NASCAR Media Conference
August 29, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's two‑part NASCAR teleconference. We are going to open with Kyle Larson, followed by Carl Edwards.
Kyle Larson is currently enrolled in the Drive For Diversity program and was selected to be part of the NASCAR Next 9 initiative, which showcases nine drivers under 21 years of age that are positioned to become future stars of our sport.
Larson, a developmental driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will pilot the No.4 truck for Turner Motorsports in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kyle, this is your first year racing in NASCAR. How has the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program helped you in your success?
KYLE LARSON: I think it helped a lot. I had no stockcar experience till this year. I think it's helped with me being able to go run and the truck and ARCA race at Michigan just 'cause without getting stockcar experience before that, I wouldn't know what to expect going into it. So I think it's helped out quite a bit.
THE MODERATOR: Tony Stewart mentioned you in an interview that you are the best up‑and‑coming driver in the ranks. What does that mean to you?
KYLE LARSON: That means a lot. I've looked up to Tony growing up. Kind of tried to base my career off of his, going through USAC ranks, now up into stock cars. Seems like now me and Tony have about the same kind of schedule, just racing everything whenever we can.
I've had a lot of fun doing it. It's been really cool to be able to race with him some this year.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions.
Q. Kyle, you've come so far so fast. Like you said, you drive all sorts of different vehicles. What is it like driving the truck compared to other vehicles?
KYLE LARSON: It's a lot different from most of the things I race. But if I had to compare it to one, I think it's similar to a winged Sprint car. With the big wing on top you have, it kind of disrupts the air, makes them harder to drive. You got to find clean air a lot. I think that's what makes it difficult.
Other than that, they're totally different I think just 'cause they have radial tires, which is not what I'm used to. It makes them handle different. I still haven't gotten the complete feeling on how to drive it with the radials. But I'm getting the hang of it. Hopefully will get more laps in Atlanta this weekend.
Q. Because a truck is so much higher, does it give you a different vantage point on the track?
KYLE LARSON: No, I didn't really notice anything like that. They got me sitting pretty low in the truck. I haven't been able to tell much of a difference.
Q. What has this year been like for you?
KYLE LARSON: It's been crazy. Lots of traveling and lots of racing. I ran 92 races this year already. It's been quite a trip. I think I'll have about 20 to 30 more races, too. Been really busy, but a lot of fun.
Q. You mentioned looking up to Tony Stewart. Do all kinds of champions in general tend to have common traits and accidents? If so, could you identify a few?
KYLE LARSON: To me, same traits at me?
Q. Whatever traits or abilities that champions have, do you think you've been able to pick them out? Do you think that exists?
KYLE LARSON: I mean, they're all driven to win, that's for sure. Yeah, I think Jimmie Johnson, he's a really good points racer. He stays consistent all the time. Consistency I think wins championships more so than winning lots of races.
I think most champions have that consistency factor. That's kind of what I've tried to do this year in my stockcar, is be consistent. I think that's why we're second in points in the K& N series.
Q. All those races, is there a certain trait you have that sets you apart from somebody who is not quite at your level yet?
KYLE LARSON: Well, I think with all the different types of racecars I run, it makes me pretty versatile and I can adapt quickly to different situations and different cars. I think that's why when I went into Kentucky in the truck, I didn't get a whole lot of practice because I blew up the motor shifting, I think throughout the race with the experience I have in all the different types of racecars, it helped me adapt lap by lap and get quicker every lap.
Q. What have you learned the most? What stands out as something that you learned that you really didn't expect in racing?
KYLE LARSON: I'm not sure. This year I tried to focus on a lot 'cause stock cars, especially the K& N series, you don't have pit stops, so you have to save your tires a lot. The stuff I grew up racing is only 20 to 30 laps. You don't really try to save your tires as much as you would in a stockcar. That's been one of my biggest learning curves jumping from the Sprint car races to the long stockcar races, is just saving your tires at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Kyle, you mentioned Tony Stewart earlier, how you kind of looked up to him, had similar careers. Have you reached out to him for any advice? Are there any other drivers you've gone to and have provided any kind of career advice as you are up‑and‑coming through the sport?
KYLE LARSON: Oh, yeah, definitely Tony and Kasey Kahne, they helped me out during the off‑season about decisions of what I wanted to do. Quite a bit of help with that.
Earlier this year, me and Tony were racing at Fremont, Ohio, before the truck race at Kentucky. I talked to him about how the trucks handled. He hadn't been in a truck in over 10 years, so he said he wouldn't be much help.
But as far as driving the trucks and stuff, Shane has been a little bit of help. He's called me a few times to talk about Kentucky really, how that track was, how the trucks handle with the aerodynamics.
As far as driving, Shane has probably been the biggest help to me so far.
THE MODERATOR: How does it feel to be considered as one of the future stars of the sport and considered in this Next 9 program? Do you and the other guys involved, do you talk, compare stories, touch base, becoming friends? How does that whole process work?
KYLE LARSON: Yeah, it's really cool being part of the Next 9. I had no idea what it was before this year. At Iowa I found out I was part of it. I think it's really cool to be recognized as one of the next up‑and‑coming young drivers.
We're all pretty close. We've been to Victory Lane in karting and had some fun. At the track we're all competitive, but we still talk during intermissions between practices and stuff. So it's pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for taking the time in joining us today, Kyle. We wish you all the best this Friday in Atlanta and for the remaining races you have this season.
KYLE LARSON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Carl Edwards. Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway becomes territory for 12th place Edwards, currently seventh in the wild card standings. A win would catapult him to at least second if the top 10 remains unchanged at Atlanta.
Carl, knowing your team needs to win to secure a spot in the Chase, how is your team approaching the next two races in Atlanta and Richmond?
CARL EDWARDS: We're going to approach them like we approached the last couple races, and that's just to go out and try to win the race, do whatever it takes to put ourselves in a position to win.
I don't think there could be two better tracks coming up. Atlanta, it's one of my personal favorite tracks to drive on. I don't think there's a more fun track on the circuit to race on. Chad and all the guys, we spoke a lot about our strategy for the race. We feel like we have a car sitting there in the hauler that can go win that race.
So really excited about it. I hope that it goes the way we want it to.
Richmond, you know, it's been kind of a hot‑and‑cold racetrack for us. This spring we figured some things out. I think we've got as good a shot at winning at Richmond as we do at any other tracks on the schedule.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for Carl Edwards.
Q. Carl, all these weeks, seems like week after week after week after races you've had to say, We got to get going right now, we're out of time. Yet it's over and over and over. Is that something that you just deal with? It is what it is? Does that get harder for you as these weeks have gone on? Also, is it possible the way the team has struggled at times this year to all of a sudden hit on an Atlanta setup, Here I am, this is the Carl Edwards of old at Atlanta?
CARL EDWARDS: Two things. Number one, I've never said we're out of time. I've never said that. What I've said is we've got to go out here, let it hang out, take the chances that you always want to take. But you're worried about the points outcome.
If I've given the wrong message, that's my fault. I've been trying to express to you guys our feeling, which is we recognize the position we're in. We don't like it. The only thing we can do is go out and race like we've got nothing to lose because in a way we don't.
We need to win. That's why you saw me stay out at Bristol and hang on to old tires, a low tank of fuel and try to hold the guys off, stay out front. Those are the kind of things we need to do if we don't have a dominant car.
The second part of your question, you're exactly right. Part of competition, the bigger part of competition in my mind, is dealing with circumstances that don't go the way you want them to. That's the tough thing to do. You've got to do that more than deal with winning.
I've learned over the years for me to be successful, for our team to be successful, you can't let what happened last week, last year, last month affect you right now, whether it's good or bad.
You can have a bunch of success, and that can affect you negatively because you feel like somehow you deserve continued success, which isn't true. You can let frustration and worry bother you over what's happened in the past, and that doesn't really do anything.
Every time you show up at the racetrack, this weekend is a good example, you show up at the racetrack, you have the same chance to win. You can hit the setup perfectly. You can make good decisions. Racing can go your way. All of a sudden you can get that victory that you need.
I think the perfect example of that this season was Jeff Gordon at the Pocono race a few weeks ago. Everybody wrecked, he came out first, it rained, he won the race. If you asked him before the restart, they probably weren't considered a favorite to win that race right then, but they didn't start believing in their ability, the circumstances arose, and they did it.
Long‑winded answer. But we feel like we have the time and the team. We need things to fall our way and we need to capitalize on them.
Q. I should have said that you felt a sense of urgency.
CARL EDWARDS: That's exactly correct. There is a real sense of urgency.
I'll say this. One thing about last season, 2008 was a good example, and last season, two different ways to approach a championship run. In 2008 I made some mistakes, our team didn't perform as well as we should have in the Chase. Then last season when all the pressure was on, it felt like the weight of the world focused on us, all of this pressure, we performed nearly perfectly. We didn't slip up. We took what was given to us. We didn't lose our cool. I think that was a good exercise to go through.
I have a lot of faith in myself and my team, and Chad, as little as I know about him, he's a top guy. If we can do it, we'll do it. That's all you can do.
I want to say one other thing. To clear the air, I guess no one has asked me specifically about it, but there's a lot of talk about me driving the 22 car next year. I just want everybody on the call in the media to know that's impossible.
First of all I haven't discussed that ever with anyone at Penske. Two, I'm contracted to drive the 99 car. I'm very excited about next season. That's what's happening in case anybody wants to know. I wouldn't mention it except that it's gotten bad enough that sponsors and folks are asking me about it. I guess I have to try to address that now and make sure you know I'll be driving the 99 car next year for sure.
Q. You mentioned Bristol, what happened at the end. I didn't see the end of the race. You said you stayed out on old tires, low on fuel. Can you describe what happened late in that race. Also, does leading those laps late at Bristol, what does that do for your confidence going into Atlanta and Richmond?
CARL EDWARDS: What happened at Bristol is what happens at a lot of these races. We realized we did not have the race‑winning car. We didn't have the fastest car. So we used a pretty optimistic strategy to put ourselves up front and then not pit while the guys pitted for fuel and tires. The idea was to stay up front, try to hold those guys off.
I pretty much made the call. It turned out to be the wrong call because we ran out of fuel. I stayed out hoping for more cautions. Those are the types of things that when you have to win, those are the types of things, decisions, that you have to make to put yourself into those spots and risk things like that.
As it turned out, it definitely would have been better to just come for fuel and I think we'd be closer to the 10th place in points. But I believe what you said is true, as well. I think there's a huge amount of confidence. I had fun. At the end of the funny had fun leading those laps. I had fun holding off Brian Vickers, Denny Hamlin, all those guys while I could.
It was nice to lead a couple of those restarts, to be really in the race there to win the race, even though it was fleeting, it went away. I think that was really good. I had a lot of people comment on how much fun it was for them to watch, even if it was just for a minute that we had a shot at it. I think there was some value to do it even if it cost us some in the points.
Q. This is the 20th anniversary of the '92 Hooter's 500. Do you recall watching that yourself? What in your mind does that mean in the overall context of NASCAR history? So many conflicting story lines going on that afternoon.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm not familiar. I did watch that race. Tell me about all the story lines that went on that day.
Q. It was Richard Petty's last race, Jeff Gordon's first one. Bill Elliott was the points leader going on, he lost even though he won the race to Kulwicki.
CARL EDWARDS: That would probably be the most story lines ever in a race. I can't imagine how much excitement that must have been as a fan or competitor to be involved in something like that.
I can only relate to it through a couple of my races that have been really neat that way. The one that stands out would be Homestead last year where you go in, it's a virtual tie. It's a winner‑take‑all situation. There's a lot of excitement everywhere. Those types of moments that happen in a sport, I think they're really valuable. I think this sport a way at the local level, I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a local dirt track with my dad, it comes down to one race, one lap, one restart, and there's so many different things happening. I think the sport somehow lends itself to creating those moments. They're really special.
I know for me, growing up as a fan, I didn't ever go to a NASCAR race, but I watched them on TV. I'll never forget my father and all these guys sitting around watching these races on Sunday how much respect guys had for Alan Kulwicki, being an engineer that ran everything, drove the racecar, made the decisions, paid the bills. The success he had, I can't speak for everyone, but everyone that I was around respected his achievements and accomplishments as much as anyone I've ever seen. I always thought, even as a young kid watching those races, that he was really special.
Q. At the end of last year you seemed very at peace with the way the season ended. You said you were prepared in case that happened. Do you have that same type of feeling if you don't make the Chase?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I mean, you can drive yourself crazy wanting the whole world to be perfect, wanting everything to go your way. What I've realized for me personally, I don't know if this works for everybody, but the only way to come away from competition or a race or a season and feel content with it is to just lay everything you have on the table, do your very best, then don't look back. If you win, you win. If you don't, you don't. You can't change the outcome; you can only change the way you compete.
I've grown a lot over the years and been able to deal with success and failure a lot better on the racetrack. I think that's one of the neatest things, most valuable things that racing has taught me, is just to do your best. Winning is a helluva lot more fun than not winning, I can tell you that. But if you dwell on things and beat yourself up too much, you hurt your chances of winning more in the future. That took me a long time to learn.
Q. Do you feel like you've done your best this year?
CARL EDWARDS: I feel like I've done my best. I've made a couple of mistakes. I try to look at every race, when it's over, whether I've won or lost. There's races I won that I really screwed some things up in, I got away with it. I try to be honest with myself, I messed up here, did well here. There's been a few instances this year that I've made mistakes that I would like to have back. But overall I feel that I've done the best job that I can do, and I think my crew and Bob and Chad and Jack and everyone feels like they've done the best they can do.
Right now I can look back over the season, I can look at 90 or 100 points that luck just took from us. That's racing. If we were a little faster, we'd be in the Chase without needing that luck. As things are right now we need things to go a different way to be in a better spot right now, but there's nothing you can do about it.
This is what I told my guys the other day at Indy. We had trouble at Indy with a fast racecar. I said, Guys, I am here to win Cup championships. If we win it this year, awesome. If we win it next year, great. If we win it 10 years from now, that's fine. We are going to win these championships. It's going to happen. The only way we're not going to succeed is if we give up. As long as we never give up, we're going to get what we want.
That's the way I feel about racing. I think that's going to get me and the team to the championship table. I think that's how we're going to do it.
Q. Carl, the question is about kind of wrapping this together in one, you said, it's true, you learn more about losing and winning, because you can't ever accept losing, but you can go crazy with it. The other thing is, it would be very easy for this to just get so old to be asked that that would affect things too because week after week you get asked about it.
CARL EDWARDS: That's fine. I respect that you deliver this sport, our personalities and action on the racetrack to the fans. You can ask me whatever you want anytime. I just try to explain to you guys where I'm coming from.
Basically I've been in that racecar, I put on the helmet, I treat that race like it's the most important race in the world. I do my best. When it's over, it's over. I think that that way of racing, what I've shown myself, watching other people that are successful, that seems to be the only way to do it. I don't know any other way.
I mean, you know, doesn't seem like hoping, dwelling, wishing or wanting really does much for you. You just really got to go out and do the job. That's what I've been trying to do. And, man, I don't know if I'm explaining that to you guys well enough.
I'm telling you, if we make the Chase, if we are in it, we are going to be a force in that Chase. I truly believe that. If we don't make it, we're going to win every race we can and gear up to come out at Daytona with guns blazing to win a championship next year. That's how we're going to do it all the time.
Q. When you think about Tony Stewart's helmet toss, your thoughts?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think throwing the helmet is reasonable if you're mad. I'll tell you one thing I learned watching the video, I will not be throwing helmets when the car is that close to me. If that helmet had glanced back and hit him, that would have been bad. I learned my lesson from watching that. Stand a little farther away when you throw the helmet so if it bounces straight back at you, you have a little time. That would have been just been real bad if it bounced back and hit him in the face.
Q. Looking on the positive side, you maintained a position to get into the Chase. I'll compare you to another champion, Jeff Gordon, who started out with a very dismal spot. He's moved up race after race to put himself in a position. Do you ever look at each other and say there's something special there that you're able to do that? I asked Jeff Gordon a question, Do you take one race at a time? Take one race at a time, never look forward.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm sorry, exactly what is the question?
Q. As far as struggling throughout the season, identifying with Jeff Gordon, a lot of teams would like to be in your position. There's a positive aspect to it also.
CARL EDWARDS: Someone told me that the other day. I was sitting there. I don't know. I think it was Pocono. We qualified second. We had a fast racecar. Thought this is the race, going to go out here, do great. Drove down the first corner and Denny Hamlin, his car slid up the racetrack, and he nailed me in the left rear quarter panel. I thought, this is perfect.
I was talking to someone about that. They said, Dude, you're 12th in points. Everybody expects you to be better, even yourself, your team. You're in a great position. You're having a little bit of bad luck. You know, it looks like Jeff Gordon, the 24 team, are having the same kind of trouble. Kyle, the 18 guys, they've struggled in the points as well.
I think it's a good reminder. It's a good little kick in the rear, you got to be perfect all the time so you can absorb this kind of bad luck.
Two, it also exemplifies the competition level in the sport right now. It is off the charts. It's hard to explain without going and setting people in the racecar with you to see how hard you're driving, the margins between the cars. It's almost hard to put into words how close the competition is.
Any loss you have, there are going to be a ton of people that capitalize on it. Any gain you have, it's really hard to have a real positive gain over the field technically or competitive‑wise, points‑wise. I don't think that it could be any more competitive.
Misery likes company. We got a little bit of company. I don't know if it makes me feel any better, but it's good to see it can happen to anybody.
Q. Like Jeff, it's one race at a time for you?
CARL EDWARDS: Absolutely. It's even more than that. It's one lap at a time, one pit stop at a time. Right now we have to be perfect and we have to really look at the big picture very often, reevaluate our goals.
If we get in the race this weekend, halfway through the race somebody has trouble, if there's an opportunity to gain track position or to put somebody a lap down that we're battling points, we have to take advantage of all of those things.
Q. You brought up the 22. One of the parts of that rumor was that you had an out in your contract if you didn't make the Chase. I didn't know whether you wanted to address part of that rumor as well.
CARL EDWARDS: I appreciate you asking. But I don't ever talk about specifics of my contract with the media. I think those are private contracts. I think there's even a line in there that says I can't talk about specifics of my contract and neither can other folks.
No, I don't want to talk about any of those specifics. But truly, I can tell you this, I will be driving the 99 Fastenal Ford next year. I've never explored the option of driving the 22 car. That's why it took me so long to mention to you guys, I thought that was so silly that it had traction, but I guess it had.
Does that satisfy you guys? Is there any other part of it that I have not addressed?
Q. I guess the only other part would be if Shell could come over to you.
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I don't know. I don't think so. I've never spoken with anyone at Shell. No one has brought that up. So that would be a good question for Steve.
But right now the way I understand it, full disclosure, I know nothing more than I am driving the Fastenal Ford Fusion for Jack Roush next year, the No.99. I'm excited about it. If there's any other things like that going on, I do not know about them, which is probably better.
Is there any other part?
Q. That's all I can think of, thanks.
CARL EDWARDS: Okay, all right. I appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, thank you for joining us today. We appreciate it. We wish you all the best this weekend in Atlanta and next weekend at Richmond.
CARL EDWARDS: Cool. Thanks for getting on. I appreciate you waiting on me to wrap up the other stuff. I hope I didn't mess up anybody's day there.
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