|Carl Edwards will make his debut for Joe Gibbs Racing in a tire test today at Charlotte|
It may just be a tire test, but Carl Edwards sees it as a "huge" opportunity as he prepares to make his first appearance behind the wheel on behalf of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Edwards is one of four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers scheduled to take part in this week's Dec. 9-10 Goodyear tire test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, joining Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish Jr. and a Richard Childress Racing driver yet to be named.
"It's a new rules package, it's a new car (and) I'm trying a new seat. Everything's different. New crew chief," Edwards said last week while in Las Vegas for the season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony. "… It can't be more new. I've been sitting there thinking about how I'm going to buckle in and how I'm going to go out there and drive the car and I'm nervous about it. I truly am."
Edwards, 35, is moving from Roush Fenway Racing, where he won 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races between 2005-14, to JGR.
He won the Nationwide Series title in 2007 as well as 38 Nationwide Series races (now XFINITY) while at RFR, and six races in the Camping World Truck Series.
At JGR, he will drive the No. 19 Toyota and be paired with crew chief Darian Grubb.
The test at CMS will not only be about gathering information for Goodyear as it seeks to work through how NASCAR's 2015 rules package may impact tire wear on intermediate tracks, but also about getting seat and face time in his new surroundings.
"Honestly, I want to perform very well, and I don't want to miss anything," Edwards said. "I'm having to go over all my mental notes about the things I'm going to do. And that's fun for me. That's what I like so I'm real excited about the test."
Edwards is joining former RFR teammate Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch at JGR. Any one of the four could have participated in the test as the Toyota team representative. Because his team is new, Edwards was chosen to take part.
"To me the fact that I've got the opportunity to do this test is huge because I don't know if I could take another month or month and a half of waiting to do that," he said. "So everyone came together and made it possible for me to do this test. Everyone at Roush Fenway Racing was extremely helpful, all the teammates at JGR. Everyone wanted this test so it means a lot for them to let me do it."
All three auto manufacturers participating in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series — Toyota, Chevrolet and Ford — will have team representation at the test. Hornish (Richard Petty Motorsports) will be the Ford team on hand while the Chevrolet teams of Earnhardt (Hendrick Motorsports) and one of Richard Childress Racing's three Sprint Cup teams (not announced) will participate.
"I think they feel comfortable with what they've got," Earnhardt Jr. said of the tire test. "They want to try a couple of other things. I don't think we're in any kind of a hustle mode to try and improve on what we already have.
"Obviously there will be some new rules to work on, and we're going to have the '15 package and all that so it will give us an opportunity to tweak on that and learn what we can. But for the most part, we want to try to assist Goodyear in anything they want to do.
"I don't think there's any kind of unique or irregular shenanigans going on with what NASCAR has planned or Goodyear has planned. I think it's going to be pretty basic. I'm just looking forward to it hopefully being very basic and simplistic so me and Greg can just work together and try to build a good rapport to get going."
Earnhardt, 40, will work with crew chief Greg Ives, who moves over from the JR Motorsports championship winning Nationwide Series team to lead the No. 88 Sprint Cup effort.
Goodyear officials are expected to hold a tire test in January at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and could test at Atlanta Motor Speedway before the series travels there for next year's second race of the season.
According to CMS officials, the grandstands will not be open to fans during the test due to the track's Christmas lights display. However, fans are encouraged to watch testing from the fifth-floor clubhouse. Anyone interested should enter the second-floor ticket office and take the elevator to the fifth floor between 9 a.m.-5 p.m.