NASCAR Media Conference
April 12, 2005
DAN PASSE: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. A couple of small notes this week as we head into Texas. This week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will take place on Friday, April 15th at 10 a.m. in the media center. The guests will be Texas natives Terry Labonte, Justin Labonte, and Bobby Labonte. Also, NEXTEL will be continuing the NEXTEL Nights program in Texas with the showing of the hit film "Friday Night Lights" on Friday at 8:30 p.m. behind the backstretch grandstands at the 'Lil Texas Motor Speedway. We'll be having a special guest introduction from the gentleman's life was taken and put into the movie.Today we're joined by Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Scotts Miracle-Gro Roush Racing Ford. Carl is currently in 11th place in the NEXTEL Cup points. As you all no doubt know, Carl swept both Busch and NEXTEL Cup Atlanta races three weeks ago, doing his backflips both times. With this NEXTEL Cup win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he'll be able to compete for the $1 million in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge event in May. Although Carl is making his debut in Texas in both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series competitions, this coming weekend, he has had success there in the Craftsman Truck Series with two top five and four top 10 finishes. To assist him in a bid for the win at this weekend's race, Carl will be driving car RK-270, the same car Edwards drove to his first NEXTEL Cup victory at Atlanta. Carl, you've had a tough couple of weeks at the short tracks. How do you feel now that competition is returning to some of the larger tracks like Texas?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, to be honest with you, I'm just excited to go anywhere after the last two weeks we've had. You know, our Office Depot car, we got off to a terrible start at Bristol. I spun out in qualifying, and it just went downhill from there. We were ready to go to Martinsville and give Scotts another really good run, and we didn't just have a good day. I really love short track racing, but I think it was just bad luck. We're pretty pumped about going to Texas. I love racing there. We feel like every race is an opportunity to show how good our team is, so we're ready to go.
DAN PASSE: We'll open it up to some questions from our callers.
Q. So early in your Cup career, and even in your Busch career, does a track like Texas, as opposed to the short tracks, does that play favorably in your hands as you try to learn the ropes of Cup and Busch?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I feel like as a driver, any time I have more space to work in, a bigger racetrack, everything's not so close, you have an opportunity, you know, to relax just a little bit more and kind of feel your way through a race. At places like Martinsville and Bristol, racing against the Cup Series guys is so tough, there's just no room for error. Our incident there on Sunday was just a series of small mistakes we made that led to having a terrible day. At a place like Texas, there's a little more cushion there. It's a little more forgiving.
Q. With so much success early, in some respects, the two short tracks, Bristol and Martinsville, a bit humbling?
CARL EDWARDS: Oh, yes, extremely humbling. But that's how racing is, and I don't think -- you know, we looked at it from a little bit different perspective after we got home. We said, hey, if we would have sat down at the beginning of the season and said six races in, we'd be 11th in Cup Series points, leading the Busch Series in points, and having a win in both series, that would have been perfect. We know how good our team is and I feel like the things that happened at Bristol, you know, were mostly my fault, and it was small mistakes that led to a terrible outcome. Martinsville was really just a fluke deal. You're going to have that kind of luck in racing.
Q. Do you feel like maybe the rest of the series has caught up at all to the supposed Hendrick-Roush domination?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I don't think there was any -- I think the term "domination," I think it was a little bit premature in the season. A lot of people were talking about that. I mean, we had some great runs, Hendrick had some great runs, but we are literally at the seventh race of the season coming up. That's just not enough races to get a full feel for how the season is going to do. I think that's what you saw at these short tracks. You see Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Childress and Gibbs, these guys, running great. That's because they're great teams. They just weren't having the great days we were the first few races. I think it will all even out. So in a way, yes, the other teams are starting to have the success, but I feel like as we run more races, it's a pretty level playing field.
Q. If you do have an edge, where do you think it would be?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, from my perspective, the edge that Roush Racing, if there is one, the edge that we have is just the way our teams work together, you know, without egos getting in the way. It's truly a team effort all the way up until the last 25 laps of the race. That's just an awesome feeling, to know that I can lean on my teammates for advice, for setups, for any type of help that we need. I think that's a big advantage.
Q. Curious what your take is on the Lucky Dog?
CARL EDWARDS: You know what, boy, the way our last two short track races have gone, I think it's a great rule. I mean, I guess -- Jeff Gordon, he got the Lucky Dog one time or two times on Sunday?
Q. I believe just once.
CARL EDWARDS: Okay. I think it's kind of a neat thing. It keeps a lot more cars in the hunt. If we good back to Bristol and have the same type of qualifying effort or bad luck in qualifying, it still allows you to go into the race and know that, hey, you know, it's okay. If we go down a lap early in the race, as long as we have a good car and we deserve to be up front, you can get back on the lead lap. In that respect I think it's a good thing. If you're a dominating car, it's a little bit frustrating to watch other guys get laps back. I think it adds something. I think it's kind of fun.
Q. The early success, is it more of a load off your mind or on your mind? You got that first win, but it's got to affect you mentally knowing you have the pressure to follow up with some more success. Which is it?
CARL EDWARDS: It's definitely a feeling of accomplishment. There's no more pressure. Anybody that knows me will tell you, man, I'm the hardest person in the world on myself. There can't be any more pressure on me. I don't really feel things from the outside as far as pressure is concerned. I have just this internal desire to win every time I go do anything. It wears me out sometimes. But I'll tell you what, having that win at Atlanta, I think it took a lot of pressure off because the big picture is we got a win for Scotts and for Ford and for the 99 team. That helps us to kind of, you know -- it helps us with marketing, helps us to secure partners for the next two or three years and allows us to build a team that can go out and win championships. That's the thing that I've been really deep down thinking about is, "Hey, we need some continuity. We need a good, solid team for the next few years to win these championships."
Q. Doing the double duty this year, how much has that helped you in the Cup races so far this year? Do you think you'd be having the same kind of success on Sunday if you were just doing Cup?
CARL EDWARDS: No. I'm really grateful to Jack Roush for giving me the opportunity. To drive the Charter car with Brad Parrott chew chiefing it is awesome. I've learned so much. I mean, Brad's experience level, he's probably as experienced as anyone in the NEXTEL Cup Series garage and I've got him as a Busch Series crew chief. It helps me with a bunch of things, you know, namely learning the tracks, learning to drive against the other drivers, and especially with the number of NEXTEL Cup Series drivers that come down and run in the Busch Series, that just helps me a lot to have extra laps against them. It also helps me to understand pit strategy, you know, the little things that can hurt you, like not pitting when you've got flat left side tires, grinding the sway bar through like we did at Martinsville. It helps me to learn all those things without having to learn them all in the NEXTEL Cup Series.
Q. You were supposed to be the heir apparent in the 6 car. Is your name in stone on the 99 car? What's going to happen when Mark leaves?
CARL EDWARDS: I'm the driver of the 99 car right now. That's what we're focusing on. I mean, I'm just as curious as the rest of you guys. I kind of want to know who is going to drive that 6 car. It's a big deal. I really don't know. I asked somebody the other day, "Hey, what's going on? Am I still going to drive this thing? What are we doing?" They said, "No, man, we've got partners that want to do this 99 deal. Got a great deal. We're just going to go along and we'll stick somebody else in it." So I don't know how it's going to work out.
Q. How much has your life changed since that first victory? Pretty much the same guy or is your life a little bit different?
CARL EDWARDS: Man, I feel exactly the same, to be honest with you. I still live in the same apartment. We got a two-bedroom apartment. My buddy lives with me. My motor coach driver sleeps on the couch. The only difference is I'm sitting here looking at my calendar right now, I'm talking with Sherry Herman, my PR person. We've been doing this all morning. We're just trying to fit everything into the calendar. That's been the biggest thing, is just things are piling up. I'm getting to do appearances and stuff for our sponsors that I probably wouldn't have gotten to do. So that's fun. But mostly just a little busier. But really, the other cool thing is it seems like a lot of people recognize me now. I mean, we went to a park the other day. I went mountain biking. I was taking a break. I walked town to the dock. This guy was fishing. I was just going to see if he was catching any fish. I thought this might be a good place to fish. He looked straight at me and goes, "Man, you look like Carl Edwards." I was like, "Whoa, man." I'm out here, just me and this dude on a dock. He knows who I am. I thought that was pretty crazy.
Q. You have Phoenix coming up in a couple weeks. That's one you don't have a lot of room to work around on.
CARL EDWARDS: Phoenix is that like. We got caught up in a deal last year at Phoenix where I was -- some cars stacked up in front of us. I knocked the radiator out of the car, a lot like we did at Bristol. That track can be like that. Then again, if you get a long green flag run, that's a really fun track because you can move around a lot on there. We actually went out there and tested and had a great test. I feel like that test is going to help us run better. I learned things I didn't realize I didn't know. I learned some different lines and stuff. I'm pretty pumped about Phoenix.
Q. A couple years ago when you were in the press box there at Daytona, Jack Roush actually said you're the heir apparent to Mark Martin. Did that ever change the way that you thought the team was perceiving you and change any way you went about business?
CARL EDWARDS: I think it might have changed the way some people looked at me, you know, within the company because then they kind of realized, "Okay, that's what we're gearing him up for." It was kind of neat for Jack to say that that early. I think it aligned people to help me out a little bit more with things I was having trouble with. For me personally, it made me -- it kind of set something out there. It set a goal out there, something to work specifically towards and give me a reason to go to all the Cup races, watch, pay attention and learn, just knowing that's what I was gearing up for. With no doubt, that was pretty awesome of him to say.
Q. Unless I'm having a memory lapse, nobody from Roush Racing tested at Texas Motor Speedway in the last month or so. Is there any reason why you guys didn't come here other than the fact you won at Atlanta?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I think Mark Martin went with the 9 Pennzoil Busch car to test there, so we're using those notes a little bit. But Texas is one of those places, Bob Osborne, my crew chief and I, looked at it and said, "Man, we feel pretty good on these mile-and-a-half racetracks. We feel like we've got a good car, a decent setup." And I've run Texas quite a bit in the trucks. We looked at that and said, "Man, I think that's one we can probably go without testing and have a better test at a place like Dover or Phoenix where we really struggled." I like Texas. I think we're going to be okay there without testing. But, heck, you never know.
Q. Maybe Mark did come here.
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, the Busch car is differently obviously. But Texas is pretty straightforward from a driving standpoint. Really we'd just be going there to work on the setup. We feel like we can pretty get that nailed pretty close in practice.
Q. You know what it's like to be raised by just having a mom at home. Can you talk about how instrumental it was, how she kept the family together, you and your brother, just instrumental in building your career?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn't have -- my parents were married.
Q. Didn't your parents separate at one point and your mother raised you and your brother?
CARL EDWARDS: Not really. My parents were married all the way up until I was 21 or 22. About three years ago they got divorced. I guess I could speak about how great my parents were. I mean, they really did help me a ton, but it was definitely in different ways. My father, I'm sure this is how it is for a lot of folks, my dad and I didn't necessarily always see eye to eye growing up, so I spent a lot of time with my mom. But my dad was really the one, when I started racing, I learned a lot about my father. I started to develop a relationship with dad that was awesome. So that was probably when I was about 15 or 16 years old, I really started to realize, "Hey, my dad is a great guy. He's a fun guy." I learned a lot from him about the nuts and bolts of racing. Then in our house, it seemed like that's the way it worked, dad could help me with the nuts and bolts of things, making decisions for the setups and things on the race car, but my mom was always the person who looked ahead, helped me with marketing stuff, with sponsorship, cooked me dinner at night when I was out there working on my race car, was always there to emotionally support me in this quest to be a NEXTEL Cup Series driver. You know, it seemed like we worked all the time at that. My mom was really a strong person and a huge influence in my life just trying to keep me focused and keep me working towards a goal. They were both instrumental, but it was definitely in different ways. I think without either of them, I definitely wouldn't be racing like I am today.
Q. It was a real family affair?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it was a family affair. My little brother, he just started racing. He ran his first race, really his first race, on Saturday night in Moberly, Missouri. Mark Martin loaned me his plane. We flew up to Moberly right after Happy Hour at Martinsville and went to the dirt race and watched my brother run. It was pretty cool. My dad was down there in the pits helping my brother. My mom was up in the grandstands with my stepdad watching. It was kind of cool to have everybody back at the dirt track together. It meant a lot to me.
Q. Thinking about what you just said, Mark Martin loaned you a plane to fly. Two years ago, would you ever think you would utter words like that?
CARL EDWARDS: No (laughter). My motor coach driver, I call him my motor coach driver, he's one of my best friend in the world, Tom Jockey, we got on Mark's plane and flew to Moberly, Missouri. We talked about that. I was literally borrowing cars from my friends to drive to school and work and stuff three years ago. It's unbelievable to be sitting there in Mark Martin's jet flying to a dirt track that just a few years ago I was driving a borrowed pickup truck to. That's pretty wild.
Q. In some respects you have to be sitting there saying, "Whoa, I hit the big time."
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it's definitely different. The thing that personally -- I'm really proud of the fact that my family and friends and everyone, we've all worked really hard to get to this point. I'm really trying to enjoy it. I mean, it's just a lot of fun. It really is neat to go back, especially to a racetrack where I used to race a lot, go back in really a different position and be able to sign autographs for people and have cars there and drive a race car for -- drive a nice car for somebody, they want me to drive it. I mean, it's just fun. I don't really know, it's an amazing feeling.
Q. Do you have any plans to go back to doing any open-wheel?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, we're going to run the USAC Silver Crown race at IRP. We're working on it right now. There's a little bit of a scheduling conflict. Ford Motor Company has Ford Fan Day the same day as the race. If I can get USAC and Ford and everyone to help me out a little bit, I plan on driving the RE Technologies car there at IRP on Thursday night I believe it is before the Indy races.
Q. Any thoughts of someday trying the Indy 500?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, that would be amazing. I'd have to do some serious testing in some open-wheel cars before I ever tried something like that. I mean, I love racing in any respect. I'd like to go do a lot of things. I'd still like to drive a midget at the Chili Bowl. That's one of my dreams. I'd like to run something at El Dora. And, yes, I'd definitely like to run IndyCars sometime. But, man, I'd want to really go wholeheartedly towards that. I couldn't just do that as a one-off race.
DAN PASSE: Thanks, Carl, for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time. Good luck in Texas.
CARL EDWARDS: Thank you, guys, very much. This was fun to do.
DAN PASSE: We'll see everybody next week on the teleconference. See you all this weekend in Texas.
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