NASCAR Media Conference
August 24, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to NASCAR's teleconference in advance of NASCAR Sunday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal. It will be the NAPA Auto Parts 200 Presented by Dodge, which is the third and final road course on our schedule this year, and Sunday's race marks the fourth consecutive event for the series at the 14-turn, 2.71-mile road course.
We have a double coverage opportunity for you today starting with the defending race winner and our 2007 series champion, Carl Edwards, who drives the No. 60 Fastenal Ford. He will be followed by open-wheel icon Jacques Villeneuve, who will be racing on the track that bears his father's name.
Carl's win last year was another exciting and unpredictable race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, he caught and passed Marcos Ambrose, who had dominated that race on the last turn of the final lap to capture the win.
Carl, thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate it.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm glad to be on.
THE MODERATOR: We know you're outside a little bit and battling a little bit of the wind about you you're sounding pretty good.
You're batting .500 so far on road courses this year, winning at Road America and a couple weeks at Watkins Glen you struggled a little bit but you've picked up the pace in your last couple races at Montréal, finishing in sixth place, and of course winning last year; can you talk about that wild race last year, that final lap and then how you guys are approaching coming into Sunday's race this year?
CARL EDWARDS: I got off the phone with my crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, about an hour ago, and we discussed this race this weekend and the race going to be different this year, the weather looks like it's going to be very good, and so I believe it will be a different type of race than we have seen.
I think the fastest guys, guys like Jacques Villeneuve, Marcos Ambrose, I think they are going to be very, very tough this year, and you know, if we go back to last season, that race was so exciting for me and my team, I mean, I can't -- it gives me chills thinking about it. The last corner, the track was drying out and I was doing everything I could to get up to Marcos Ambrose and I just couldn't get to him. So I ducked out in the last corner and kind of made a last-ditch effort to rattle him a little bit, and he missed the entrance into the turn and I just couldn't believe we passed him.
That victory lap last season and the response I got from the crowd, that was one of the neatest wins I've ever had in my life. And Drew and I talked about how excited both of us are to go there. It's an amazing city, and it's a beautiful racetrack and like I said, the fans are just great.
So it's one that I've got on my calendar, it's one of my favorite places to go. I have some family coming with me, they are excited to see the city and I'm just really excited about the race.
THE MODERATOR: I think our great fans in Montréal are looking forward to having us back and we are all excited to go. Carl, thanks for that intro.
Q. Based on the success of the Montréal race these few years, the excitement you were talking about, the turnout, and the fact that Montréal might be right up there among the post anticipated Nationwide race of the year, do you think that Canada deserves or should have a Sprint Cup race? Do they deserve it and would it work?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. The question whether a racetrack deserves a Sprint Cup race, I always say yes. The fan presence is there. The racetrack and the city are just -- I mean, they are just fun to go to. I mean, it's a fun place to stay. It's a fun track to race on. The problem is the politics and the money and contracts and all those things.
But to me, the Canadian fans, it's like going to Kentucky or going to Iowa. These places, they love the stock car racing and they want to see these races and it's a change of pace for them. They are just amped up. There's just so much energy there.
Have you been to that race?
Q. I have not been to that race. I used to go to the old Canadian Grand Prix there. Knowing the Canadian fans, and like you, I know the politics, the rules about some track owner has to request a race somewhere and the schedule cannot be expanded and everything, but I just felt for years, and I wanted to get your input on it, I felt for years if any location on the North American continent deserves a Sprint Cup race, it's got to be southern Canada.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that would be a lot of fun. I was standing in victory lane and we had just won the race last year and the crowd was singing in unison. They are singing songs and cheering. I had never seen anything like it.
So if you had guys up there, like Tony Stewart and you know, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and people like Richard Petty walking around, I can't imagine; the fans would be -- I assume the fans would be very excited about that and I don't think you can build enough seats. I would say that you're probably right, if we ever did have an international race date on the schedule, that track could do it.
Q. That chant at the end of the race would be a derivative of the European soccer chant that Montreal Canadiens fans have adopted for that team, it sort of goes "Ole! Ole! Ole!," so it's a great honor for you to have received that. Trust me, it's not used lightly. So that's what they were singing to you. When you first came up to Montréal, there was something in the old port, a Media Day and they gave you a Montréal Canadiens hockey sweater; where does something like that go? You must receive so much stuff when you travel around North America doing appearances and so on. Does it find its way to a closet or trophy case or wall someplace?
CARL EDWARDS: My mother and stepfather have turned the downstairs game room area of their house into a museum of sorts. It's got trophies and helmets and jerseys and pictures and you know, we get a lot of really amazing things. You know, Jim Kelly, the quarterback, gave me one of his jerseys framed; stuff like that, that I just never imagined I would be presented with, my mother takes care of all that stuff.
So we go down there and look around and I show people all those things. That jersey meant a lot to me, and that whole day, being there, I learned a lot about Montréal and it was an honor to be there.
I don't know how to explain it, but I felt from the first time I went there that it's just a cool place. And my brother is coming with me this year, him and his wife, they have never been out of the country together and so this is essentially their yearly vacation they are going to take. I told them, if I take you to one place, Montréal would be the place. I really like the place and it meant a lot to me for people to embrace me there.
Q. I know that you got by Marcos with his last turn bobble last year, Marcos has a bit of a history with Robby Gordon, obviously, from the 2007 race. Robby is coming back for the first time this year since then; does that just sort of add to the mix of what will be fun and what people might be looking for in Montréal this coming weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know be Robby was coming, so that's another guy we have got to beat. That could be good, if they could renew that rivalry that would be wonderful for me, because those two guys are going to be so fast. There's something that he can do with the brakes that I have not learned yet. They can brake about 50 feet deeper than I can, at every track we go to.
So I don't know, we'll see what happens. But Robby, he'll be going there for one thing and one thing only, and Marcos, too, so there's always a chance that they could have a really good race.
Q. Looking back from the driver's seat as a fellow competitor, could you put your perspective on what Kyle Busch was able to accomplish at Bristol last weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I'm sure that he knew what he potentially could do at the beginning of the Cup race on Saturday night. I know I didn't realize it, I don't know if a lot of people realized it or not. But I didn't put it together that he had won the truck race and the Nationwide race and that he had a fast car for the Cup race. I didn't even think it was possible. It wasn't one of the things I was thinking about before the race, and it wasn't until after the race that I was up in the ESPN broadcast booth and they were talking about it, and I realized how big of an accomplishment he had had there that weekend.
So to me as a driver, I think that would mean a lot to me to be able to do that. I think that -- I can't speak for Kyle, but I can say that he probably -- safe to say, he probably went home and felt really, really satisfied with his weekend.
I won the Nationwide and the Cup race on the same weekend once or twice, I think twice, and that felt really good. But that third race, how does that work with odds or whatever? Any time you add another -- there's a one in five chance of winning each race or whatever, so it becomes five times harder to do the third one. So it's pretty amazing.
Q. Looking ahead at this weekend, there's a chances this the best field ever for this race, Fellows, Villeneuve, Ambrose, just all of the guys that are here; but you are the defending champion of the race, and you beat most of those guys last year, so do you prefer to stay under the radar when people are looking at favorites and they are talking about this event, or are you thinking, hey, what about me?
CARL EDWARDS: I beat our team, we beat Villeneuve and Fellows at Road America and that did a lot for my confidence and I think for our team's. And then that race last year, I had spent a lot of time with Marcos Ambrose leading up to that race, he perfect pairing for the Daytona prototype race which I crashed us out of in a warmup which is probably my most embarrassing moment at a racetrack. And that was ugly.
But the point is I had learned a lot about how good Marcos is by testing with him. And he is a spectacular race car driver. I mean, not just good; he's possibly, possibly the best road racer in the world.
So to me, it was surprising that I was able to get him that last corner. I guarantee you, he will not make the same mistake again, so I might have to figure out some other way to beat him if I'm going to beat him this week. But I feel pretty good. I feel pretty confident at that racetrack.
It's fun to come back as a defending winner, because we have done it and I feel a little bit less pressure, and I'm prepared to have a little more fun with it I think.
Q. This is a little off that subject -- well, actually a lot. In the last couple of weeks we have heard a lot about the IndyCar drivers all getting together and finally coming up with a sort of driver organization, and I know that that comes up constantly, guys always get questions about it. Do you see that ever happening in NASCAR; it's in Formula I, NHRA, and even IndyCar has a formal thing in the last couple of weeks. Do you ever see that happening in NASCAR, and what are your thoughts on it?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I don't know the all the ins and outs of it. I personally have had a very good relationship with NASCAR. I mean, even considering how many times I've been reprimanded by them and argued with them, and butted heads with them, I've always had, or still, a really good relationship and I feel that -- I feel that for all of the frustration that we have with NASCAR, you know, at certain times; that in the end, they have done a good job through dictatorship of creating this sport that we have, and all of the success that we have. It's still by far the most successful sanctioning body on planet earth.
So I guess I'd have to -- I don't have a big enough complaint right now to say, hey, we have to form some sort of driver's union or something. I feel that I have enough of a voice right now, I guess. But I don't know a lot about it. I've only been doing this for six years at this level, and so, you know, I just have to talk to other drivers in other forms of motorsports. I'd have to find out what the benefits and disadvantages are to it, you know what I'm saying.
Q. Sure. And just as a if I can follow, why do you think it is, though, that NASCAR is the one that hasn't; that all of the other have? Is there something unique perhaps or is it like you said, it's the way it's been going all these years?
CARL EDWARDS: It's pretty simple. It's the destination of choice for almost every driver in the world. So if you don't like it, there's someone that will be right there on your heels ready to take your place, so maybe that's why they have been able to do their own thing for so long. And that's a double-edged sword. So because of their success, they can kind of run things the way they want, but if you want to enjoy that success, you've got to play by their rules.
I think that it's -- personally if I have an issue, I would go speak with Mike Helton or Brian France and they are pretty easy for me to speak with.
Q. You mentioned the fact that it would be pretty exciting to have the Tony Stewarts and the Kyle Busches and even Richard Petty in attendance to amp up the fans, and the Montréal race, after two years as a stand-alone on the schedule, is moving back next year to being paired, used to be with Pocono and now we will be with the Michigan race. How do you think that will impact the Cup regulars coming into the Montréal race? And as a quick add-on question, how do you feel about having -- because if you compare the field at Road America and Watkins Glen, they are very different, and some might argue it was much tougher at Watkins Glen than Road America. Which would you prefer, having an easier field and get the win, or get a win against the best, the cream of the crop?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I don't know how the schedule will impact. How many Cup regulars are coming to this race? It's myself, Brad Keselowski and who else?
Q. Paul Menard and a few others, but that's pretty much the core of it.
CARL EDWARDS: Right. I don't know that that would be any different if we were racing a Cup race this weekend. I think the same guys would still be there. So I guess Marcos Ambrose may or may not, and Robby Gordon.
I think it might be a different field next year, but being in Michigan, it's not that far. And you know, I would assume that that there would be a number of guys that would come. The issue that you have this weekend is that it's an off-weekend, so guys, they have the option of going racing in Montréal in the Nationwide Series or not racing at all, and for some guys -- what's that?
Q. Or testing, getting ready for the Chase.
CARL EDWARDS: Right. So yeah, in a way, maybe being a stand-alone event, it has its disadvantages, too, as far as being appealing to a Cup regular that might come. So it's kind of a hard formula to figure out, but I believe that even being paired with Michigan, next year, I mean, I'll be there. I believe Brad Keselowski, I'm not certain, but I think he's planning on running the full season and I'm sure if there are some road racers like Robby Gordon or Marcos Ambrose that have a good car, they will come race. I cannot imagine they will not come race on Saturday afternoon. So it might be the same field.
And then your second part, to me, a win is a win, and winning at Road America, you know, Ron Fellows was second; and to me Ron Fellows is a guy I looked up to for a long time. He's won races in NASCAR at the Nationwide level and he's run very well in the Cup Series. To me, there's a lot of pride in being able to beat him. So I guess, you know, I've run very well in the Cup Series. I finished third and I ran second to Tony Stewart on the last lap at Watkins Glen before, so I feel pretty confident on my abilities on the road cars now, but to me a win is a win. That Road America win meant just as much as a win at Watkins Glen would have.
Q. Jacques Villeneuve would have finished second to you have you not had an electrical problem at Road America, he's not run a ton of NASCAR races but on the road courses he does have a few Top 10's. The top competitors you've mentioned, I heard you chuckle at Robby Gordon when you found out he was there; is he going to be in the mix this weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: Villeneuve or Robby Gordon?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn't know Robby was coming, he's going to be tough.
I think Villeneuve can be there. At Road America, he was very fast. He has some experience at that track at Road America, but I'm sure he has a ton of experience in Montréal. How did he run last time there? Do you know?
Q. I don't of it in front of me. I know he's got a Top-10 there.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I'm not sure. And the problem is, with -- okay. The difference this year will be if it's dry. If it's dry the whole time, it's going to be a different race. And the thing about Montréal is it's heavy braking, very sharp corners, and I think that that's where these road course racers, a guy like Villeneuve, they have an opportunity to really shine. I mean, he can brake. Just like I said earlier, those guys can do some things on the brakes that are pretty amazing. Even at Road America, I thought he was out-braking me.
So there's a potential to see a real battle between road racers up here if it stays dry, because this racetrack is nothing like Sonoma or Watkins Glen or Road America. It's literally, go through all the gears, stop, turn right, left, go through all the gears, stop, turn right, left. It's a weird racetrack.
Q. You were talking earlier about the crowd. Do you notice any more that the crowd gets behind him since he's the home guy?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, the track is named after his father, but I also noticed that the crowd -- the crowd seems to be very -- very seem to cheer for the race and cheer for the success of someone whoever wins, do you know what I mean? They are less like aligned with a driver. They are more excited about the race and the event and seeing a good event. That's kind of neat. They feel like very new fans that are very excited about the sport. That's a little different.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for your time and enjoy the rest of your time this week and we'll see you Sunday in Montréal.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, thanks, tell Jacques good luck on his second place run; I hope he enjoys it.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Jacques Villeneuve, who will be driving the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota for Braun Racing at Montréal on Sunday, Jacques has run in two NASCAR Nationwide Series races this year, he was in the mix for that win at Road America before a breakdown ended his bid there. But he rallied for an eighth place this month at Watkins Glen, and that was his debut at that track. He has won twice in the Nationwide Series at Montréal, as we have said, his home track bearing his dad's name. He was 16th in his series debut in 2008, and he was fourth last year.
Thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate you joining us.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: You've come so close to getting that first NASCAR win, and now here we are back at your home track and very solid equipment. You have a little bit more experience in the stock cars; so what's your approach going to be like for Sunday's race?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Well, we are coming in aggressively. It's the third year I raced with the Braun team, and with the Dollar car, it's been four races, five races. So we are starting to work well together and we have really worked hard on the road course program car-wise, and we also are bringing different brakes for Montréal. It's a very demanding track, and I'm a late braker. I'm a heavy braker and which is where I make most of my time at Elkhart Lake, and even at the Glen, actually.
So we are pulling out all the stops for Montreal so we can compete. The first year when it was the heavy rain, we led the lap and then I crashed under a caution. That was a little bit annoying. And we were quite competitive last year. So I think we are coming this year to try and win it.
Q. You're in a great position of being able to race when you want and what you want; after this race this weekend at Montréal, what's on the racing horizon for you?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Well, after Montréal I have a race in Australia, Surfer's Paradise. It's I think the 25th anniversary of the track or 30th, I can't remember. So they are doing a two-driver entrance race and I think there are 18 of us that are invited, all guys that have raced in Surfer's Paradise either in IndyCar or some other form of car so that should be fun. That's where Marcos Ambrose comes from originally, those kind of cars, so I've always wanted to get a hand at them.
Then right now that's all I've got in the pipeline because I've been busy working on F1 program, so I don't want to be docked with racing too much so I could concentrate on that. If I end up winning Montréal, then I'll get an oval race with the Braun team, as well.
Q. If you look at what you've achieved in your career, what would you say is at the top of the list of things you would like to do, not necessarily this year or even next year; what's the at top of the list of things you would like to do in racing that you have not yet attempted?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Well, I've won at two of the three major events I've been in, which was the Indy 500 and the F1 Championship. Sadly at the LeMans 24 Hours, we finished second, when we led most of the race and that was a little bit frustrating. So the other thing that would be amazing is to win NASCAR, that would be incredible.
Q. I'm just wondering about where this will lead you with Formula 1 project, where will this be going? Because you're waiting the FIA decision on that, and if that comes through, how will you be able to juggle what they have always mentioned, with other races, down in NASCAR, and where the future might be going for you, because a big step is going to have to be -- you're going to have to work very quickly to be up to speed in the 2011 season.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: The FIA decision is pending, supposed to be by the end of the month and I really hope it won't happen during the race weekend, because I just want to put my mind behind the race, just work on the race and trying to win it. So I don't want to spend a weekend discussing Formula 1 basically and not concentrating on the NASCAR race.
So a lot will depend on what the decision is. If it's a positive decision, then I'll have to be almost 100% available on building the team and getting the ball rolling. I'm not sure yet where we are heading. We still have to wait for the decision.
Concerning NASCAR, there's a race this weekend which is really important. We have put a lot of effort into it car-wise, brakes, everything. We will come here wanting to win.
And we are not a team that also has a big Cup effort; so that makes it a little bit harder on us. But you know, with the road course experience, I am trying to compensate and it's been working with well so far, like at Elkhart Lake where we were quite competitive. And the good thing this year, with the racing we have had with the Braun Dollar General car, we have got good TV coverage and we have did the Brickyard as well, and that's starting to opens door in NASCAR, as well.
Q. Should that F1 bid work, would you be looking into NASCAR for personnel, either on the mechanics and the team side, as well as the drivers, maybe give some of these guys a whirl and see what they can do with these cars --
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: There's talent everywhere and there's definitely talent in North America and NASCAR, even driver-wise, there's always been this perception that oval racers can't drive a road course and a road course driver can't race on ovals.
Now if you look at Montoya, he's doing amazingly well on ovals, and he has won the Indy 500, as well, and typical NASCAR drivers that don't come from a road racing background learn very quickly what they need to do on a road course and actually do them very well.
If you're talented and if you've got the brains to go with it to actually learn your craft, then you'll be good at any form of driving.
Q. So would you give these guys a whirl since you'll have the keys to the car?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Not the six-footer ones (ph) (laughing).
Q. Two parts for you. Can you please talk to us a little bit about the physical demands about driving the stock car on the circuit that you will run this weekend? And Formula 1, your gear shifting is at your fingertips and it's a lot more physical an endeavor in a stock car, heavy breaking, technical parts to this course; can you describe a little about that? And secondly, can you tell us a little about what you've done with the brakes on this car, because at the Glen, we know you had some braking issues and you were talking about needing some brakes that were more robust for Montréal. So both the physical demands of racing here and what you've done with the brakes since Montréal.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: The physical demand in NASCAR, first of all, is heat. The cars are hot. The races are long. But that's just like the Brickyard was crazy hot. Montréal, it's the brakes, how heavy you have to hit the brake pedal, lap after lap. And that's where it gets tough. If you're going to brake hard the whole race, then you almost need two feet. So that makes it very tough, mostly if you're doing it for three hours.
Brake-wise, the later you brake, the more heat gets in there and then everything starts bending, basically, so you end up with a brake pedal that gets long. I wasn't then, I was hitting the bottom of the brakes and I just couldn't brake any harder. There was nothing else to press and they get hot to the point where it just slides and it doesn't brake anymore.
So you just have to do a few laps, brakes left to cool it down a little bit. We were not as quick in the Glen as we were at Elkhart Lake, and I was making most of my time on the braking. We were lacking a little bit of speed coming out of the corners for some reason, and hopefully that will be different in Montréal, and I won't need to use the brakes as much to make up for the time.
Q. You told us at the Glen that you were enjoying NASCAR racing so much because you were not doing it an awful lot and sort of being into the politics of the sport and so on and how much you enjoyed the fact that you were not dealing with all of the political nonsense that you had to deal with in Formula 1. Is it purely because of a love of Formula 1 that you would be willing to endure the politics of that sport again by getting back into it if the FIA goes for you?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Well, there's two aspects. They are amazing cars to drive. They are the fastest cars on the planet, so anyone who can drive one would have a hard time to say no, even the chance to drive a few laps.
The politics are not fun, when you get out of the car that's not fun but the thing is we are building a team. It not a three-year project; it's a 40-year project. In the long run, there's something exciting about that, the business side of things, and it's acceptable -- I don't mind getting into politics as long as I'm not driving at the same time. It's the two together that just doesn't work.
Now, NASCAR, I would be happy to race every weekend. That would be great. I love driving, I love racing and that's why I enjoy the racing that I've done in NASCAR, that's why I enjoy them so much is all of the focus is purely behind the wheel, and you can really, even when your setup is not perfect, you can find a way to drive beyond it to figure a way to still make the car go quick. It's tough during a whole race, but for qualifying, for some laps, you can find a way to muscle your way through and that makes it a lot of fun. And part of the reason the F1 project started happening is also because the doors simply were not opening in NASCAR.
Q. Are you patient enough to be able to live with being a back marker in Formula 1 for a couple years until things started to come around for you?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: It's okay to be a back marker as long as you have a long-term plan, backing and financials that allow you to build a project. When we built BAR, if you just have something in place that's barely alive and that could only work for maybe a year, then no, because all you have is the stress and because you have a bad year, can you not build on it. But if you have a long-term in place, that's fine because it's part of the building process.
Q. Considering the success of the Montréal Nationwide event the past few years, should there be a Sprint Cup race in Canada, do you believe? Do Canadian fans deserve a Cup race, and would it work?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: I think they do and I think it would be very popular. There's already a big crowd for Nationwide and it would be quite as big for the Cup race. And also, the Montréal crowd is used to having a top level of racing which is Formula 1, so they are expecting to get the Cup as well.
So it would have a big success and it would bring a new market and new sponsorship race to the whole of NASCAR; that just having Nationwide makes it a little bit more difficult, because they are used to having Formula 1 anyway. So to them, to bring the Canadian companies into NASCAR, you need to get the Cup there.
Q. Next year, we were talking about Carl about the fact that NASCAR, instead of Montréal being a stand-alone date, it is on a Saturday with a Sunday Michigan Cup race. Do you think that's evidence that NASCAR knows there's so many NASCAR race fans in Canada that they could fill up Montréal on Saturday and still get tremendous Canadian attendance, which they always have at Michigan as well? Do you think NASCAR knows the volume and passion of Canadian fans?
JACQUES VILLENEUVE: Well, Saturday and Sunday are days off so they are the same, and sometimes it's easier to get people on a Saturday instead of Sunday, which is a kid and family day. So Saturday is a good day. And also, the problem with the stand-alone day, it's one of the two weekends off that the Cup had yet so, some of them don't want to go racing that weekend, where if they are already not racing too far, they might come on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, I know it's already been and will continue to be a very exciting week at home for you in Montréal, so we appreciate some of your time and best of luck on Sunday.
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