NASCAR Media Conference
March 6, 2013
AMANDA ELLIS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We are joined by Carl Edwards, driver of the No.99 AFLAC Ford for Roush‑Fenway Racing. Edwards won Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. It was his 20th career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Carl, on Sunday you broke a 70‑race winless drought that stretched back to March of 2011. What did it mean to you to return to victory lane so early into the 2013 season?
CARL EDWARDS: First of all, thanks for having me on, and yeah, for us that was a great win for a number of reasons. Not winning a race for 70 races is really frustrating, even though it was a 70‑race drought we did have an awesome season the 2011 season. I think we had nine second‑place finishes or something, so it wasn't 70 races of frustration, but it was a long time, 2012 was. It was a full season of pretty lackluster performance for us.
It felt good just to get that turned around and to have a real solid day, and I believe the ingredients that we have right now, the pit stops are fast, Jimmy Fennig's experience, the cars, they seem to be running really well, the engines are fast, I think all those things are good for this season. I think we have a lot of great things to look forward to. But a win right off the bat is really, really good for us.
Q. You were speaking the other day after your win that‑‑ it sounded like you were constantly going to Jimmy and Jack and asking them what they needed from you. What kind of feedback were they giving you? What did they tell you that they needed you to do or they wanted from you?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, Jimmy specifically told me before the season started that he wants me to make sure that I understand the changes they have planned for practice, that I make sure to be there available to the engineers after practice, and that I'm actually sitting there engaged with them so that we don't miss something, so there's something‑‑ I thought that was pretty cool for him to lay it out there. He didn't say how did you do it last year. He said this is exactly what I want, this is how I do it, and I think that leadership and knowing what he wants is something that's going to pay off a lot.
Q. It sounds like he almost has a lesson plan.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, he doesn't present it that way, though. He doesn't‑‑ which I think is really interesting. I think it's good. He doesn't come to me and say this is the best way to do it, he just says this is how I'd like to do it. This is what I want to do, this is how I do it, and can you do it, and it's all been stuff that I think is really good.
As we run some more of these races I think we'll‑‑ like anything, we'll grow and we'll change things, but I was really, really pleased at Phoenix with how we worked together, how he managed the information exchange throughout the weekend and how he managed the time. So I think it's going to be very good.
Q. Did you think of getting in the middle there with Coach Haith and Coach Anderson last night?
CARL EDWARDS: I was on Eli Gold's show and I didn't get there until after that happened, but I thought it was really cool that we were able to beat them as badly as we did, especially after all that was said. I thought that was really cool. I think everybody there was really excited.
Q. Your new crew chief for this year is a man who really, really gets into detail. With these new cars for this year, there had to be a big help in your win at Phoenix with that detail, a crew chief who tells the entire team to go to work on all that detail, can you explain to the race fans how much difference it makes when you have a crew chief and a team really that learns all that detail?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's a really good question. Without talking too much about exactly the things that our guys do to the cars, I'll tell you a story. The first time I sat down with Jimmy Fennig when Jack told us that we were going to work together last year, and it was before the Homestead race last season. Matt Kenseth was the driver of Jimmy's race car at that time, and I went into his office at the shop, which was right next to the surface plate where they do the final scaling and everything of the race cars, and we talked a little bit about the upcoming season. We talked about each other's families and we kind of just shared kind of our way of doing things and our way of looking at racing, and I said, hey, let's go look at the race car, and we walked out there, and I started to look around at the race car that he was preparing for Matt Kenseth to go to Homestead, and I was like, oh, hey, that's really neat, that's really neat, and I started looking under the hood a little bit to poke around, and he said, okay, okay, that's enough. I said, what do you mean? He said, we're still racing against you this weekend. This isn't your race car. I was like, seriously? He said, yeah, let's go look at something else.
So he's really serious about making sure his cars are the best that they can be, that everything on the car is the best it can be, and all the guys on the team are that way. It's been really interesting to see what each individual is working on on the race car.
Q. I was kind of wondering, at the restart there at the end on the Subway race, Keselowski looked like he kind of shoved you into the lead. With that being said, do you feel like the third‑place guy in line actually has more of an advantage than the second‑place guy, and also, could that hinder a leader when they're trying to be the one to pace the field?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, any time you have a restart, there's so much chaos and so many things that can happen, you're at the mercy of a lot of circumstances. All I can say is I'm glad Brad was behind me and not behind Jimmie, because I think if Brad were to have that kind of restart behind Jimmie and pushed him out front, it would've been a lot tougher race for me.
Any time you have a restart, it looks really simple but there are a lot of little games that go on and a lot can happen shifting through the gears. If you just slip the tires for just a half of a second, you can lose a lot of acceleration and guys around you can take advantage of that. I was a little nervous about that restart.
Q. You started with Bob Osborne and you had a lot of success with him early on. Is there a lot of comparisons and differences between him and Jimmy Fennig?
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, every person is different, and I am very, very grateful to Bob for everything that he's done and everything that he still does for our team. We won 18 or 19 races together, the all‑star race. I mean, he is the man.
I guess the biggest thing I appreciate about Bob is that when he wasn't able to crew chief anymore, there was absolutely no ego involved. He stepped aside, Chad Norris came in, and then Bob moved to a different position in the company, and right now he still works‑‑ he works hand in hand with each crew chief, he's developing things for the future of the team, and he maybe arguably has a bigger influence on our success than maybe he did even on the pit box some days.
I guess, like I said in the media center after the race, I don't feel like I lost Bob, I feel like I gained Jimmy Fennig and Bob still works on our team, so it's a pretty cool situation for me.
Q. In Daytona you ran into quite a bit of trouble obviously, going through the five cars that you did and whatnot. I know that there was a difficulty as far as being able to have a lot of the parts produced fast enough. Were any of the cars that were taken to Daytona, the car that you ended up racing in Phoenix?
CARL EDWARDS: No, they're different cars, but what happens‑‑ the way they build the cars, it just sets everyone back trying to repair all that crash damage and build race cars in that short amount of time.
With the new car, the new Ford Fusion, there are different parts than we had before, so really the guys in the fab shop, they didn't have to sacrifice anything for Phoenix, but they just had to sacrifice a lot of their time and energy and money to keep cars coming to Daytona so that we had something competitive.
Q. I was just wondering, coming off the win and given your track record at Vegas, what are your thoughts heading into this weekend's race?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn't have‑‑ I know this is probably wrong to admit, but I didn't really have Phoenix marked on the calendar as the one that we were going to go win the first race. I was looking at Vegas as the race that would be the really good one. So I'm really excited about Vegas, and after seeing the pit crew perform at Phoenix, I feel like I'm going to Vegas to win this thing this weekend. We tested very well at Charlotte. We'll know tomorrow really where we stack up, and if it's anything like Charlotte, I think we're going to be real tough at Vegas. I think we are going to be good.
I have a real high expectation there. I hope we can meet it.
Q. What are you hoping to accomplish in tomorrow's test?
CARL EDWARDS: Tomorrow's test, I'm hoping to do a couple of things. I'm hoping to find the balance of the race car by itself. I think that'll be key because qualifying will be so important, just like we saw at Phoenix. And then I'd also like to run around some other cars and see how the car handles when I am behind someone and see maybe how I can move around and try to make the car work in a passing situation. So that's what I'd like to do at the test. I'm sure Jimmy has a run‑by‑run plan, and it may not include racing with another car out there, but I would like to try that.
Q. There's been a bit of talk so far this season about the challenge of passing with these new cars. Can you, I guess, kind of break it down in a more simplified form that's a little more easy to understand what is different or what you're feeling different or what the challenge is with this car to the previous car and just kind of give a sense of what you've experienced in the first couple races, although these are two totally different tracks and situations?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it's a hard one to answer right now. I think‑‑ I'm telling you, after the Vegas race, you are going to have all the opinions that you want on that subject because that's going to be the first race where we see huge speeds, huge reliance on downforce, and I think that we're really going to know where we stand after that.
Whenever this subject has come up with NASCAR, with the media, with my team, I am 100 percent for taking all of the downforce away from the race cars and just racing mechanical grip and maybe having a couple stagger options for the tires to help change the balance, and that would be something Goodyear would have to produce. But that's been my take forever, just because I really enjoy the mechanical grip aspect of the racing.
Now, NASCAR, all this testing, they've run cars with tons of downforce and a little bit of downforce, and this is the package they came up with. So what our job as the drivers is to do, and the teams, our job is to go out and tune these cars the best we can, see how they work, and then NASCAR told us that after Vegas‑‑ after a couple of these fast races early in the season we would kind of take a look at where we stand and there still might be more changes coming. I think it's a moving target, and it will really be up to all to us to decide what we want.
Q. I understand that you're not NASCAR so you don't have to worry about this, you can only explain what you're feeling and what you want, but if you're NASCAR or the media or the fans, like you said, there's going to be a lot of opinions after Vegas and even more so after Fontana. How do you filter through all that, because what you may want may not be what somebody else wants. How would you even filter through it yourself to understand where you truly stand with where everybody else is in that sense?
CARL EDWARDS: It is very, very difficult. I will say this: That I believe‑‑ no matter what, you're going to have a million opinions on this. It's like a political topic or something. It's really tough to get everyone to agree all on the right thing. But basically my experience and my upbringing and everything I've seen in racing says that if you have cars that have a ton of horsepower and low grip, then you get to see who can set the car up the best and who can drive it the best. That's what you get.
If you have a bunch of cars that have a ton of grip and they have a relatively low amount of power in that they're in the throttle a lot during a lap, and if they're relying on downforce, then you get all these unintended consequences of how a car acts when it's following another car and how a car acts when another car is next to it, and all this stuff that is really hard to fix.
If I could wave my magic wand, I'd say we'd have cars with no downforce and half the grip that we have and you'd have cars out there running three wide, sideways, fighting for track position and making spring adjustments during pit stops and all that.
With that being said, NASCAR wants that same thing, it's just we haven't been able to nail down the parameters of the race car that you'd change to get it. I think they're on their way to doing that, we just have to keep trying.
Q. Now that the 70‑race winless streak is over, can you talk a little bit about maybe some of the frustrations you felt during it and were there times when you were maybe doubting yourself during that winless streak?
CARL EDWARDS: I think to be successful in anything you have to constantly look at what you're doing. So that's always the same. I always look‑‑ for instance, this last weekend, there are things that I did during the race that I could have done better, and I always go back, whether we win or lose, and critique my performance. But yes, and specifically during the 2012 season, it was very frustrating, and I told you guys often that I was not‑‑ I was a lot happier when I was winning than not winning or running well.
So it is trying‑‑ when you're not doing well and you're not getting the results you want, it is tough to just keep doing what you know is right, keep working hard, keep moving forward, and as we stood in victory lane there the other day, the first person I said thank you to was Jack Roush because he's the man who's seen the ups and downs of sport, business, life, and throughout the entire 2012 season, he never once wavered. He said, I believe in you, you just keep doing what you're doing, we'll build the right team around you, we'll make this work, and hopefully we're there now. Hopefully we can go out and run like this on a regular basis.
So yeah, I guess what I'm saying is I never really doubt myself, so I do look and make sure I'm doing everything I can do to win.
Q. After the Speedweeks and everything that happened, were you beginning to think, uh‑oh, here we go again, it's going to be a repeat of 2012?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I'm a little nervous about going to Phoenix and having some sort of trouble because the whole off‑season we all were expecting such great things, and then we went to Daytona and it was a little bit of a buzz kill there to wreck five times and come out of there with a 36th place finish or whatever it was. That was really, really frustrating.
My biggest concern was going to Phoenix and having something like that happen, having to climb out of a bigger hole.
Definitely this buoyed all of our spirits, that we could go walk into a garage at Vegas and just kind of race a little bit looser, have some fun, and I think that's good for everyone on the team.
Q. It seemed like early in the weekend at Vegas you weren't kind of sure whether the Fords were up to speed with everybody else. There were always a couple in the top 10 in practice but not as many as the Chevys and Toyotas, and then qualifying I don't think there was a Ford in the top 10. Just kind of curious if you were wondering if you guys were at any sort of disadvantage and/or do you feel that you as a group make some kind of wholesale changes during the weekend to kind of pick yourself up?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, what made me nervous in Phoenix a little bit was the fact that the 16 car, and Greg struggled a little bit in practice and then at some points in the race because I know how good they are and how good they've been. So that made me a little bit nervous in practice.
But then in qualifying, Brad qualified pretty well, Ricky qualified pretty well. I think we're still kind of all feeling things out. I don't think everyone is running the exact same package yet. I don't think we've seen the full evolution of these car setups with this new car. But during the race I did take note that there were certain cars that seemed really fast, and one of them was the 2 car. I thought that they were as strong as anybody in the field, and that made me feel good, that there's not a‑‑ that a Ford was that fast.
And then when we were out front, I felt like we were really strong, as well. I still don't have a real sense for how the manufacturers stack up, if there is a difference between them. I haven't been able to put my finger on it yet.
Q. Tomorrow will each of you‑‑ will you work on one thing and Greg on another and Ricky work on something else, or are you all kind of each, I guess, more on your own and you'll work on what you want to work on regardless of what the other guys are working on?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, if we're doing it the right way we'll each carry a little bit of the load and we'll each have some things we do so that the other teams don't have to replicate the same science experiment. I'm sure we'll do a lot of team testing of items, like the former thing you said where we each work on something for Roush‑Fenway Racing, but then we always try to allocate a little time in testing to just try some one‑off stuff that we wanted to do. So we'll probably do a little bit of both.
Q. After your victory I posted a comment on Twitter stating that you were the fans' driver. What does it mean to you to celebrate your victory with the fans?
CARL EDWARDS: It's really cool when I can make it up into the grandstands, but there was a pretty good wall of people there, and I couldn't get very far up into the grandstands. But a couple of the races that I've run up there into the stands, it's been really neat to see how people are‑‑ at first when I started doing it they were really shocked. There were people that were just completely freaked out, and then there were people that‑‑ you're walking up in the grandstands and walking out, they just give you high fives like they've known you forever, they're just like, good job, man, and that's really cool.
That is definitely not my ideal. Every time somebody brings that up, I want to make it clear that if every driver went and did that, they would really enjoy it. I don't claim any ownership of that celebration. I think it's something that everybody should go try, because it's really, really cool, especially when you find someone that's wearing your gear. That's really cool to be able to celebrate that moment with them.
Q. A lot of the fans that listen to my show and that are fans of yours are always wondering are you worried that you're not going to nail the back flip?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, I was actually very worried at Phoenix because I hadn't done a back flip for a long time, and when I was standing up on the window I actually slipped a little bit. I don't know if they showed that on TV or not, but I thought, man, don't fall down when you do this because you're really going to look stupid.
Yeah, it seems to be easier to do the louder the crowd is, so if the crowd is cheering really hard, it's usually something pretty simple to do.
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