NASCAR Media Conference
July 18, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Welcome to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series teleconference. First our usual bit of housekeeping. This week's Nextel Wake-Up Call will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Pocono Raceway's infield media center, and the guest will be Greg Biffle. Today we are joining by Roush Racing his teammate, Carl Edwards, who won the June 2005 event in Pocono and coming off a runner-up finish in New Hampshire, and 13th in the standings, 146 points behind Biffle, who is 10th this week. Later we'll be joined by Kyle Petty.
Carl, you've got some momentum building, and with six races to work into the Top-10 and a possible spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, and you're returning to a track where you won. That's important this weekend, isn't it?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, this last week, that was one of the big questions marks for me and to run well and get some momentum heading into a place I love as much as Pocono; this is a good week.
Q. I guess the big question everybody is asking is will Bob Osbourne be back with you before the Chase starts?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a great question. We just got done with the meeting about five minutes ago, and I think that with a we're going to do is Bob's going to stay with Jamie and Wally is going to stay with me. And the thinking of that is that either guy would be great, but right now, change for either of us may set us back farther than any long-term benefits to the change.
Q. Talk a little about the success you've had at Pocono, and you've only been there three times. Last year you had a win and a Top-5 and this year you had the jack problem; how is it you've had success there so earlier career where some veterans talk about that's a place you need to get used to before you can run well at?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the biggest thing about Pocono for me is it's one of those tracks that showcases every part of your team, you know. I mean, even it's like the engines, the bodies, even the fuel mileage, pit stops, everything seems to be important at Pocono. And I feel like I'm part of one -- I feel like I'm part of the best team in auto racing with Roush Racing.
So the biggest benefit to me is the team I'm win just like Denny Hamlin, he went there and had great success not to take anything away from Denny's driving or whatever, but I think both of us have great teams.
Q. The six-week difference between the two races, how much does the track change from the June race to the July race? What are some of the differences in the track?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, last year, we ran really well the first race, and we didn't change much for the second race and seemed like we were not quite as fast. I don't know if it was the fact of the change or just that everyone kind of got, you know, a second crack at it.
So for me personally, I don't see the track changing as much as it seems like everyone gets their stuff tuned in better for that second race.
Q. Do you think that's a reason why only five guys have ever swept both races over the years at Pocono?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I'm not certain. That would make sense, you know, because you come back there -- let's say you have great success there. The races are close enough together that it's really easy just to put away your Pocono card and not think too much it; and the folks that don't run well there may change a lot of things. So, I don't know, that would be a complex thing to try to put your finger on, but that could be true.
Q. A lot of drivers say that Pocono isn't as much as a physically demanding track but it's a more mentally challenging track. Do you agree with that, and what are some of the ways that you kind of combat that mental fatigue without getting mentally drained over the course of the race and what do you feel after a race in Pocono?
CARL EDWARDS: I heard Jimmie Johnson say that a year or two ago and I think it's really true. It's one of those tracks that the speeds are so high and momentum is so important that, you know, you make one little slip in like the tunnel turns, you suffer that penalty, or coming off of turn two, you make one little slip, you suffer that penalty for a long period down that next straightaway. And really on a lap with you really only have three corners, if you mess up one of them, you've messed up a lot of the laps. So it does become kind of a repetitive, you know, perfectionist-type racetrack where everything has to just go really well to make a fast lap.
Q. And so it just drains on you mentally thinking about it over and over again?
CARL EDWARDS: Oh, yeah, it's -- yeah. I don't know. It's kind of one of those things where the tunnel turn, for example, you come off of turn one, and you sit there and you stair at the tunnel turn for, I don't know, ten or 11 seconds, and sometimes that's not a good thing for a race car driver.
I can only speak for myself but you sit there and look at that turn and it's like, wow, should I brake a little later or how deep can I go on this corner. It's easy to get sucked into making mistakes there just because it's like this period of calm punctuated by these really difficult corners.
Q. Talk about the crew chief situation once again. Did you want the switch, are you comfortable with Wally; how do you see it?
CARL EDWARDS: Honestly, I did not want to switch when we first did it just for the simple, you know, reasoning that, hey, we were running well and Bob and I had had great success together and I didn't want to change anything. And Jack Roush, you know, decided that he thought it would be a decent change to make and it could help Roush Racing as a whole.
So, you know, I agreed with it just like everybody else, and we've worked really hard and Wally has not made many -- Wally hasn't made any mistakes. He's done a great job and it just doesn't seem like changing back just to change back is the right thing to do right now, you know what I mean.
Q. Do you see the progress with you and Wally as much as you saw progress between you and Bob when you guys first started and coming up through the series?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, Bob and I were in kind of a unique position because both of us were fairly new. Now I feel like, you know, it wasn't as -- it seemed like a little bit more shallow learning curve with Wally just because he's been working with the team and Bob and I, we've been running pretty well.
So I guess what I'm saying is, you know, Wally came on to the scene and seemed to really, we didn't miss a beat, so it was surprising to me. I wasn't sure what would happen but definitely this is the best it could go, you know what I mean. This is better than I expected.
Q. Obviously you really want to get that first win, but I think Tom Jockey (ph) really wants to get that first win. How is he getting along and how long is the beard?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, the beard is getting long. Somebody told him it was looking shaggy and he said, man, it was looking shaggy three and a half months ago. You see a lot of people with beards, a lot of people wear beards real nicely. Eddie Gossage has a great beard, but those guys trim their beads, you know. Tom, he's not trimming it, so it's just getting bigger and bigger. It's kind of funny.
Q. Kind of like Grizzly Adams?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, we have a good time with it. We joke around a lot. I'm sure he'll be really pumped when he gets that first win.
Q. It's been such an up-and-down year for you guys. It looks like every time you get things figured out, you run into something else that sets you back. You raced real well last week. Do you think that you've got it going now?
CARL EDWARDS: I was talking to Wally about it this morning, and this year's been really interesting, because -- okay, from strictly, you know, from performance, our performance on the racetrack and the speed of our cars in practice and most of the races has been better than last season. Last year we struggled so much at certain racetracks, like the road course at Sears Point, Dover, Martinsville, Bristol, those were terrible. And now we've run better at all these places.
We just have those like just bad days where we wreck on pit road or something like that. So I don't know that I can control a lot of that. I know some of them are my fault, the Texas wreck and hitting the wall at Chicago were both my fault and those are things I could change. But this weekend is a first example of where if we can just make it to the end of the race and don't have anything unusual happen; and for that, yeah, I hope it's a sign that, yeah, things are going to be better.
Q. So the bad times have been more the result of not so much of bad equipment but just bad luck?
CARL EDWARDS: No, honestly, there have been no races other than -- we haven't run that well at Dover, but there weren't -- if you go through the list, it's like, I mean, the ones that really set us back in the points, there are not a lot of like 25th place finishes. There's 39th and 40th and 43rd and those, and then there's a bunch of Top-12 or so races and there's not a lot in between.
So there's not a lot of races where we ran poorly. We always seem to have some extraneous circumstances shuts down.
Q. So your confidence is high heading into the Chase?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, confidence is as high as it can be. My confidence is high that at every racetrack we can go we can have great race cars, and however the race turns out, that's just up to racing, know you know.
How's your BMW?
Q. Still running.
CARL EDWARDS: Cool.
Q. I wanted to ask you: What do you think it says about you and Kevin Harvick that you guys are doing what you're doing at both the Cup and the Busch Series? And with Kevin having, you know, almost a 300-point lead, I know you'd prefer that be switched around, but it says an awful lot about what you are doing to be successful both at the same tee time right now. Can you just talk about that?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think I can just comment for myself but I think the that the Busch Series is a blast. I mean, it's fun to do. I think that it let's me kind of keep focused on racing.
During the race weekend, I know last year a lot of times it was hard for me -- or not last year but the year before when I was running the truck and the Cup car, there was a lot of weekends where the Busch cars would be running and it's hard to watch them run and not be in that race. I know for me personally, it's really fun to go run those cars.
I don't know what it says about us as individuals or drivers, but I just love to race. And getting to race in the Busch Series and race for a championship, getting to run at all these fun tracks, and win races, if it weren't for the three wins in the Busch Series this year, I would not have won a race so far. So it helps me just on my confidence level and aside from all the on-track stuff.
Q. I guess, you know, too, a lot of people would argue it's hard enough to do well in either series, much less both. I mean, is it kind of like what you said in terms of the confidence level, does it make a difference to be doing well in both, one kind of feeding off the other?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I don't know that it's true that it's hard to do well in both. I feel like until it starts to encroach on your ability to go, like actual amount of time you have to prepare, that it only helps.
If I were, you know, getting into the Cup car on Sundays, I didn't feel good because of the Busch race or something, then that would make it more difficult. I haven't got to that yet. I feel good and I feel like it actually might make it simpler to run better in both series to run in both.
Q. You mentioned that you think it would be simpler to run in both these series, in the Busch and Nextel Cup. You're sitting 13th now in the points and there's still a chance that you'll make it into the Chase. Do you think you can get to a point in the season, though, where with so many races left that you may to have focus more on Nextel than Busch?
CARL EDWARDS: See, I don't know. I don't think that's -- I've had a lot of people ask that, but I don't feel that that's -- that's not the way I look at it at all. It's completely the opposite.
I don't have a problem switching my focus. I mean, I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't feel like running one series takes anything away. It's not like I sit around all week and wait to run the race on Sunday and the less I do during the week let's me focus more on racing. I mean, I think about racing all of the time and sometimes it's almost good for me to actually step away and do something different.
I feel like sometimes in a way the Busch Series has helped me in that respect because I can just focus on something else during my Saturday afternoon. And if I learn something for Sunday, that's great; and if I don't, still I didn't sit there and just dwell on something for Sunday. I don't know if that makes sense, but focus isn't a problem I guess is what I'm saying.
Q. And now Pocono, a demanding track, how important is this race to you, not just to get into the Chase, but even psychologically, mentally as you get to this stretch now?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I've been thinking about that a little bit and last week at New Hampshire. Yeah, I think that you've just got to do the best that you can and try not to let the Chase thing -- try not to let that affect my driving at all. I mean, all I can do is go do the best I can, and if at the end of the day I feel like I didn't make any mistakes, then it's a successful day for me.
So I don't know if the stress level is really going to go up or anything. You know, it is a little bit more exciting. There's more on the line, so I don't know if that will -- I'll try not to let that affect me, though.
Q. I guess the main thing I want to know, you talked about the stress level, does it affect you during the week when you're away from the racetrack, do you think about the Chase and getting in or maybe getting knocked out?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I think about it. I've done the mental exercises. I've thought about what it would be like both ways and I definitely like the making-the-Chase version better.
You know, personally, I've had very stressful times in my life and they were more around the time of when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life because racing wasn't seeming to work out. That was real stress for me.
Now, I look at this, what I'm doing now, is great competition and I feel like I'm able to focus on a much smaller, you know, I guess figuratively, it's like a narrower focus. All I have to do is do the best I can in one series of race cars, the Nextel Cup cars, to make it into the Chase. So relative to all of the stresses I've had, this is not a huge one, but it is kind of -- it does weigh on my mind. You know, I do think about it a lot.
Q. In other words, if I understand what you're saying is, this is nothing compared to the possibility that you may have ended up being a schoolteacher?
CARL EDWARDS: Absolutely; which being a schoolteacher wouldn't be the end of the world.
I mean, I really had this dream that this is what I wanted it do, and honestly what I'm doing now is I'm sitting here in my second year of Nextel Cup competition, second full year, and I'm trying to do the best I can to prepare myself for my career and to be the best driver I can be for a long time to come.
You know, if we have some bad luck this year, and I don't make the Chase, I guarantee it will even out. I am getting better. It's not like for me this is life-and-death. It is what it is. I'm going to do the best I can.
Q. Do you believe that Nascar champions have common traits and abilities, and if so, could you identify a few?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I don't know enough NASCAR champions personally honestly to say. I know that some of them are a lot different from one another, from the outside appears that way. I don't know about common traits.
Q. What traits do you believe that you have that helps you excel as a NASCAR driver?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I think one of the biggest things is that you have to be able to be extremely objective and realistic about, you know, what is making you perform well or not making you perform well. That's something my dad talked to me a lot about as a kid. He said whatever you can to make something you can do to be better or something you can do to change to make that car go faster, you just have to recognize what it is and do it.
I notice that a lot of the good race car drivers I know are able to do that. They can look inside themselves and say, look, make I'm doing something wrong here and fix it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you, Carl, for joining us today. We appreciate it. Good luck on Sunday.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks, sorry for doing this from a cell phone. I appreciate that being acceptable.
THE MODERATOR: That you for calling in. Kyle Petty should be joining us in just a few minutes.
Kyle, welcome to the call.
KYLE PETTY: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate you joining us. You have a little bit of news for us I think talking about your charity motorcycle ride this year. What's the itinerary?
KYLE PETTY: We're doing it a little bit different this year. Kind of like we did last year. We raced because of the way the schedule changes are, NASCAR Nextel Cup changed the schedule. We're in Pocono and then we have to leave Pocono as soon as the race is over and fly out.
This year we've been going coast-to-coast and this is the first year we're really not leaving -- we're leaving from Idaho. We're leaving from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. They are leaving Saturday while we're at Pocono and going to Glacier National Park on Sunday -- or Saturday night, excuse me. And Sunday they are in Butte, Montana. Them we pick up and head down to Sheridan, Wyoming; down to Boulder, Colorado; over to Salina, Kansas and we're doing some stuff there with one of my sponsors home delivery where they have their Red Barron Pizza Factory, so we are going there for pizza diner one night; and then to Springfield, Illinois and then to Cincinnati, Ohio and back to Asheville, North Carolina and back to the camp.
This will be I think the third year that we've kind of finished at the camp and we're pretty excited about it this year because the kids that are at camp that week are really, really excited about it, and they have got some special things planned for some of the riders. It will be a good week, it will be an off-week and hopefully the weather will cool down out there that week but hopefully it will be a good week.
THE MODERATOR: It has been hot in the Midwest. Hopefully that will work out for you. Anyone new and different joining you?
KYLE PETTY: This year everybody is pretty busy so we don't have a lot of celebrities going, Herschel Walker is going with us this year, Harry Gant, my father and the same old usual suspects. Bobby is going to meet up with us a little later, Labonte, and maybe Matt or Katie or some of them will. In the past Katy and Matt and Jeff Green and Tony and some of those guys rode with us last year. With the schedule the way it is now, it's tough for those guys to give their time like they used to. If they can come in and ride one day, that's what they are all going to try to do.
Now it will be just basically myself and David and Herschel and 170 or 180 other really, really good people that are just riding across. Going to a couple children's hospitals, I think we're going to one in Cincinnati and maybe one out in Colorado, and that's going to be our big deal this year to touch a couple of children's hospitals again and them come into camp.
THE MODERATOR: Any particular place you're going this year that you haven't been before that you're looking forward to?
KYLE PETTY: You know, I tell you, I was really looking forward to going to Coeur d'Alene Idaho and Glacier National Park because I have not been to either one of those, but I'm going to miss those to go to Pocono. For me, I guess Sheridan, Wyoming, going down -- we're going doing back down and do the northern edge of Yellowstone and I've not been able to do that. We've skirted the southern edge of Yellowstone Park a couple of times but not the northern edge. I'm excited about seeing that and going to Cincinnati. We've been through Illinois and Indiana and passing through Indianapolis, but we have been that route a couple of times. Cincinnati is probably the new spot for us this year.
THE MODERATOR: That sounds like a lot of fun. Let's take some questions for you.
Q. Kyle, we have talked over the past few years about the fact that you're doing everything you could do to get the team's struggles out of the way. As we look at this season, it looks like you guys are just getting closer and closer to the winner's circle. I'm wondering, what frustrates you the most, getting close and not getting in, or the battles that you've had over the last few years?
KYLE PETTY: I tell you what, I'm not frustrated at all about anything. The battles we've had over the last few years are part of the rebuilding and part of the growing process.
And it just like anything else. I tell people there's a lot of guys that can jump in race cars and run good times, but it get really, really fast, it takes a lot of work and a lot of patience and you've got to look after the small things. And I think that's a big deal for us right now. I was not frustrated, because if some of you go back and remember, I always said, hey, we might not be getting it done on the racetrack, but a lot of the stuff we're doing at the shop is right.
I think bring Robby Loomis and Todd Barret (ph) and Bob Andrews (ph) and Bobby Labonte, some of those things we're doing at the racetrack, it's like we still have to be focused. The things that were weak in that we could not really assess in past years because we were not running good enough, now that we're running a little bit better, we can assess those problems better. Even on bad weeks when you come away from New Hampshire like last week where both cars, we didn't run the way we wanted to; or you come away from Daytona and you run really well and you get in an accident, you can't look at them as bad weeks. You to look at them and say these are the positives, that's are the weak spots and let's look at the weak spots.
I don't think we're frustrated by any stretch of the imagination. We feel like we're showing a lot of improvement as a total team. Now we look at what we need to work more on and we need to work more on that.
Q. How important has it been to have Bobby Labonte in that other seat?
KYLE PETTY: It's huge, huge, huge. I don't think -- (line drop) -- I don't think I can put into words how important it's been. Not only Bobby, but like I said, Todd and Robby and Paul and the entire group that we have at the shop. But I think Bobby as a driver for him to come and get in the seat and to run this car -- in fact, I said, it's hard for us to really pinpoint what areas to work -- (line drop) -- and he's been a huge help, if there's an issue and you can address it.
Todd has been working with Robby and they have been doing some different directions on things that they do that have made us stronger. So I don't think us put into words to what Bobby has meant to the enterprise.
Q. I wanted your opinion on youth racing. I'm writing a story about kids driving half-skill Nextel Series cars that can go up to 80 miles per hour, what's your opinion about that?
KYLE PETTY: You know, there's always been a youth go-kart race and a lot of guys have come out of the karting -- out of the karting series. I think especially when you look at European racing, I think it's something that they have been doing for years.
Q. You don't think it's a safety concern?
KYLE PETTY: You know, that's probably an excellent question but I'm not a safety expert so you're asking the wrong person. You know what I mean. My comments on that are or my waylays or my concerns are probably not relevant because I'm not a safety expert and that's what I was getting ready to say.
If you look at statistics on kids that come out of the series and how things go in the series, you probably have to look at the European figures because I think it's a new phenomena to the United States where I think motorsports has gotten so popular in recent years with NASCAR and the popularity that we have with CART and IRL or whatever they call it, Championship Racing, whatever it is, the open-wheel series, motorsports is so popular in this country right now that kids are starting racing at a lot younger age than they ever have before.
So it's something new to us that I don't think we've really experienced on a mass scale more like a basketball or a baseball or a football. So I don't really know enough about it to really speak intelligently. Like I said, figuratively, to look at figures and stuff, you probably need to look to Europe.
Q. How old were you when you first started racing?
KYLE PETTY: I was 18, but that was a family rule. My father told me I couldn't get into race car until I was 18. But at the same time, I raced against guys and -- racing against guys today that started racing when we were 7 and 8 years old in quarter midgets and go-karts and came up through the late model series.
I think under the right sanctioning body, under the right controlled conditions, under the right safety issues whether it's helmets or uniforms and the things these kids wear now, I don't see an issue with starting children younger.
Q. Can you talk a little about going back to Pocono the second time this weekend. You've got only like six or seven weeks between the two races. Can you talk about some of the changes that take place to the track and everything between the second race and the first race?
KYLE PETTY: Everything changes. You know, the weather changes at Pocono hourly. So if that changes hourly, then the racetrack has got to change. I think that's the one thing that's pretty cool about coming to Pocono twice and coming so close together is it seems like it's two entirely different racetracks. The racetrack does one thing the first time and does something totally different the second time. And I think a lot of people use the second time like getting ready for Indy because it's so much like Indy, I think when you look at it as far as the straightaways and the corner. Some people go up there and even bring different cars. It's a totally different setup. You have to approach the racetrack different, and sometimes it can be slicker and sometimes it can have a lot more grip. Depends on the weather and what it's done in between.
A lot of people enjoy the challenge of coming in there. And anyone can that can back-to-back Pocono, win the first race and second race, they have a great program to do that, two entirely different races.
Q. Do you think that's why only five guys have swept the two races over the years?
KYLE PETTY: Yeah, I do, that's why there's only been like you say five guys that have been able to repeat and swept both races because they are two totally different racetracks. It's not like going to Daytona in February and going back in July where you go with basically the same car and stuff, or Talladega, it's not a place like that. It's incredibly difficult to repeat at Pocono.
Q. How about as far as from a mental standpoint, a lot of the drivers say it's more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Do you agree with that, and how do you stay mentally sharp over the course of a race at Pocono, 200 laps?
KYLE PETTY: You get that long straightaway, you can sleep from turn three down to turn one because it's so long, man, it's just so long.
But I think the thing is, it is a mental racetrack because the three corners are different. It's like a road course; once you get through one corner you have to change your focus to get ready for the tunnel turn one, and then you see turn two which is a different type of corner, this is a flat, half-sweeping corner, and as soon as you come out of turn three you're set up to drive down that long section and slam on the brakes to get into turn one.
So I think really you've got to stay on top of what your car is doing because it's not going to be perfect in any corner. Pocono is definitely a racetrack of compromises and to get through it, you've got to be mentally on top of it.
Q. Do you believe NASCAR drivers ever stop learning; in other words, is there always a newer learning curve somewhere?
KYLE PETTY: Oh, yeah. You never stop. I think when you stop, then you need to quit and go somewhere else. I think so many things change.
When you look at our sport from you know changing score heights from one year to the next, changing tire design, Goodyear coming with new tire construction and compounds this year, you're constantly relearning the tires, and I think that's what you're seeing with some of these teams that are struggling this year. You have to relearn the tires and stuff.
Next thing you know, they go in and they pave a track and that totally changes the racetrack. You hear us talk about bump stops. Many years ago we talked about bump stops when they outlawed those and not everybody was on coil and springs. So you have to continue to adjust to the aero package that you have, that the manufacturers like Dodge, Chevy and Ford and those guys throw at you and now Toyota coming in. Now we're having to learn the Car of Tomorrow. That's going to be something totally different. I think you learn a lot.
Some of the learning process is very subtle. It's just subtle changes or a subtle feel or something different and some of it's drastic. You know it's pretty interesting to be 46 years old sometimes and show up at a racetrack and say, my God -- (line drop) -- like I say, then it's time to let somebody else do it.
Q. I spoke to you a little bit about this last year but just wondering if you could comment again on Tony Stewart's generosity and things that he's done, did you know ahead of time that he was going to make such a large donation again?
KYLE PETTY: I knew he was going to make a donation. I'll be honest and say I did not know it was that large.
You know, I think Tony has been extremely special to our family, and I'll say that, in a lot of ways, in a lot more ways than you guys will ever know and that I will ever tell and probably that Tony will ever tell because he's not that kind of guy. But through Adam's accident and through some of the things that happened, I think Tony believed in what we were trying to do at camp.
I think I think Tony has always had that caring, giving spirits and it's like I tell people all the time, what race car drivers do on the racetrack is what they do, but that's not necessarily who they are. I think sometimes the general public perceives us to be who they are on the racetrack and that's not who we are. That's not who Tony is and that's not how Kurt Busch is or Kevin Harvick is or anybody else. It's just what we do.
I think the big thing for Tony was Tony wanted to do something for our family and the thing I wanted to do was try to help -- get past some of the -- (line drop) -- that he could help her through the healing process and, I can't tell you how much that meant to us and the family -- (line drop) -- I don't think that would have happened without Tony Stewart.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kyle, for making the time to join us today. We appreciate it. Good luck on Sunday and on your ride next week.
KYLE PETTY: Thank you very much. God bless you guys. See you later.
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