NASCAR Media Conference
January 31, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We have our fourth driver for our availability today, Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford.
Carl, just start off giving an overview how your first half day of testing has gone here at California.
CARL EDWARDS: So far I've been really pleased with our Office Depot Fusion. I was surprised how well the car drove around here. It felt a lot like the other cars we've run here before. I'm really looking forward to testing some more. It's going to get warmer and slicker out there. We'll see how the cars are going to handle with low grip. I think it's going to be pretty fun.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. You said you were surprised at how well it ran. I heard that quote a lot about Las Vegas as well. Is that an indication that the teams are actually getting more of a handle on the Car of Tomorrow car than they thought they would at this point?
CARL EDWARDS: Personally I was nervous about running these cars on these bigger racetracks. I wasn't sure they'd handle. The engineers have been doing really well, have been doing a great job of getting the cars so that they feel real nice around the racetrack.
All the stuff I was concerned about with the front end dragging the ground, the splitter bouncing off the pavement, stuff like that, it seems that we've got that under control pretty well. I'm very pleasantly surprised.
Q. What are some of the changes you can make to these cars between Daytona and here at California Speedway because the rules are so rigid for Daytona? I heard you can change the wing angle for California and other tracks, for instance.
CARL EDWARDS: That's a really good question. I don't know (laughter). Bob Osborne and I have a real simple relationship. I tell him what the car's doing and he works on it.
As we get closer to the race weekend, we set out a plan and we know what our parameters are that we can work in. I mean, historically Daytona has been way tighter on everyone, the Speedway races have. There's a little more room for adjustment at these places.
It seems like with these cars, it's not as simple anymore as just changing the springs or things like that. The way we were running the old cars it was getting more complex. Seems to be how you set on those bump stops, the front end, that's a big part of it. It's not classic setup any more.
Q. Anything you miss about the old cars that you wish were in the new cars?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I don't know. You know, in a way it would be great if we could race cars where we were just changing springs for the spring race and we were making adjustments that were simple and straightforward. But that's just the nature of the sport.
Everybody always looks for that little extra bit. These cars make the window of, you know, the amount that you can adjust the car much smaller. It has to be perfect.
So I can't -- I don't know if I really miss it. In a way, I'm looking forward to these cars because everyone is so close. I believe that opens the opportunity for the drivers to be able to make a little bit bigger difference. I think that's going to be a pretty good thing.
Overall I'm excited about these cars - more than I thought I would be. After running them, I'm real excited.
Q. Jimmie said we're going to see the same kind of racing we've seen here in the past with this new car. Kevin said it might be a little bit more exciting. Who is right?
CARL EDWARDS: I definitely think it's going to be more exciting. The reason I can say that with confidence is all the cars are closer, the field is closer. If you looked at the testing at the end of the day at Las Vegas, the field was so close.
If you ran -- if you were 3/10ths off, you were in 25th place. I think because of that and the way that this track, you can run from the top to the bottom, I believe there will be more cars fighting closer together. I think it's going to be a more -- from where I'm sitting, it's going to be a much more precise race. To be able to win it, you're going to have to be perfect.
I think if you're a little bit off you'll be running fourth or fifth, fighting with somebody who is just a little bit off. So I think it's going to be a better race.
Q. What are your expectations in the Nationwide Series this year?
CARL EDWARDS: What are my expectations in the Nationwide Series? That's to perform the best we can. My hopes are that that's good enough to win the championship. I was real confident going in until we tested yesterday. I'm a little bit nervous how fast some of these other teams that we're going to race against are.
David Reutimann was really fast. Cale, Kevin Harvick and Burton and those guys were all really fast. A little bit nervous about the new engine package and how we stack up using that.
We've got to definitely go back after at least that first day of testing and work on these Fusions to make sure we're as competitive as we should be.
I don't think, you know, right now, the way it looked after that test, we've got some work to do. I want to win the championship. I mean, that's what we're doing. You know what I mean (laughter)?
Q. Has having the same good sponsor like you have throughout your Sprint Cup career done a lot for your confidence and performance?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. Having the same sponsor to me means a lot. I love working with Office Depot. The stuff we've been able to do together with the National PTA, the back-to-school programs, I believe we've given away a total, Office Depot, has given away 1.5 million backpacks to kids that need them and can't afford them.
I've been very proud to be involved in that. And as you go along, you get kind of a comfort level and it gives you some confidence knowing that your sponsor is behind you in the good times and the bad times. Office Depot has been right there with me. I can always call them up or they'll call me and let me know they're behind me, so that has been a good thing for me.
Q. As you go through the schedule, Texas is going to be the first track you come to where you haven't had race experience or an extensive test. Both Jimmie and Kevin said they thought Vegas had answered a lot of questions about how the car was going to behave on the intermediate speedways. Do you think that's going to be true, or is it going to be challenging going to a track where you haven't had a chance to test?
CARL EDWARDS: I was really nervous about this car until we went to Vegas. Like I said, I mean, I was just really pleased with it. I think that Vegas, the way the track drives, the way the banking is, the grip levels, it's very similar to places like Texas or Charlotte. I think that test is extremely important for that reason.
I look forward to those racetracks now, where before it was a big unknown. It's going to be fun. They're going to be good.
Q. I have a question about the Gibbs team. They're with Toyota now, kind of an unproven manufacturer on this level. A lot of money behind it, proven drivers. Is there a feeling among the rest of the field how they're going to fare this season?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the guys at Gibbs are going to run really well. The talent is spectacular. The drivers, they're as good as anyone in the garage. For that reason I think they're going to be tough. I don't believe that Toyota has shown any real weakness or anything. They're going to be really tough competitors.
I'm hoping it will just make it that much more fun to beat them with my Ford. I hope they don't run away with anything. But I think they're going to be tough.
Q. Do you expect or has the team told you to expect that the car will handle differently tonight under the lights?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a really good question. I think that as the grip level goes up, the car -- there are more forces on the car, more vertical load. It will change the way that the front suspension works and the handling will change. This will be a very important test this evening to see how, when the track cools off, how the handling changes, so we know when we come back how to prepare for the race. That will be key.
Q. What are the basic differences running this car and your Ford from last year on this track?
CARL EDWARDS: So far the basic difference is that the old car, when it was perfect, when you had it set up perfectly, was a little bit easier to drive. This car has a little bit less downforce. There's less travel. It feels a little bit more treacherous to drive around loose. Just makes it more difficult. I mean, that's part of what makes racing what it is. It's got to be hard to drive, hard to go fast. That's fun.
Q. A lot of the drivers have mentioned that the testing at Daytona was kind of rough. Is it the Car of Tomorrow that has made it rough or, I hate to put it this way, but does the track need some work done on it? What's the difference?
CARL EDWARDS: NASCAR should implement a rule that makes it completely illegal to resurface the racetracks ever. They should be as nasty, bumpy and rough as possible. That makes it such -- I mean, it makes it so much more fun to drive and race on when the tracks are not perfect.
No, I think it's just the car. Yeah, the bumps, I don't even want to say anything. I don't want to get that started. The track is perfect at Daytona. I like it. I think the car has a little less downforce, moves around a little bit more. I think that makes the racing better. I think that's good.
If it was real smooth, perfect, easy to do, that's not a race, that's just driving down the interstate.
Q. Is there anywhere where you see your Nationwide Series team can improve from last year, not counting fine tuning the new engine package?
CARL EDWARDS: Do I see anyplace that has improved?
Q. Do you see areas where you think it can be better from last year?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, definitely we can be better in the preparation department. We figured out a lot of ways to lose races the second half of the season last year. I mean, we just weren't quite as prepared as we could be.
I made a couple mistakes that were compounded by mechanical failures on our backup cars, stuff like that. Those are things that we can do a little better at. Maybe some of the strategy on pit calls, many of which were my fault, where I thought we could do something to try to win the race where we could have just gotten some points. That would have been better.
Overall, just better racing preparation and strategy we can do a lot better.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Carl.
CARL EDWARDS: Thank you, guys.
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