NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Auto Club 500
Topics: Auto Club 500
February 25, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Jimmie and Jeff.
We'll start with Carl Edwards, congratulations, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford. Great, great victory for you out there today. Your thoughts?
CARL EDWARDS: Just very proud to be driving that Ford Fusion today. Ford and Roush Fenway, all the engineers, everyone has worked really hard. All of them have worked very hard this winter. It's paid off. The reason we won this race today is because of the preparation. I'm just proud to be driving that car right now. It's a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions specifically for Carl. We have five or six minutes before we have to release him.
Q. In theory this is two races, the one yesterday and then today. Is a shorter race like we saw today in theory a better race?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know. To me personally part of what makes the sport what it is at this level is that Jack and Ford, Roush-Yates engines, the cars have to be able to make it 500 miles. In my mind, it has always been a test of man and machine.
I think a lot of the fans respect that. There is a balance. 25-lap features are great. But this is a real test of the vehicle, as well.
Q. You were fastest in the test here and in Vegas. You had a good car. You were talking about the preparation in the off-season. Backing it up today, does this give you confidence this is going to be a season where you can do a lot of good things?
CARL EDWARDS: I really hope so. I mean, we have worked very hard. I owe a lot, all of it, to Jack and the engineers, Robbie Reiser, Bob. I hope this is a sign of how our season's going to go.
If there's one thing we've learned, we've got to stay on top of it, we have to keep working as hard as we can. There are very minor differences between the cars that are winning this races and the cars running fifth or sixth. We have to keep on top of it. It's a great way to start. I hope we keep going like this.
Q. We all know what an effervescent personality you have. If there's a 15-hour red flag, you're the driver least affected. Were you beaten down yesterday?
CARL EDWARDS: I told my guys, We got them right where we want them. This is what we prepare for. The tougher it gets, the more competitive it is, we have a 55-hour red flag and we're still going to go out there and race as hard as possible. That's what we prepare for. That's what I prepare for. I enjoy that kind of stuff.
Q. You probably heard the cliché 'a day late and a dollar short'. That's not the case for you. Why a day later do you thrive on what you just said and able to have success?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I mean, I don't think that -- I'd like to think it really didn't matter if we raced last night or today. We had a really good car. Our car was great.
But that's part of it. We've all had to sit and wait through rain delays. We've had things where the anxiety builds up, stuff like that. It just adds another variable to it. That's fun. We're all competitive people sitting right here. We don't mind extra things to have to work for.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the aero side of this car, the push, whether it was as bad as last year's car or just the relative differences in the aero side of the car?
CARL EDWARDS: The aero side of the car seemed really good. It seemed like it affected the downforce less when you're following someone and the drag more. You could actually gain a little bit being behind someone. It didn't stop you from being able to race with them. This is a very good track for racing because you can move around. So it might not show up -- might show up worse maybe next week at Vegas if there is something that's going to show up. But I'm really happy with the car right now.
Q. Carl, can you talk about the battle with Jimmie at the end where you basically had to come -- obviously you had the best car, but you still had to get past Jimmie Johnson to win the race?
CARL EDWARDS: It was a lot of fun. Jimmie is always fun to race with. He's a true racer. To race him and Jeff, you know, Matt Kenseth earlier, I mean, these guys in my mind are the best in the world. So it's always fun to race them.
I just was trying to go wherever Jimmie wasn't. He went where I wasn't. I'm lucky he was a little bit loose. That would have been really, really tough to get by him if he wasn't so loose. We were very fortunate there.
Q. Carl, is today any indication that specifically Roush Fenway or anybody else have caught up with Hendrick?
CARL EDWARDS: I hope it's an indication that we've caught up with them. They're second and third. They were the guys to beat today. I hope this is a sign that we're up to their standards, to their level. I believe we are. I know that last year I would not have traded my car in for one of theirs at any of the COT races towards the end of the year. I thought we had the best car.
I mean, everyone knows, all the drivers know for sure, it's what you're sitting in a lot of times that makes that tiny little bit of difference. I'm proud to be driving this car. I'm proud of what Jack and Bob and all the engineers did last year once we saw how far behind we were. That reaction and the action that came after that is what got us here today.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, we're going to release you.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Good luck in the Nationwide Series race.
CARL EDWARDS: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll roll into our winning crew chief and team owner. Bob, your thoughts. What did you see from the pit box?
BOB OSBORNE: I felt track position was a big factor in how well you went around the racetrack. You start ninth, tenth, in that place, you think in the back of your mind you'll be okay. It was hard passing cars today. There was a distinct speed difference from the first three cars to the rest of the field last night and all day today.
Track position was very important. We struggled with that a little bit today. That's something that we've got to work on in the future I think to be one of the top teams.
THE MODERATOR: Jack, your thoughts? Certainly won a lot here at this particular speedway. You wrapped up another win. Congratulations. Your thoughts?
JACK ROUSH: Thank you very much. I've had the honor and privilege of being more than two decades now in NASCAR racing. Of course, a couple of decades preceded that in drag racing and road racing that I did first. I've had the honor and the privilege to be in the company of really good racers, and the definition of a racer is not in the Webster's dictionary. It's a person that's wise and competitive and aggressive and conservative and all those things that it takes to make prudent decisions and make the best of your situation competitively on the racetrack.
I've never been around better people than I'm around today. Bob Osborne is a fantastic engineer. He prepared himself for a professional life in many fields. He happens to have decided he wants to be a racer for the time being. In addition to being a racer, he provides a lot of leadership in the engineering application that is so much a part of what we do today. Robbie Reiser has done a great job in the shop. We're surrounded by great drivers.
Carl is approaching the top of his game I hope and we'll be able to keep him up there for a long time. Mark Martin certainly set a high standard for guys. Jeff Burton did a nice job for a number of years. I'm just thrilled to have Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle and David Ragan and Jamie McMurray involved with our program.
I've really got to screw up bad to mess it up for the guys. I tried to last year. Getting behind on the testing thing early on when we went to Bristol and we were 2000 miles behind the other cars in terms of what they'd been doing in not NASCAR-sanctioned tests was a surprise, and it was all my fault. But they suited up, worked hard, and through the year I think caught up. Toward the end of the year, even though luck wasn't on our side, we didn't win the number of races we might have in the Chase, we certainly had great cars, the car of today cars for that time and then the Car of Tomorrow was on its way. They were able to pick up with the tests they did at Daytona and finally the tests they did at Fontana and Las Vegas.
We're going to have a great year. That monkey is not going to ride high, as high as he has in the past. We're going to have a great year and Carl is going to be at the front of it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Bob or Jack.
Q. Jack, in retrospect, with as far behind as you were early with the COT, looking back now, did that help you accelerate your program to get you back up to speed as quickly where you are now?
JACK ROUSH: Possibly. The thing that we had to do was we had to maintain a competitive posture of the car of today, which was more than half the races, and then try to catch up on what other people had been doing in the winter.
We weren't behind where NASCAR wanted us to be. We'd done exactly what NASCAR said they wanted us to do. We tested at their races, at their designated tests, and had stood down from the other races feeling that NASCAR was going to take a position that the folks who were doing that shouldn't. At the 12th hour, they stood back from it and said, Okay, you guys just do what you want. At that time I held my guys down and we were behind.
But the fact that we had a good, deep, strong organization, the guys were highly motivated, didn't all quit on me, didn't have a bad attitude about it, we all just suited up and did what we could. We couldn't do what we'd done in the past, couldn't correct that, but we had all the future to deal with. From about the 1st of May when we suited up, went on the market to find some tires other than Goodyear tires, went to the racetracks that weren't on NASCAR's schedule, we made a Herculean effort. I say that because I went to very few of those tests. The guys on their back went off and carried the load and caught up.
Q. How much testing were you expecting to have last year?
JACK ROUSH: We tested every week last year, in Iowa or Tennessee or Kentucky or Virginia, just wherever we thought -- went to Wisconsin for a test. Wherever we thought would be the racetrack that would be most appropriate or give us the best idea of what we were going to face with the upcoming Car of Tomorrow races. We went after the road racing thing first. By the time we went to Sears Point, we had a pretty good road racecar out of the Car of Tomorrow. That was the first effort, to make sure that we didn't get beat up there as bad as we might. From that point on, it just got better and better.
Q. Bob, how much sleep did your crew get? How difficult is this turnaround?
BOB OSBORNE: The crew got seven hours of sleep. We got around here right around midnight I think was the time frame. Everybody woke up around 7, got back here about 8. You know, you want to try to have the best preparation possible every time you come to the racetrack. That means sleep. Seven hours of sleep for some people is good enough. But for an athlete, you'd like to see him have eight, nine, ten hours of sleep the night before an event.
It wasn't the optimum, but it's what we have to deal with sometimes in the situations we get at the racetrack. It's about the guys who step up the most and survive and endure. My guys and Jack's guys and all the guys in the Roush program did a great job with that. Killer bees struck again. They had great pit stops. We had good pit stops. We have a lot of young guys. For the situation they were in this weekend, some of them experienced that for the first time. I was proud to see that they didn't crumble under pressure.
Q. Jack, given all the hype that Hendrick's team has received coming into this year, does it almost feel funny to be almost considered an underdog?
JACK ROUSH: Well, I suppose. Right before the race started in Daytona, I was besieged for 10 days down there with people that had questions like yours. How was I going to deal with Hendrick's domination? What was going to happen? I felt that I had five really good cars for Daytona. I told them, I will tell you the same thing: Just watch. Write the future not based on the past but on what happens at the time.
We don't feel we're underdogs by any means. As Bob said, some of our pit crew circumstances are not as good as we'd like for it to be. We're working with that. We're working to improve the diets, we're working to select people. It has not been our primary goal to select our pit crew based on being the absolute best athlete. It's a combination of athletics and mechanical skills and motivation.
We have not decided we're going to have one group of people pit the cars, different set of genes and interests than the people that work on the cars. I would like to have a scenario that the people that pit the cars, when they get to the point that they're no longer physically able to do the arduous job on pit road, then they've got skills that let them be involved in other ways. I haven't decided that won't work yet, but some days that has not given us the absolute best pit stops with the most able people based on their experience level and the focus that they've had.
But the jury is still out on that. We're still working with that. The 17, you know, certainly had competitive pit stops almost all the time looking at the last three or four years. We just have to bring our other programs up to that level, which we believe we can.
Q. Bob, I'm wondering if the fact that the race was ended in daylight, sunshine we haven't seen all weekend long, if that helped you at all.
BOB OSBORNE: Yes, it was a benefit to our race package. With not having a lot of practice this weekend, all the practice that we did have was under cloud cover for the most part, we really had to fall back on our test notes and make decisions based from our tests, which was all in the sun. We really didn't intend to race yesterday at all. I was surprised when we got on track based on the weather forecast on Saturday when we had to make all of our decisions.
I was planning on racing today really in the sun and in the heat, a little bit more heat than yesterday. I was happy to see that the car performed fairly well last night, though, in the cloud cover. But, you're right, I believe it performed better today than it did yesterday.
Q. Jack, you're talking about how you obviously have caught up with the new car. At this point what is your opinion of the new car? How do you like it as a racecar?
JACK ROUSH: Well, I like racing the Car of Tomorrow better than I liked racing two different kinds of configured cars as we had last year. The Car of Tomorrow has got much less room development-wise and configuration-wise. Some drivers don't mind the car being loose in, some drivers have a preference for a car to be loose off, and some won't abide those characteristics. It's going to define a much narrower group of drivers that will drive these cars that are very much like IROC kind of cars where you can't change them enough to suit the individual preference of drivers.
Not everybody is going to be able to drive these cars. That's going to be a frustration for some of the senior people around when they're not able to do what they've been doing. But it's going to have a very limiting effect on the success that the rookies have coming in.
For my part, I'll race a three-legged dog if that's what the rules required - if I could find one that would go along with the joke.
Q. Jack, you mentioned the role that Robbie Reiser is playing. There's a report this weekend that maybe he was still trying to get comfortable in his position as team manager. Does he seem happy in that role?
JACK ROUSH: Robbie Reiser is doing a great job. He was a great crew chief. His father John Reiser and his mother operated a successful trailer-building business in Wisconsin. He comes from good, solid, business-minded stock. He was a competitive-minded driver as well as a crew chief.
He's not yet got comfortable with his new job. One of the things that happens is between the driver and let's say me, there's a crew chief like Bob. Bob would intercede for the driver. By the same token, the driver will intercede with the crew chief if things aren't as they might be on a given day.
But right now it's Robbie and I. There's no buffer. Some days I think that may be not as comfortable for him as what he had. But he's got a much more complex job now and he's much less in control and more reliant on others to effect and to implement his policy and his strategies. So he's less out of control than he was. That's the role of management, to be effective through the actions of others. Through that you have to be politically minded and work in social ways, settings that sometimes you don't have to if you're a driver or crew chief. You can be more single-minded, more focused on what you're doing.
He's got a big job. He's done a good job at it. If he had a choice today between going back and being a crew chief or being a manager, he'd probably go back, but we're not going to give him that choice.
Q. You said Carl is approaching his top level. What areas could he improve?
JACK ROUSH: That's a loaded question. You know, when you look at what Matt Kenseth does in terms of the way he recovers from adversity, you look at the way Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, the way they overcome or recovery from adversity, that takes experience, it takes maturity, it takes time for a driver to really have experienced all the things that go wrong and decide how he's going to deal with the excruciating frustration that goes with the disparity between his expectation and his goals.
Carl has had enough frustration. He's certainly been focused on it, been applying himself to it. But I hope that he's had enough things go wrong that he's now got in his mindset, you know, what all his various strategies will be that he will not have miss-steps that he'll regret. I think we're to that point, but we'll see.
Q. Jack, this was two races, yesterday and today. Today's race was a pretty darn exciting race. Would you like to see shorter races in some cases?
JACK ROUSH: Absolutely not. You know, as Carl commented, I like to race or to compete with the durability of the car, to be able to have varying weather circumstances and have the car be adjustable, the crew chief and the engineers behind it, the mechanics, to be able to anticipate the various scenarios, have those in the can, be able to react when the time comes. I especially like racing around the clock. The 24-hour races were the most exciting thing for me in my career because there you were able to deal with everybody's physiology, the diets, all the rhythms that go through that. You can't keep your adrenaline up for 24 hours. You got to do it based on strategy and just being really hard-headed and focused.
Those things are a factor in these races, even the shorter races. But the more things that we can do to help the driver to really race with the team and for the crew chief to be able to face off against others for his strategy, the better I like it. The more complex it is, the more fun it is for me.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations. Great win out there today.
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