NASCAR Media Conference
Q. Third in final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points last year and NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year. All that took place. How confident are you starting this year at Daytona 500?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't understand the question.
Q. How confident are you coming into Daytona 500 after last year?
CARL EDWARDS: I was thinking about that last night, just how to mentally prepare for the season. I'm trying to not think of it as a new season, I'm just trying to think of it as a break from Homestead to Daytona and we're continuing with exactly what we were doing last year. I feel really good. I mean, I think our car is not the fastest one out here yet, but we have a car that we think is going to race pretty well. It should be a lot of fun. I'm pretty excited to say the least.
Q. How different was this off-season for you? Obviously you were one of the big stories last year. Is the world a different place for you? Are you getting recognized more, all that stuff?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, things are -- you get recognized a lot more, which is a lot of fun. I have fun with it. I mean, at the airport or just -- I pulled up to a stoplight the other day and people were staring at me. I was like, "Why are they staring at me?" That's kind of wild to me. There's some other neat things that have happened. I just got a lot more calls about maybe running dirt races or going and doing appearances and things like that. So I'm trying -- it's a little different. I'm having to actually prioritize things because there was definitely a time not too long ago when I wished I had something to do related to racing, and now there's so much to do. It's definitely a different off-season, a lot more attention.
Q. How are you running and do you think it can give you an edge to stop the Chevy dominance at Daytona?
CARL EDWARDS: I noticed the Disney thing at Daytona 500. That's a Chevy. They win a lot here. Chevys have done really well. I think the new Fusion should be great, the Roush engine, I went over to the shop and they feel great about the new engine. I'm excited that things are a little competitive so far in testing. I can't even imagine winning the Daytona 500. My No. 1 goal is just to come out of this thing and make it to the Chase and do all that, but to actually imagine winning the Daytona 500 and having the dominant car, having that come to reality would be great.
Q. How realistic is it to win the whole thing because you just seemed to be on such a roll last year out of the blue that nothing was going to stop you. Do you think you can carry that momentum into 2006?
CARL EDWARDS: I was actually at the news stand last year, at the store, and I was reading -- I appreciate everything you wrote. It's pretty nice. I walked away, went home and jumped rope for about 30 minutes, like I've got to get motivated, man (laughter). You know, it is pretty neat and we did have a lot of momentum, but in that same magazine I was looking at our average finishes at all the different racetracks, and I thought that was pretty neat. I told Bob this morning, really, our worst tracks are the ones that I don't feel the most comfortable, Martinsville, Sears Point and the restricted plate tracks weren't that great. I felt like I got that figured out by the end of the year. As long as we can get better there and we can have a good race or a couple good races at Martinsville, I think the chances of us performing like we did last season are really good. We have to have good luck, too. Look at a guy like Jeff Gordon; just some bad luck can keep you out of the deal.
Q. When you hear about like Tony Stewart that got hurt or something, do you wonder like yourself, wrapping up a really good thing, your paying job, running dirt races or riding bikes? How do you look at that?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. Honestly there is two parts to the answer. I've become a huge Tony Stewart fan. I think he's one of the greatest drivers to ever live, and part of what makes him so great is he runs the Chili Bowl and goes and runs at local tracks and stuff. I look up to him for that. I think him getting injured there at the Chili Bowl, it's a reminder that when I go do these things I have to make sure I have the best seat I can have and be as careful as I can be. I'm telling you, I love riding dirt bikes. I love racing dirt cars whenever I have the chance. I'm not going to stop doing that just for fear of getting hurt or something. I think that's part of what gives the guy an edge, driving different stuff. I think it's cool to see the state of racing at the local level to get a fresh look at it every once in a while
Q. It seems like you're a sponge, absorbing information from guys on the circuit. Mark Martin said you've had conversations with him. In terms of what kind of advice he gave you, if there's one or two things you can pinpoint in the back of your head and say that could come in handy.
CARL EDWARDS: If I could write a book there's going to be a chapter about Mark Martin. He's an unbelievable guy. He has an amazing character. He actually treats people exactly how they treat him. I mean, he doesn't waiver. He's as good to you as you are to him. He does the same thing on the racetrack. I think that's been a big thing that he's taught me. But there's just the experience level. I think my 50th Cup start will be the Daytona 500, and I think Mark has 500 or 700 starts, I don't know. So there's a lot of experiences, a lot of things those guys have gone through. Any time that they're willing to share it with me, I like to listen. I think that watching tapes and talking to Mark, talking to Matt and Greg and these guys that have been around for a while, it's an amazing resource for me. I'm like a sponge, but also I just try to be efficient and learn. If I can talk to them and not struggle, I'd much rather talk to them.
Q. The opportunities must be coming at you for taking things off the track. Do you anticipate any problems keeping your focus, and are you turning to anybody for advice on how to keep your mind on things going on on the track and how to deal with all the off-track stuff?
CARL EDWARDS: I couldn't quite hear you, but I think the question was how do I keep my mind on the racing and not get distracted?
Q. Yeah, I was also wondering if there's anybody out there who you're turning to for advice on how to deal with all this.
CARL EDWARDS: It's a great question. I write lists of what I need to do for the day, and on my list today is to take 30 minutes to focus on the things that are important. So I'm trying to make sure -- I went and had dinner with Lisa and Bruce Kennedy last year, and they're -- I was talking to Bruce about things that are doing on this side that I think are going to be really exciting, and he came and looked at me and said that's neat and everything, but you have to remember what got you to this point and you have to focus on the driving. That was kind of a little reminder, and I appreciate all that I can get because there are so many things that come -- I never expected so many responsibilities and so many things that seem like great opportunities because they pay really well or they're fun or whatever. But the No. 1 thing for me is to be the fastest racecar driver I can be. I guess the answer is I don't have one particular person who's helped me with that, that just smacks me around and tells me to focus because that is the most important thing.
Q. In that vein, has Jack seen the sporting news predicting you to win the Cup and how he sticks the pin in your cologne?
CARL EDWARDS: I'm a realist, too. I understand that it's really awesome to be a favorite to win, but the reality of it is even if you have a dominant team and a dominant year like Tony Stewart did last year, I'd pay a lot of attention to the way that he ran. We still closed -- our team, with me as driver and a new guy, because of the way the last ten races were run -- did we go to Martinsville? We still closed in on Tony. I guess what I'm trying to say is we could go out and have a dominant year and have a little bit of bad luck in the last ten races and not win it. I guess as far as the pure results-based goals and stuff, being chosen to win the Championship is great, but I think if we can just perform well, we'll be okay. I'm not going out and just thinking about the championship yet or anything, so I'll be all right.
Q. Will you read all the preview magazines and study where they all rate you and be disappointed if the others come out and you're not on top? And the second question is earlier Mark Martin was in here and I asked him if he would possibly just have fun and if everybody would not put pressure on him and he said he expected he'd push himself over to the misery side of things. Will you continue to have fun with it, or is there a possibility you could overanalyze and go the other direction?
CARL EDWARDS: Just like anyone, I'm sure I can be my own worst enemy. I can run myself into the ground worrying or trying to plan or whatever. I told people a couple times, they ask, why are you so happy go lucky? Because once you get to the racetrack, the time in my eyes once we get there and the race is ready to start or whatever, you can't really prepare much more. You can only react to what goes on, and any plan you have is usually a loose one just because anything can change. I won't read the magazines and I won't be disappointed. If anything the stuff that people write is great, but the bad stuff just makes me want to work harder. I don't really respond much to the outside pressure or opinions. I just kind of go do my best.
Q. A lot of good things were said about you last year, and rightly so. Can you tell us -- looking back, I'm sure you've done this. Can you look back and last year and pick out a couple things that you realized I did that badly, I shouldn't have done it that way? The Martinsville performance is one thing, but I'm looking for a general sense, is there any soul searching you've done over the year, this is something Carl Edwards needs to do better or different?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a great question. There's a lot of things I'd like to do better. I'd like to do more for people that need help, I'd like to be more involved in the community, I'd like to be the best role model I can be for kids. I think that from a driving standpoint, I probably took a little bit more than I deserved sometimes last year, and in some of the races I'd go to the race and I'd make people mad and do stuff just because I'd get to a position where it was like -- I was 50/50, like, wow, should I put this guy in a bad position to pass him, and a lot of times I just said I'm racing for a sponsor, have to prove myself, and I'd just go for it and pissed somebody off, and I realized later the outcome would have been just the same if I had given them a little bit more respect. That's something Mark helped me with. That's something I'm going to focus on this year. The last 10 percent of the race or 20 percent of the race, it doesn't make a difference. But at least the beginning of the race is just a little more patience. I think I can do that a little bit better.
Q. You obviously struggled a little growing up. Did you have a backup plan in place, or were you always going to be a racecar driver and you were going to make it given the opportunity?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I had a backup plan for a long time. I was going to college. I had a pilot's license when I was in high school, and I thought I might join the military and try to fly airplanes, something I thought would be a more realistic goal, even though it would be a really difficult thing to achieve. I thought that would be a realistic goal. Finally I think there was -- I don't remember the day in particular, but I remember making a decision that racing was what I wanted to do, and I decided I'm just going to do it 100 percent. I just forgot about everything else, and I just decided it didn't matter if I was 45 years old when I finally got to the NEXTEL Cup, that's what I was going to do. But that's when things really started to go better, when I purely focused on that. Like I say, I did have a backup plan, but it worked better just to not have one.
Q. About getting to NEXTEL Cup, did you expect your hard work to pay off?
CARL EDWARDS: I remember having arguments with my mom because I spent all my mom's money, and she would -- I mean, we'd have some -- not arguments, but serious heart-to-hearts, like almost to tears because we didn't have a lot of money and I was racing. It was like, "I swear, mom, someday I'll make millions of dollars and I'll pay you back, I swear." I felt bad for lying to her because I felt like the chances of this happening are, like, zero. But it was all fun. What was the question again? I did not expect to be in this position. I'm very fortunate, I think. I am not a religious person really to speak of or anything, but I felt like there was some incidence and some coincidences and really good luck along the way that were just amazing, and I feel very fortunate to be here. I did not expect it, though, not at all. I expected to see me working my tail off right now and still chasing it. I never thought I'd be here.
Q. You said you figured out restricted plate racing as the season went along. What was that key?
CARL EDWARDS: I really don't want to say. I just figured out some things, just a better way to do it. I feel like at the Pepsi 400, if I hadn't stuck my nose between Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton with eight laps to go and taken that risk, I thought we had a chance to be in the top 3 or 4, and at Talladega, I felt like it was awesome to see Dale Jarrett win, but I wanted that thing to go to the finish line because I had a plan there. I just feel like I got a little better at it and I realized the pace of it. But as far as specifics, I don't really want to say.
Q. This year you'll have just the one primary sponsor in Office Depot. In terms of demands on your time, will that make it easier for you this year than what you had last year when you had several sponsors you had responsibilities to?
CARL EDWARDS: To me it's amazing Office Depot put themselves in position to be our sponsor for multiple years. We didn't have one guy -- this blew my mind. We didn't have one guy leave and go to another team. We had one truck driver that needed to spend more time with his family. He went and got a normal life. We'll still have him around a little bit. Nobody left or anything, and I think that says a lot about -- I think it's due to the fact that we have a secure team and we have Office Depot on board. As far as my demands, time demands and things like that, Office Depot, they're just the easiest group in the world to work with, and it will be simpler for me. But then I take in all these other things that are going to be pretty neat, too, but I think everyone is doing a better job of understanding the time, and running the whole Busch Series schedule makes it a little tougher, too. But like I said, Office Depot -- we actually had a meeting where they said, "What can we do for you? What do you need to go do your job on the racetrack better?" That's cool to have a sponsor like that.
Q. Did you pay mom back? And No. 2, how involved is your mom? How supportive is she?
CARL EDWARDS: I'm working on paying her back. She's an amazing lady, just an amazing person, and she is very involved. I mean, when I have -- I feel kind of bad sometimes because I only call her when I have tough questions, when things are bothering me. I ought to call her just to say hi, mom, but she helps me. She's really involved. I'm really excited about what she's doing for me this year. We've got CarlEdwards.com, a website, and we're going to try to make it a really, really neat website for the fans, and she's running that whole thing, setting it up and taking charge.
Q. I'm not going to tell you who said this, but last week somebody said, "I think Carl Edwards will struggle this year because he's going to find out how hard it is to be famous and to be successful, and that will be tough." I think you probably will understand that there are some challenges to that. Is it naive to think that it's going to be easy to handle that, or is it more naive to think that somebody that's worked as hard as you are will let something like that get in the way?
CARL EDWARDS: I truly believe if we run poorly this season -- I mean, we could run terribly. It could happen. It happens all the time. That it won't be because my head is not in the right place. I truly feel like you hit it on the head there with the latter of your statement. I think that it would be naive to think that I would let something go that I've worked so hard for. Not to say that it won't be a little bit difficult. I'm aware of it, and you can just ask my mom how difficult I was to deal with over Christmas because of all the people calling and all the stuff people expect. There's one thing that I feel like I excel at and it's being single-minded and focused. I will not -- I'll be damned if I'll let anything get in the way of us having a good year.
Q. Well, is this the last one?
MARK MARTIN: I hope this is the last one.
Q. What do you feel are your chances to finally get this one?
MARK MARTIN: A little bit early to be worried about all that (laughter). I don't know. It's awfully early to be worried about all that. I've got so many things on my mind. You know, just a lot of stuff going on. I've just got to try to keep my head down, work real hard and try to make my team happy and make AAA happy and make some fans happy this year and work at it, you know.
Q. In his banquet speech Carl talked about a conversation that he had had with you that you cited as part of his development, and I wondered if you could talk about that. Secondly, if you were Carl's car owner, what would your expectations be for him based on what he has shown?
MARK MARTIN: You know me. I wouldn't do the expectation deal too much. I would expect great enthusiasm, incredible intensity. That's what I would expect. I guarantee you'll get that. But, you know, I don't want to go into great detail. Carl and I did actually get crossways with one another a couple times last year along the way in his development, and that's okay. We both learned a little something through all that. At the time we had slightly different -- we had different philosophies on a few things, and I respect that. He certainly respects me, so that's just part of moving along. Carl has worked harder, he's paid more attention than any driver than I've ever had contact with. Carl Edwards is paying attention, that's for sure. He asks more questions than anyone ever has asked of me, and there was a couple times when he didn't get praise from me. Most of the time he does. It's a lot of fun to be around and be a part of, certainly.
Q. We talked a couple times last year about this season. When did you finally allow yourself to think about 2006?
MARK MARTIN: I'm not sure I'm thinking about it yet (laughter). I was totally blindsided with my chances of winning Daytona 500. I really haven't thought that much about it. Definitely at the banquet, I still wasn't ready for that. My month of December was the busiest I've had in my life, and lot of that is because of all the things that weren't able to happen, that I wasn't able to do the last three months of the season based on the focus and effort that went into the Chase, trying to catch up on that, and get in the swing of some new sponsors, AAA, Coca-Cola, for example, were totally new to my program, so that took a little additional time and what have you. And here we are. I'm doing a lot of stuff right now. I have a lot on my mind, and I don't have a lot of input on how -- I don't have a lot of control about Daytona. You know, this is not like -- where is the second race, California? Our California cars are -- they haven't been to the Wind Tunnel yet. After they get done with the Wind Tunnel, I'll look at the numbers and start wrestling with the guys about why we weren't able to do what we hoped we would or be excited that we did more than we thought we might under the new scenarios that we have to deal with for '06. And then we'll go to Vegas and we'll test, and I'll be as fierce as I've ever been in my life about trying to win the next race. For Daytona, there's just a lot of -- I'm at the mercy of the engineers and the team and all those things, and I don't really feel like I have a lot of input on the performance of the car, so I'm letting them do their work and I'm staying out of it.
Q. This year you're not only working Cup but Truck. Are there some changes physically and mentally that you're working on? Are you prepared to do all three this year?
MARK MARTIN: Well, the Truck is something that I really want to do. I was out here Friday with the 6 Truck and with my team, with David Reagan, and I tested the truck and I drafted -- we worked really hard on getting the truck set up to really drive well for David to race in the race here, and then I'll be in it at California. It's something that I have a lot of passion for right now. That's why I'm doing that. I put a lot of extra work on my plate, and it was not my intention to do Busch races, but because of Roush Racing put together a package with Ameriquest to do an enormous amount of racing in the Busch Series, I was put in a position where they know I won't say no, but I did argue down from 14 to 7 races in the Busch Series. I'm definitely not doing a full Busch schedule. You know, I'm not Carl Edwards, I'm not that strong. I've got a couple years on him. Or some of these other guys that are really taking a full plate. I'm talking about the 14 races. That's manageable. I'd say I can do that. I'm real excited about the truck and working with my team and working with David Reagan and getting that thing in a head start or a kick start toward 2007, where I can go do that full-time and just have some big fun.
Q. Last year you talked about every year requiring more effort, and that was supposed to be the ultimate effort last year. There was times where you didn't know where you would find that in 2006. Now as you're approaching that year, some of us find it very difficult to believe that Mark Martin would ever get in a racecar and not leave every ounce of everything he's got on the racetrack. Have you found that place yet where you're going to find what it takes and that kind of stuff?
MARK MARTIN: That's a good question, and to be real honest with you, I've still got some time, and thank goodness, because when we were in New York I wasn't really ready to address it yet. Obviously I've been to a Cup test already this year, a truck test already this year, and we're now at Daytona just on the first day. When we get Daytona out of the way, because I really don't feel like I have that much -- I can't help those guys that much, you know, and we start focusing on Vegas and then looking at California, I have time for the ferocity to build, but to be real honest with you, I'm not there yet. I have been real busy this January. This December was the busiest I've ever been, and I have been real busy to this point. I'm doing some things with Matt. I've gotten to go racing with him twice since Homestead, and he's really impressed me, and it's time for me to move his equipment up and make some changes. He raced last Saturday night in New Smyrna in the sports division for the first time and ended up getting a win there, so we're moving right through that division into the late model division, and I, equipment-wise, wasn't prepared for that. So I'm trying to help my guys do those kind of things and trying to get everything in order so that when the mad dash hits of Speed Weeks, there's nothing else in my life except cars. Obviously there is a lot of things in it right now, and we'll kind of make that transition as we get closer to Speed Week.
Q. Is it possible if you didn't put too much pressure on yourself and no one pressured you to just go and race and have fun this year and in the process maybe do really well, just enjoy it? And second, there was so much talk about you this year since you helped keep the team guys last year, losing everyone this year. Can you just talk about your team and maybe just racing for fun this year, being able to do that?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I'll tell you what, I had fun last year, which was really cool. It was the best year of my life professionally and personally. I just want everybody to make sure that they know they're talking to a guy that had a blast last year. It would mean an awful lot to me to have the same kind of performance on the racetrack this year, so therefore I'm willing to be miserable if need be in order to have that, and my tendency is to go off on that misery side to try to make sure that we get that performance. I'm going to fight that a little bit, but I'm not ready to address all that strategy yet. I've got a lot of balls in the air, and Jack has a strategy that says, "Don't worry about it. I know you, just go have fun with it this year. The pressure is off and you might do better than you ever have." Well, that sounds real good to me, but we all know that I'm going to fall over that misery edge; as soon as I get close enough to it that I can jump over it, I'll work so hard at it that we'll go back to the other side. It's really funny, I'm really going to make an effort this year to handle things the way I did last year with the philosophy I had with the fans, the media and with my team. It will be a disappointment to me if we don't have -- I would really love 2005's performance to be the last year of my Cup. So if I can do that well again in '06, it would be fantastic. If I can do better than that, obviously it would be a dream come true. It would be incredible if we could race for that championship and win; it would be the coolest thing. At the same time, realistically speaking, I know the odds that I'm up against, and I can't believe that I was able to personally give the performance that I gave on the racetrack last year. It would be hard for me to ask more of myself at this stage of my career. You're not going to get the Jack Roush philosophy recommendation from me, and that is, "Don't sweat it, don't strain so hard, just go do it, see if it turns out." I think that's a good strategy; I wish that would work for me. I love what happened the last lap of Homestead. It's one of the few occasions that I've ever gotten beat that I had fun. Yeah, it would have been cool to win, but everybody there was on their feet, and that's why I race, and if I could have times in 2006, some races like that, it would really fill in that box for me, that last box. 2006 is the last Cup box for me, and I'd love to fill that in with great times like we had in 2005.
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, we really didn't lose any people. We only lost one person off the 6 team. But we promoted two or three, a couple of other guys got promotions within the company, and it was time for them to move up and take on crew chief responsibilities on Busch teams because of Roush's extension with Ameriquest and all the Busch teams that they're going to have this year. We do have a couple of new people in there. But you have that almost every year, and I do have the same -- I've still got Pat Tryson, still have our engineer, still have my crew chief, which is very important to me, Todd Ziegler is incredible, and I would not -- I would have had a hard time facing 2006 without Todd. But he's back with us. And some of the other guys that are on our team I've worked with on my Busch Car in '05. So we've worked together before. I'm feeling good about the team. There is no reason why we shouldn't have as good a year as last year. There's no reason. I mean, we've got it all. If anything, we've improved on things. I'll certainly drive my heart out, and these guys will have my undivided attention when it comes time to get ready for these races and to focus and to go racing. But at the same time I'm going to try to have some fun with the media and with the people, the fans and the people that helped me build this great career, and I've got some really fun things on the schedule coming up in '06 that are outside the racecar itself that will involve the fans especially, as well as some of the media stuff.
Q. What will you miss the most after your final lap?
MARK MARTIN: Not my final lap. I couldn't quit. I couldn't quit racing. Racing is my life. It's been my life since I was 15 years old, and I'm certainly not ready to give up racing. So for me it's not that difficult to walk away from NEXTEL Cup because I realized where I am in my career. If I was 26, I wouldn't walk away. Based on -- it's time for me for a lot of reasons. I went over those reasons last year, but I'm going to continue to race. It's my whole life. Climbing in that racecar today and going out there, I'm just wishing that we could be drafting because that's the real deal, you know. That's what I live for. I'll continue to race, and it's my expectation to be in the 6 Truck next year full-time and then to do some other appearances and what have you. If something were to work out that I wasn't in that truck, you'd catch me at the short track. I'm not done racing by any means.
Q. Just a question you were talking before about how you're not really in control of what happens at Daytona so much. How do you feel about driving at Daytona?
MARK MARTIN: Well, it's Daytona. I've been coming down here since 19 -- the first time I came down here was 1981. It's just a lot different as far as the preparation goes, and we only do it four times a year. It's just different. I can help these guys make a car that will fly at the next place, but for here there's a lot of other forces out there that I don't have control of. So it is what it is, it's Daytona. It's the biggest race of the year, and I need to win it. This is my last chance. We'll just try to get in the front on the last lap and hog the track or something.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|