NASCAR Media Conference
October 23, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our weekly NASCAR teleconference. This week it's in advance of Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which is the Pep Boys Auto 500. The seventh race in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
A quick rundown to the Chase: That is the final ten races of the season determines the series champion. The drivers in the Chase field are those who are in the top 12 in the points after 26 races of our 36ârace season.
And our guest today on the call is Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford in the Cup Series.
Carl comes into this weekend fifth in the Chase standings. He also comes into the weekend poised to clinch the NASCAR Busch Series Championship in the No. 60 Scotts/World Financial/Dish Network Ford.
Carl has a 638 point lead over second place David Reutimann going into Saturday's 250 at Memphis. Carl can clinch the title by leading Memphis with a lead of at least 585 over whoever is second place coming out of that event.
Carl, big double duty weekend for you. Obviously, a chance to clinch the Busch Series title. But to open up the day before we go to media questions, I know there was something you wanted to talk about briefly regarding a little postârace situation that took place at Martinsville.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I appreciate it, Herb. I think it's really important that I let everybody know what happened there after the race.
First of all, I was definitely wrong for showing my anger and putting on an aggressive display towards Matt Kenseth after the race at Martinsville. I definitely want to apologize to my fans, to Office Depot, to Matt Kenseth, to DeWalt, to everyone at Roush Fenway for letting it come to that. That was definitely the wrong thing to do.
I read an article this morning by Jenna Fryer, an AP article, and she was exactly right in her article. You know, Hendrick Motorsports, and those people that we compete against do a better job of having team spirit than we've done lately at Roush Fenway. I'm just as guilty of that as anyone.
What led up to the deal that happened after the race of me confronting Matt, it was not a oneâday deal. It wasn't just Sunday's onâtrack incident where I bumped into Matt and he bumped into me harder and I got madder all day. You know, as a team, we need to do a better job working together.
I've won three races this year in the Nextel Cup Series. When I win, people call and congratulate and people are happy for me. It's just the wrong people. I've got Jimmie Johnson calling me every time I win to say good job. And my teammates aren't the ones doing that. And I'm just as guilty. I haven't been as happy for their successes as I could be.
So for me personally, this is a bad, bad thing. Trust me. I got plenty of calls that told me so on Sunday. But the thing I can look forward to from it is you know, we as a team have everything we need to go out and beat these guys. We just need to have a little bit more team spirit.
I feel bad about what I did. I feel bad that I got sucked into that turning into such a bad deal. I really look forward to putting my best foot in front of me and going out and doing whatever it takes to be the best teammate I can be to Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle and all these guys. I think we've gotten off of what's important lately, and I know for me, personally, I'm ready to get back on track.
HERB BRANHAM: Carl, thanks for getting us started with that. And with that, we'll now go to questions for Carl Edwards.
Q. Jimmie and Jeff, with their coordination and teamwork and everything, make no secret that Rick Hendrick's just sort of a genius with people. We can hear on the radios all the time him talking to those guys, and keeping them working together on the racetrack. I hate to put ow the spot like this, but do you think that Jack Roush could learn from Rick Hendrick at keeping personalities coordinated and in harmony as does there need to be more leadership from the very top?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a really good question. You know, I think Jack is a genius, and I think he does a great job. And he's been one of the most fair, great guys that I've been around. I think that really it's the responsibility of us drivers.
I mean, we are all competitive, compassionate people that want to go out there and beat one another. And that is why you see what you saw there on Sunday. I mean, it just escalates.
I think that, obviously, leadership from somewhere is needed, but I think most importantly it comes from within. You know, Mark Martin was very good at communicating when he wasn't happy with something. Trust me, I've been on the receiving end of that deal. But somehow we managed to work through it.
It just, I think it's more up to us drivers, you know. Like I said, I'm just personally, it's very frustrating for me that it came to this. I hopeâ ââ I know for me I'm going to do everything I can to make it work. But yeah. Your question is, really is Rick Hendrick doing a better job than Jack Roush, and I don't think it's that simple. I think there are more people involved.
Q. You mentioned team spirit or the lack of team spirit. How do you think you guys got away from that, and how do you actually repair it?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know. I don't know exactly how it came. I can't speak for Matt or Greg or anybody. But I assume that when I came in to Roush Fenway, we had a lot of success in 2005, and I didn't always race everyone the way they wanted to be raced. I literally was driving my ass off for a job and doingâ ââ if I didn't work that hard, I'd still be living at my mom's house in New Jersey. Well, I still live in my mom's house, but I bought it.
I mean, I think it kind of started there, and since then, we just haven't done a good job, all of us, of communicating how we want to be treated on the racetrack and it turns into all of these, you know, kind of, really grudges and instances where nobody really knows how everyone feels about one another. And any time you have a situation like that in competition, you're going to have instances where people don't get along.
So I think that I can definitely do a better job of showing guys like Matt respect and dig in and find out exactly what they need from me. I think we can all do a better job of that.
Q. This is a little bit off the first subject â but you have a chance of clinching the Busch Series title in Memphis this weekend. Talk about your mindset, and I guess being able to do this going to be an escape from a lot of the controversy that's swirled up since Sunday?
CARL EDWARDS: It won't be escaped. I face things head on, and that's how I do it. So I'm excited to go Sunday. And I'm excited about making things better on the Cup side. But for Memphis, that's an awesome racetrack, and the first place I've ever raced a NASCAR event, really in the Series.
I ran the Craftsman Truck Series race there in, I think, 2002. The first NASCAR race with Mike Mettler I finished 17th, had a blast. I really liked going back there.
Last year, I thought we were going to win the race. In the end, Kevin Harvick got behind me, but it was an awesome race. So I'm very excited to go back there and to be able to clinch the Busch title as hard as my guys have worked on the Busch Team, that would be great.
Q. Given the successful results you had in the first 15 races, did anything change within the team or the philosophy or anything like that that would help explain some of the problems you've had since midâseason? And the second part, considering the results have been disappointing in the second half of the Busch season, does that take away any from your personal satisfaction in the championship?
CARL EDWARDS: From the first half of the season to the second half, we haven't really performed that much differently. We've had terrible results. I mean, starting at Kentucky, leading the race, dominating and being wrecked on a restart, and going all the way through Montreal. Having the truck runs come out of the race car from hitting the curb. The same thing happened in a different way at Watkins Glen.
Last week we had, what I thought was the fastest car. And Jimmie Johnson, of all people, spun out at the speedway, and we ended up getting wrecked there. It was like the most crazy luck that I think has put us in this position.
And yeah, as a race car driver, you always want to win races. So, personally, I'd be a lot more satisfied if we could go down here to Memphis and start back on our winning streak.
Q. Have you seen the tape of the incident on Sunday?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I saw it.
Q. What do you think when you see that?
CARL EDWARDS: I already told you, I think. I think it was a bad thing, And I wish I hadn't done that. You know, all I can do now though is say that I'm sorry that I did that in that manner, and sorry that happened. You know, I mean, that's it.
Q. The situation at Penske with Ryan Newman, Rusty Wallace, they had some rifts with each other and they were never able to get that taken care of. Is there any chance there are just some intrinsic differences between this and some of the other drivers at Roush where, you know, you guys just have some personality differences to where you guys just can't be friends? Or there are just issues there that are irreconcilable?
CARL EDWARDS: I think anyone can tell you Matt Kenseth and I are completely different people. But I believe that we both are extremely competitive. Obviously, he's a great race car driver, he's a champion. He's won tons of races. I believe he's a good person. I just think that we just need to communicate a little better.
Matt Kenseth and I have not spokenâ ââ I don't think Matt's voluntarily said two sentences to me in the last six months, you know. And that's just how it is. We just don't talk a lot. We don't know one another well enough. And it's my opinion that that's what's precipitated this stuff is that lack of communication.
So if it's, you know, unreconcilable, it won't be because I'm not trying. I'm ready to do whatever it takes to understand Matt, and be good teammates so we can enjoy the success that the people who are doing that are enjoying right now.
Q. (Indiscernible) were you looking for Matt? Was this wrongâplace, wrongâtime kind of deal for this to bubble up the way it happened?
CARL EDWARDS: Exactly right. It was worst case scenario. I had the alternator quit about lap 185, so I shut my fans off. I have a massive headache. I'm frustrated. And I was walking out thinking about how frustrated I was, and I look up, and right there in front of me is Matt Kenseth standing there. And I don't remember what he said or even if he looked at me wrong. He might not have said anything. But just at that point I thought, well, I really would like to discuss this with him. And that's what it turned into. It was not aâ ââ you know, that's all that was.
Q. Just thinking about this, you talk about the fact that something needs to be done about it. You guys need to work together and so forth. Are you taking the first step? Are you going to be the one who goes maybe to Greg and does a little bit of fence mending and try to get this thing on a different basis?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, absolutely. That's all I can do. Obviously, we've got a greatâ ââ the first step's already done. Matt was Greg's best man at his wedding last week. Jamie McMurray gets along with him fine. I think we're just all I have to do is like you said, just put my best foot forward, and try to do the best I can, and I'm fine with that.
You know, the deal is I come to these races every week to win. To be the best we can, and that's going to require us to work together. We did achieve more together, that's for sure. So whatever it takes on my part, I'm willing to do.
I definitely feel bad it came to what it did. I feel bad for what I did. I hope we can move forward and make it better.
Q. Has Jeff Smith inserted himself to this and say we're going to sit down and figure this out? Or do they just let the drivers hash these problems out themselves?
CARL EDWARDS: I've had a talk with Jack and Jeff Smith. I left Matt a message yesterday. He hasn't called me back yet. I'm sure we'll end up talking about it one way or the other. But, yeah, they do the best they can.
But we're adults here, we have to be able to get along. Just like someone asked earlier, it doesn't come from Jack or Jeff Smith telling us they have to do it. I mean, we have to want for each other to have success and to help one another and that might take a little bit of effort to begin with. But that comes from us.
When you're listening to me speak today, you're listening to me speak. These are my personal feelings and how I feel about the situation.
Q. How much does the pressure of the situation of the Chase and how close things have gotten enter into this? It just seems that there's more and more of this at this time of the year. There was Jeff and Jimmie last year, and Stewart and Hamlin earlier this year. How much of this is pressure related?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the whole deal is pretty moderate pressure all the way around. The way everything's structures, everybody wants to win.
Let me tell you, if it weren't getting worked up over and wanting to get excited about and being mad about, I mean, it wouldn't be that great. It really wouldn't be worth doing.
It's competition, and you know, it brings out things in people I mean, there's always going good and bad.
But I don't know if it's the Chase or whatever. I know right now at Roush Fenway we haven't won 15 races this year, and we don't have five guys in the Chase. So that makes it, obviously, people aren't as content as they have been. So that might be a little bit of it but in general it's just competition. All of us have to stake a step back and say we can't let this get to us.
Q. I have a different question planned, but you said that nothing actually happened on the track between you and Matt and that your fans were off and you were breathing the fumes. Could some of your actions be attributed to the toxic fumes? And can you explain how dangerous those fumes are?
CARL EDWARDS: No, I think you misunderstood me. There was definitely something that happened on the racetrack with Matt and I. I went down in the corner, and I had all my fans off, and I don't know if that was the reason or not. But I went in the corner and I couldn't get the car stopped like I planned on getting it stopped, and I hit him in the door in turn one. We went down in turn three, and he pileâdrived me so hard in the rear end that I barely saved it. That's what I was mad about.
I just had a headache from the fumes. I remember clearly everything that happened. I'd like to say I was just hopped up on carbon monoxide, and that's what caused all of that, but I don't believe that to be so.
Q. It's my understanding, the onlyâ ââ first of all, I think you're a pretty direct communicator, and maybe Matt Kenseth by nature is a little more receipt sanity, where you sometimes have to pay attention to what you say. And with Matt, maybe it's part of what he doesn't say. But it's my understanding from talking to other people that they all thought this was sort of resolved because he had talked under caution with this. Did anything happen between then and the confrontation that got you upset again?
CARL EDWARDS: Just thinking about the whole the way that things have been going. The current state. I don't know, maybe not today, but Sunday. The way things had stacked up for the previous month, and maybe even the previous six months or whatever, the way things are between Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, the way I understand them is we both have a short fuse for one another. Anything that I did to frustrate him or make him mad, he was going to react to without giving me the benefit of the doubt, and I was going to do the same thing. I think that is the problem.
After the deal happened, we did talk on the radio a little bit, but there was a bigger problem there, and that's where the frustration came from.
Q. I'm getting sick of this whole line of questioning, but you feel like there's animosity between your teammates and yourself because you came in as the golden boy? Jack really took a shining to you. You're the guy that's gotten a lot of attention outside of racing, whether it's on the cover of magazines, on TV shows, whatever. After listening to Greg's comment last night on TV, I was really kind of shocked they thought that you guys are under the same roof?
CARL EDWARDS: I was definitely shocked at Greg's comments. I believe that he's going to think about that a little bit. I think he, you know, hopefully he'llâ ââ that's not really how he feels. I don't know. I don't know exactly what the issue is.
All I can tell you is that just like I said before, we've got to put all of the petty little stuff aside and go out and be the best teammates we can be. Because as long as we don't, we're going to get beaten by people who do.
Greg Biffle is an unbelievable driver. Matt Kenseth is unbelievable. Jamie McMurray could be so great, he has such talent. David Ragan coming up. And we've got great engines, great sponsors, all this stuff.
And I talked to Max Jones this morning, and he's so frustrated because so many people work so hard, and here we just are bickering and having these problems, and I can't do anything for anybody else.
All I can tell you is I'm going to do the best I can to put my foot forward and extend my hand and say let's do this the best we can. Hopefully, hopefully, we can be laughing about this by the time Daytona rolls around.
Q. With only one more Car of Tomorrow race remaining, what are your thoughts on the new car? And how has your view changed since the first few races when everybody was trying to catch up to the hundred guys?
CARL EDWARDS: That Car of Tomorrow is a perfect example of how we can really succeed together. We started out with the Car of Tomorrow at, I don't remember where we started with it, Bristol, I think. And we ran it. I'll never forget how bad we were there.
And through Robby Riser and all those guys, you know, giving everything we can with the engineering department, all of us working together, I think our Car of Tomorrow program is great. So I feel like that is the biggest win we've had this season, turning that around.
I'm very excited about it for next year. I think Phoenix is going to be a blast. I can't wait to go. I think we can go there and compete for a win. So my view on that car has changed 180 degrees from the first time I got in.
Q. Little bit off the subject, but I think of this asâ ââ it seems like NASCAR would like to go global some day. I can't even imagine the cost of something like that. Shipping two cars, all the team members to someplace like Japan or Australia or wherever. I know you can't speak for NASCAR, but what are your feelings on this? Should NASCAR keep building in the United States? Or should they try to go worldwide?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I don't know. We've got a great thing. It's an awesome sport. It's so much fun. It's a blast to go do. To me some of the neatest things that we do are going to Mexico City with the Busch cars, going to Canada, that's fun.
If there's a way to get it done, and go travel to other countries, I'd love to do it. It would be great. I believe we have such a great show. We've got action on the track and off the track. And it just, the competition's great. So I'd be all for it.
If I could help in any way to get a trip toâ ââ you know, I guess a lot of guys have gone to Japan or something, but I'd love to be part of something like that. To go to Japan or England and race, I'd love it.
HERB BRANHAM: First of all, thank you for taking time out. Busy weekend ahead for you. Best of luck trying to mount a little bit of a comeback in the Chase standings and best of luck at perhaps nailing down that NASCAR Busch Series Championship. We appreciate your time.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks a lot. I just appreciate everybody giving me time to express how I felt about that deal. And I appreciate it and hope everybody has a good week.
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