NASCAR Media Conference
October 4, 2005
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon. Welcome to the fourth week of the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup teleconference. A quick housekeeping note as we head to Kansas Speedway. The weekly NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will be (inaudible) on Friday in the infield media center, and the guest for this week's Wake-Up Call is Jimmie Johnson. Today we have Carl Edwards as our guest, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford. Carl is up to sixth in the Chase standings after finishing fifth at Talladega, only 100 points behind first-place Tony Stewart with seven races to go in the Chase. Pretty good for a driver in his first full-time NASCAR Nextel Cup season. Carl, it's especially interesting this week. You're heading to Kansas Speedway, which I guess we could call your home track, just a couple hours away from Columbia, Missouri, your hometown down I-70. Must feel good to come back home right in the thick of championship contention. Also you won there at Kansas in 2003 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Maybe give us quick rundown of what it feels like to come home, and also that 2003 win there, then we'll go to the media for questions.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, is awesome to be back home. Like you said, I'm just a couple hours from the racetrack. I'm not certain if it was 2003 or 2004 that we won that race. It was an awesome win. I mean, it meant so much to win that close to home and at a track that I didn't -- I didn't really ever think I'd get a chance to race that. I'm excited to be back there in a new Cup car we just built and hopefully go for the win.
HERB BRANHAM: We're ready for questions from the media.
Q. I wanted to ask you if you could kind of summarize how you thought the driving was this past weekend at Talladega. A bit earlier today Rusty Wallace said he thought they're going to have to get to the point of barring bump drafting at the restrictor plate tracks. Do you believe that's going to be a solution and can you define the racing and talk about your thoughts on that?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's a really good point there. I don't know, the racing to me seemed awesome. It seemed like everybody did a really good job. The problem with racing like that is that it doesn't take much. I mean, there's so many factors, you got momentum, the aero push, a little bit of aero pull from the guy in front of you. You can see things happen, and they happen so quickly, you end up hitting a guy, maybe you meant to hit him just a little bit, you hit him a little too hard, then there's this massive wreck. Everybody points fingers at whoever started it. To me that's going on the whole race; it's just varied amounts of chaos. There's not much we can do about it as drivers. We're placed there with this package. We have to go do the best we can. It takes really close, risky racing to get to the front. I don't know what exactly Rusty Wallace said about the bump drafting and stuff, but I heard a good idea from Darren McDaniel, a guy working on our tires. He said, "Man, we ought to mandate some sort of really fragile front and rear bodywork, especially the front bodywork, to where if you bump somebody too hard, it would close up your radiator opening or something, make some sort of penalty, a physical penalty, for bumping people." Even with that, I don't know that all the time you could control what happens. I think it's just a function of the size of the racetrack, the banking, and the rules package. It's going to be really tough to get the cars apart.
Q. Did you think it was getting out of hand this past weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: I thought everybody did a pretty good job. I didn't think it was too out of hand. There were some wrecks that were completely insane there. I don't know exactly what they stemmed from. But I know from my perspective, I bumped Ryan Newman one time in a manner which I thought was, you know, completely okay. I tried to line everything up and just barely touch him. I did it right in the tri-oval thinking that, you know, it won't be that big of a deal. Ryan Newman almost wrecked in front of the whole field. I thought to myself, "Wow, this is really touchy stuff." I don't know that anyone was really trying to get too wild or too out of hand. It's just there's so many variables going on. If everything's just right or just wrong, it's so easy to send the car spinning.
Q. Could you talk a little about the impact that Rusty Wallace had on your career, either direct or indirect, when you were kind of learning this. Did he help you make up your mind to get into this?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, Rusty Wallace is someone, you know, a lot like Kenny Schrader who came from my general geographic area, kind of achieved a dream that me and so many other short track racers around this area have. All those guys, Rusty, Kenny, guys like Tony Stewart, guys that came from racing at the local dirt tracks and made it, they helped a lot. Rusty Wallace in particular, him and I had a couple connections, especially through Mike Mittler, Mittler Brothers Racing. Mike helped Rusty a lot. I heard Rusty Wallace stories seems like two or three times a week working at Mike Mittler's. I looked at Rusty's picture every day when I walked in the shop. Rusty's presence was always around us, for sure.
Q. How would you summarize the mood of Jack Roush as well as your teammates with having such a dominance in the top five for this year's championship?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, having all five of our cars in the Chase is unbelievable. I don't know if a person were starting from scratch and trying to accomplish that goal, I don't know that you could ever -- I don't know how much work it would take. It just seems like an insurmountable goal, unattainable one, and Jack Roush has somehow done it. I think everyone around the shop, from what I can see, is really excited about the prospect of one of the cars winning. We have a 50/50 chance statistically. You know, just other than that, everyone's got a little bit of bounce in their step. Everyone's kind of excited to be working on cars at the shop that can potentially be championship winners. I don't know, after Talladega there were a couple torn-up cars, some bad days for some of the Roush guys. I think overall the mood is awesome. Everyone is still close enough that any of us could win. I'm just glad to be part of it.
Q. I know a lot was expected of you out of your first year full-time. However, has your performance so far this year kind of exceeded what you expected out of yourself and what others expected, as well?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I think you hit it right on the head: our performance this year was not at all what we expected. It's what we hoped for. After that first win at Atlanta, everything kind of changed. It went from, "Wow, we'd be super happy to run in the top five" to, "Man, winning felt awfully good, we'd like to do it again every week." The perspective has changed, the expectation has changed. Overall, this season has been one of just achieving, you know, dreams: the dream of winning the Nextel Cup race, the dream of being in the Chase. I don't think the word "expectation" was really anywhere in there. We hoped for this, and now we kind of raised the bar for ourselves. As far as other people's perspective and expectations, I don't know exactly what they were. I try really hard just to focus on my own goals and desires. I know those definitely have changed throughout the season. Now we're looking to win a championship, which is something I didn't expect to be doing at the beginning of the year.
Q. Can you talk a little about the danger zones at Atlanta. There are times when you're going in excess of 200 miles an hour down the backstretch. Where particularly would you say are the most dangerous parts of that track?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I think Atlanta in general is just so fast, there's so many places things can happen. I'd say it's off of both of the corners. When you're racing someone real hard, especially off of turn two, there's two really distinct lines in turns one and two. Some people run the very bottom, and some people run the very top. Late in the run, it's really hard sometimes to know whether or not you should give a guy a spot. A lot of times, you come off turn two, the car wiggles, moves a little more than you want. If somebody's near you or you're racing for a position, it's real easy to get caught up in something there. To me, that's the trouble spot.
Q. Dale Jarrett won the race. He's probably old enough to be your dad. What do you think about that?
CARL EDWARDS: Oh, man, you know, age really doesn't mean much when you're out there racing. I've learned that. Kyle Busch is just as tough to racer as Mark Martin. It doesn't really matter much what age a guy is. It is kind of interesting the dynamics that go on with such a huge range of age groups and different guys being old enough to be other guy's father. I think it was pretty neat to see Dale Jarrett win that race. I know it meant a lot to everyone within the Ford family, that being a Ford race. I don't know a Ford was expected to win, even though the front row was Yates cars and Yates Ford. I think it was cool to see Dale Jarrett win that race. I don't know, I grew up watching him and seeing him do that. It was cool to see him do it firsthand from right there behind his car.
Q. Looks like the Yates collaboration with Roush is starting to yield some results. Can you talk about that a little bit.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, you know, I'm not the best guy to speak of the Yates/Roush merger because I didn't know -- I didn't get to experience firsthand the engine packages before that. But I can tell you from what I've heard and what I can see with the race results, the engines are awesome. I mean, they're just spectacular. I couldn't ask for better engines. I don't know exactly how we've improved things or what exactly has changed technically with the engines. All I know is that three or four years ago, all I heard was how much power we were short of the other teams. Now, going down the straightaway, I never feel like I'm getting pulled by other guy's engine. I'm really -- I guess it's another piece of the puzzle that I'm really benefitting from coming at this time when Roush is so strong. I think the engine package is a huge part of it.
Q. It wasn't that long ago that we talked with your friend in Columbia stealing your Office Depot standups out of the store for souvenirs. Here you are racing for the championship. How intense and how much of a change is that?
CARL EDWARDS: Oh, boy. I'm standing here in Columbia right now talking to you, so a lot of things haven't changed, but it definitely is different. The experiences that I've had this year, being part of this, trying to learn how to become a racer at this level -- (interruption in Carl's phone connection).
Q. Not the first time you hung up on me.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm not kidding. Maybe there are too many people on the line. I'm standing out here, heard a transformer hum, blow up. All the power went off in the house, everything quit. Pretty wild (laughter).
Q. Finish talking, if you would, about how everything has changed since the first Office Depot standups came up in Columbia.
CARL EDWARDS: You know, it's crazy. I don't know, just so many awesome things have happened. Winning a couple races, being in the Chase, I mean, going for this championship, all that, it's just been a dream come true. It's really neat to be able to come back to Missouri and hang out with my friends, you know, see how much -- I guess it reminds me of what things were like just a few years ago and how grateful I am to be in this position. I'm just trying to have a lot of fun with it and not let it really change anything that I do or change me in too many ways. I'm just trying to keep that same hunger and desire to go out and be the best, have some fun. I've been having a good time with it.
Q. This kind of goes back to Talladega a little bit last week. With the crapshoot that restrictor plate racing is, are the twins or now the duels at Daytona a bad idea or that too big a part of Speed Weeks and the lure there and kicking off the season and everything?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I only participated in one of those events. If I'm not mistaken, I think I wrecked or got caught up in a wreck. I don't know. The restrictor plate racing is, like you said, a crapshoot. Anything can happen. No matter how -- no matter what you do or how hard you try to stay out of trouble, I mean, anything can happen. I don't know about those particular races. I think they're awesome to watch. I think it's a huge part of the year, a huge part of speed week. From the fans' perspective, I hope they never get rid of them. I think all they can do is focus on this car of tomorrow and maybe some of the promise it brings to make these restrictor plate races a little bit safer.
Q. Dale Jarrett and his crew chief Todd Parrott got back together two weeks ago. This week they get a victory. Are you surprised by that? Can results like that be produced that quickly?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I don't know. One particular race sometimes, especially a race like Talladega, it's hard to gather a lot from that. I do believe in chemistry, everyone having the right attitude, people really digging deep to get results. I've spent a lot of time around Brad Parrott. I can tell you I haven't met very many people that are more hardcore racers and truly care about the sport than Brad Parrott. Knowing him as well as I do, spending just a little bit of time around Todd, I'd have to say it's probably just a situation where everyone involved just sucked it up and went out and did the best they could, and they got the great result. It seems to me, from what I've seen, that happens quite a bit in this sport. When things are shaken up and people get the true fire underneath them, you can have some awesome results. I know I'm just happy for those guys. I'm really happy for Todd.
Q. Can you identify the main reasons for your being so competitive so early in your career?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, you know, I really do believe that the main reasons are just it's the team that I'm with. I mean, I'm with the greatest team in motorsports. We talked about the engines earlier, the Roush/Yates engines are awesome. The cars have been developed over the last two decades to be the best they can be. The management style and the way the teams share information is awesome. I think all that stuff adds up to the most awesome team I can be a part of. Then as for me personally, I just do my very best. I just try my hardest, try to learn from my teammates and learn from my mistakes. We've also had a little bit of good luck. I think there's a lot of factors. I think definitely the biggest thing is the team I'm with has really helped me to kind of speed up my learning curve.
Q. Since this is your first full-time season, do you think there's more pressure on you in the championship or less since, as you said earlier, you didn't know what to expect at the beginning of the season?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, you know, I think as far as outside pressure, there's less on us. I mean, I don't think anyone expects us to go out and win this championship. That makes it a little more simple to go out and do our best. On the flipside of that, myself and my crew chief and most of the guys on our team, we're really perfectionists. We don't go out here to do what everyone expects us to do; we go out here to win. That's what we do this for. On that note, I feel like I can imagine what it would be like to win a championship in your first full year of Nextel Cup racing and how awesome that would be. That kind of gets me fired up a little bit, and that is a little bit of a pressure cooker for me internally, how awesome it would be to go out and do this. From the outside, I don't feel any pressure. For me personally, I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to go out and do this.
Q. When they announce your name at the banquet, are you going to do a backflip on stage?
CARL EDWARDS: If I win the championship, I probably would do a backflip. I don't know about anything else. The tuxedo shoes are really slippery. I did it at the truck banquet. I was really fortunate to make it work, so I don't think I'll press my luck.
Q. You were asked about pressure. Is there a feeling at Roush, five guys in the Chase, looks like Tony and Ryan pulled ahead a little bit, there's still a lot of racing left, but is there a feeling that you guys sort of need to make a move pretty soon, and also with all these mile and a half ovals if that sort of plays in your favor as well?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I mean, that's right on the money as far as how I feel about it. Ryan and Tony - especially Tony - he's been awesome and excelled at every type of racetrack on the schedule through the second half of the season. I look at our team as a team that can do that, but not for each particular driver. I feel like on the whole, our team, every driver, can run good or run well at the mile and a half tracks or the tracks that are kind of that standard shape because we work so hard at that type of race car. I think making it through these first few races, I can only speak for myself, but I feel like making it through New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega, only being a hundred points behind the leader, is a home run for me. I feel like coming up on these tracks like Charlotte, Atlanta, Kansas, Homestead, I feel like we can make up a lot of ground at those places. I do feel like this next month or so really plays into Roush Racing's hands.
Q. Are you disappointed you couldn't run for Rookie-of-the-Year this year?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I'm not disappointed that we couldn't run for the award. That whole Raybestos Rookie Program is awesome to be part of. It would be something that I would have been really proud of, you know, if we could have accomplished it, to have it on my resume. In that vein, yeah, I wish we could have run for it. With the rules in place the way they were, it isn't like we ran one or two more races than the seven, we ran 14 races last year. I feel like we were far enough out of the scope of the rule that we really shouldn't get a consideration as far as running for Rookie-of-the-Year. I wouldn't trade the success we've had this season, the narrow margin with which we made it into the Chase, I wouldn't trade those 14 races for anything. They were awesome experience. Hopefully we can make up for it by having an awesome championship run, kind of make up for that glory we would have had racing for Rookie-of-the-Year.
Q. The extra races you ran last year, could that sort of translate into how well you're doing this year?
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, it directly translates. The thing about this type of racing is that even if everyone has the same ability level and the same race cars, running more laps at these places, seeing more scenarios take place, that really helps a guy. Any time I can get laps, any time I come back to a track for the second or third time, it's just exponentially better and easier. I have a better time with dealing with the racetrack. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Q. You ran the entire Cup and Busch season. Any thoughts about running both series next year again full-time?
CARL EDWARDS: That's something we haven't quite announced yet how we're going to do it. I don't think all the sponsorship is in place yet. My mission is to run both series next year full-time again with the goal being to win both championships. I just think that would be the most awesome achievement that we could have. I'm going to go out and do it and try my hardest. I think one way or another, I really hope I'll be in the Busch Series again full-time next year along with the Cup Series. It's just fun to get to race that much.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, Carl, for joining us, taking time out from a busy schedule this week when you're trying to get ready to race. Thanks to all the media. Carl, good luck in Kansas. We'll see everyone next week on the call.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks, everybody. I appreciate it.
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