guy.  He’s an amazing person and a really great competitor.  I’ve been watching him and I’m pretty excited about how last weekend went.  The Texas game was not that great, but I really think that they have an opportunity to really shine later here in the season and I hope that we get to go to a game or two.”

DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE A SEPARATE QUALIFYING SESSION FOR THE TOP-12?  “I don’t know what they could do to change qualifying around.  There’s a lot of things that local race tracks do to incentive qualifying.  I don’t know how you can really change it around for the weather.  The weather just has the ability to kind of mess things up altogether, but one thing I thought that would be neat is if you qualified for points and then inverted the field according to your qualifying speed, so that you still have a big incentive to qualify well, but you have to start the fastest guys in the back.  The only frustrating part about having qualifying rained out during the Chase is that all of the Chase guys get to start right up there in front.  Everybody gets a good pit stall selection and you don’t get the opportunity to get an advantage on someone, but that’s the rain.  I don’t know how you fix it for the rain, but there are a lot of things, I think, that could be done to make qualifying more interesting.”

ARE GUYS STILL FEELING THIS CAR OUT BECAUSE ACCIDENTS ARE DOWN SLIGHTLY.  “I don’t know.  I know the cars are tougher.  They can take a little more, if you hit the fence or you bump somebody, it seems like it doesn’t fold the fenders in on the tires as much and you end up having a little more room for error with the car.  I don’t think guys are necessarily being more cautious for any calculated reason.  I don’t know.  I don’t know if that’s just a chance statistical change or if there’s something actually different going on.  I do know that these cars, to me, it seems like they don’t have quite the downforce, so there’s a little more room for error maybe in the center of the corner.  You’re not pinned down to the race track, locked down so hard so that if the car does get a little sideways, you can correct it easier.  That’s what it seems like to me.  I think that’s a good thing, but I think it’s tough to point to one thing and say why there may be less accidents.”

DO YOU FEEL SAFER DRIVING AROUND THE ROOKIES THIS YEAR WITH THIS CAR?  “I really feel that on Sundays the guys that we race against, like we talked about earlier as far as if anyone scares me out there, there really isn’t anyone that’s scary.  Everybody does a really good job.  If you take Sam Hornish, for example, there’s a guy who comes into our series and he might be a rookie, but he’s definitely not a rookie race-car driver.  This guy has a huge amount of experience and success in other forms of motorsports, so I don’t know if it’s just by chance where we’re in a time right now in the sport where there’s not a bunch of new guys, wild-eyed maniacs out there running around like maybe I was in 2004 or 2005.  I think that everybody is doing a real good job.”

YOU STILL HAVE A SHOT AT THE TITLE BUT WITH JIMMIE’S LEAD THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT IF THE CHASE FORMAT SHOULD BE CHANGED.  ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH IT?  “First of all, I can’t set aside the fact that we can still win this championship.  That’s just a fact, but as a competitor I think in looking at the Chase it’s a really good question and I think a lot of people are asking it.  But I believe it’s just the way it’s going.  Jimmie has performed extremely well.  In the races that we haven’t broke something or wrecked, we’ve performed just as well.  If Talladega would have gone a little bit differently, or even if you don’t take Talladega out of it, let’s say at Lowe’s Motor Speedway our ignition boxes didn’t both fail, I felt like we had a race-winning car that night and then on the last lap of Atlanta if Denny would have just clipped Jimmie in the left rear, I think we’d be either tied or I’d have a slight lead on Jimmie with just those two chance things being out of it.  So I hope people aren’t jumping the gun with three races left.  That’s a whole lot of miles and literally Jimmie could still finish fifth in the championship and that’s a racing fact.  I guess me thinking out loud.  I don’t believe there needs to be anything changed.  I think it’s a pretty good format.  The only thing I’ve heard raised is Jack Roush talked a little bit about a mulligan maybe and that would maybe incentive a little bit more risk taking until you use that one up, but, really, we’ve gone from a whole season that determines the champion to 10 races that determines the champion.  If you keep witling it down, we might as well not talk about points until we go to Homestead and just call that the championship.”

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ENGAGEMENT TO KATE?  “She’s a wonderful, wonderful woman.  I can’t believe I’m getting married.  If you would have asked me four years ago if I’d be proposing to someone I would have said no way, but she just got me.  She’s awesome.  She couldn’t be any better.  I’m really excited about it, but it’s someone no one could have described to me and I’m really pumped about spending my life with her.”

HOW HARD IS IT TO FIND LASTING LOVE AS A NASCAR DRIVER?  “I don’t know.  I think with anything life is complex and it’s really special when you can find somebody that you really feel a bond with, that is a really good friend and partner that you care about.  I don’t know if it’s any harder in auto racing to find that person, but I can tell you with my schedule and all that, I didn’t plan on finding somebody as great as Kate.  For me, I was very fortunate.  I went to high school with her.  I know her family and it just all kind of fell into place, so I’m certain that we really care about each other for the right reasons, so I think that’s a gift and I feel lucky to have that.”

DOES YOUR LIFESTYLE MAKE IT MORE REALISTIC TO FIND SOMEONE YOU GREW UP WITH OR KNOW FROM YOUR HOMETOWN?  “I don’t know.  Jeff Gordon looks extremely happy, so I don’t know.  I think it’s up to each person and how it works out for them.  I know that for me this couldn’t be any better.”

HOW MUCH OF THE MENTAL SIDE OF THIS SPORT DO YOU ENJOY?  “Everybody talks about physical fitness in racing all the time, but truly the mental aspect of this sport is the big one – that’s what’s important. I think all of us learn fairly early in racing kind of how to deal with things in our heads competitively and how to stay focused and all those things, and it’s an extreme importance at this level, especially this late in the season, to be able to go out there and when the race is going on to race and get everything you can and not listen to a lot of the stuff that goes on in the periphery because the media and everyone who speculates always tries to find trends – like Jimmie’s lead right now is a great example.  He has this lead and there are only three races left and people are printing the t-shirts saying he’s gonna be the champion, but that is not how it goes.  Really, he has to go out there and do it every week and we have to go out and run better than him every week and you cannot let any of that creep in, so I think that’s one of the toughest parts.  But, working for Jack Roush with Bob Osborne and with the crew guys I’ve got, I know right now and until the last lap at Homestead is over, that those guys will be working as if we are the ones who are going to win this championship.  That’s really tough to do sometimes with so much coverage of the sport and so many people talking and speculating.  I think that’s one of the mental sides of it that we can benefit from is if we stay strong like that for these last three races.”

IS THAT WHERE SOME OF THE REWARDS COME FROM?  WE SAW YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU WERE ASKED HOW YOU FELT ABOUT JIMMIE FINISHING SECOND ON SUNDAY.  IS IT AS MUCH PHYSICAL AS IT IS MENTAL?  “There’s a couple of things going on there – there are two things.  There’s the race and then there’s the championship, so the race, if you win, you win – you’re the winner.  I got done with the race and I thought, ‘Man, this is great.  We won this race.’  That’s what we all go for is that feeling of the win.  And then rolling to Victory Lane, Chad Knaus and a couple of Jimmie’s crew guys and everybody, and even Rick Hendrick came by and shook my hand and said, ‘Good job.’  Rick said something and I couldn’t really hear what he said.  I went on and I thought that Jimmie had finished seventh or eighth, so I was thinking, ‘This is not just a win, but this is a great day,’ and when Dave Burns said, ‘What do you think about Jimmie finishing second?’  I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of a silly joke, Dave.  Why would you even say that?’  And then I looked up there at the scoreboard and I thought, ‘Man, how did he do that?’  So, yeah, it didn’t really take away from the day, but it’s like, ‘Alright, you have to win these races.’  It just kind of solidifies that and it almost, at that moment in my mind I thought, ‘Man, all I want to do right now is go to Texas, win that thing, and hope that he doesn’t finish second there.’  It’s like you just want to go on, race some more and try to get it done.  So it’s kind of a strange feeling, but I don’t really know how to explain it other than those guys are doing a good job and every time they run that well, even if we win and they run that well, it’s just a motivator to make you want to go home and work hard.”

HOW IS YOUR RECORD COMPANY GOING?  “It’s Back 40 Records.  We just updated the website recently at back40records.com and it’s pretty neat.  The artist that we’re finishing up an album with right now is Omega and he actually is in St. Louis today working on the final mixing of the music and we’re gonna do a digital release.  It will be available on iTunes and I’m not sure exactly what other outlets will have it, but it’s been really neat, it’s fun.  It’s something that the musicians and the artists and our attorney in New York, Mike McCoy, he’s helped me a ton and they run it, they do what they need to do to get it done, and the joy I get from it is every once in a while listening to the music or hearing it on the local radio or handing someone a CD and them telling me that they enjoy it, so it’s really pretty fun.”

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