NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
January 16, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
HERB BRANHAM: Joined by last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup series runner up, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, Carl Edwards. Daytona 500 is upcoming, new season, what's the outlook for you coming in?
CARL EDWARDS: I hope it's going to -- we're going to pick up right where we left off. Jeff Burton was talking earlier, and he reminded me that nobody really knows where they stack upright now because we haven't been to an organized test. So with that in mind, it's a little bit nerve-wracking just wondering how we're going to unload there at California.
I think we have a lot to look forward to. Our team finished really strong, and I feel like we made some changes in the off-season that are going to be positive ones on the crew, some additions that are going to be great. I just hope I'm sitting up here after the race on Sunday.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did in the off-season getting married and going to Thailand and things like that?
CARL EDWARDS: It's been a great off-season so far. It's been great to see Dave in here, and he wrote a really neat piece on NASCAR.com about our trip to London and Thailand. We got married, to Kate, just a great day. We had a ton of people show up and really had a good time. It was just wild.
So yeah, London to Bangkok, back to America to the United States and then getting married and having a little bit of relax and be at home, it's been a great off-season for me.
Q. How do you think that that will change you, if it will change you as a driver? Does having that security now in that part of your life, does that calm you down, put some sort of peace in your mind where you can go out and be more effective and do whatever you do differently? Do you think that will change at all?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the way you said it, that's real close to how I feel about it. You know, it's a different feeling than I expected. I mean, for me, first time I've ever been married, hopefully the only time, but it's just a neat feeling and different than I expected. Just having someone like Kate to be there and really be my partner, in a way I really hope and I believe that it's going to be something that kind of grounds me and gives me a constant in my life and makes me a better race car driver or able to do my job better, focus more. I think it's going to be great.
Q. Does not testing increase your excitement level coming to Daytona just to see how you really do stack up against everyone? Play oddsmaker, and how do you pitch the championship here? Who's got the best odds and who's the competition going to be?
CARL EDWARDS: Man, that's tough. I don't know, even after the first eight or ten races you can say how it's going to do. I think we saw that with Jimmie last year. I think that the season is long enough and the teams are good enough, and the margins between the guys that are winning and the guys that are struggling is so small now that a lot can change. I'd have to say that -- I mean, Jimmie is going to be great, I'm sure. I think Jeff Gordon, I'll guarantee you, they're going to be fast. I can tell. They're hungry, and the guys that are doing it right there next to them, they're going to be fast.
I think that the 18 guys and Kyle, the only reason they didn't go out and win 12 or 14 races or whatever is because of bad luck, so they're going to be tough. And hopefully we're right there with them. But I do believe that it's hard right now to say 10 months from now or whatever who's going to be in it because this thing is just unpredictable.
I was thinking about it when we were sitting up there, Jeff Burton was leading the points for I don't know how long in the season, and he could be the guy to beat in the Chase. I mean, it's up in the air to me. That's a good question. I mean, it's tough.
Q. It's hard to imagine your team being much stronger than it was at the end of last year, but you said you've added a couple people.
CARL EDWARDS: Right. Yeah, one person in particular -- sorry, go ahead and finish.
Pierre Kuettel is going to be the car chief on the 99. Jason Myers was the car chief.
He's, I think, a really good example of guys really rallying for the team. Pierre came out and we won a championship in the Nationwide series together, and then Drew became my crew chief, P.K. looked at his options and said, hey, I'd like to be the car chief. When it was offered to him, he said, hey, I'll do that, I'll be the car chief on the Cup car again. We had so much success with P.K. on that team in 2005, I think having him come back and do this job is going to be a huge addition. At the same time we didn't lose Jason Myers. He's going to stay there, and I think for two guys to do that and make moves in a sport that from the outside would appear like downward moves so that we can go achieve a championship in the Cup Series, I'm so proud of those guys, so I'm so excited about it. I feel like we're right back where we were in 2005 except we gained a championship level crew chief to car chief on my Cup car, and that's cool.
Q. Do you marvel a little bit at Mark Martin coming back full time with a pretty good team and a good shot?
CARL EDWARDS: I think we all marvel at Mark Martin all the time. He's like the fountain of youth. He's tough and driven and competitive. He's found the fountain of youth I guess is what I'm trying to say. You know, we tested at Vegas and Mark was there. I mean, here I am, I'd go off and I'd run a blistering fast lap, one that felt really good, and they'd tell me, yeah, Mark was about a half a tenth faster, so you've got to go out and suck it up and try to run a faster one. I mean, that's Mark Martin.
I was talking to Matt Crossman or somebody about it the other day, and I said I think that with the Chase the way it is and the level of equipment that Mark is going to be in, I mean, if you put him in that Chase with ten races to go, it's going to be tough to -- you're going to have to beat Mark Martin to win the championship.
Q. Having worked withdrew for a half a season and been to successful in the Nationwide series, what kind of impact do you think he's going to have on the 17 team?
CARL EDWARDS: There's another example of Chip saying, hey, whatever we've got to do to make this team better and welcoming Drew into the fold to be the crew chief on that car, I think that's great teamwork. I should have written it down somewhere, but I knew as soon as Drew and I started winning races and the history Matt and him had together I knew this was an option in the future. When they called me up at that same tire test in Vegas and said, hey, what do you think about this, I kind of had to laugh at Robbie a little bit. I said, man, I knew this was going to happen. Drew is so good that that's where he belongs, and I think he's going to have a lot of success there. I truly believe it. I didn't know Drew when we made the change and P.K. went on to crew chief the 17 and we kind of switched them. I thought, man, I don't know what I'm getting into here. I didn't know Drew and I didn't know anything about him, but I learned he's one of the smartest, best problem solvers that I've ever been around, so he's going to be successful.
Q. You mentioned hungry competitors. Do you feel coming to close to winning a Cup championship, does that make you and your team hungrier this year?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, you could say that. It's a huge understatement, man. The only good thing about the finish of last season -- the best thing about it, and the thing that made it palatable was winning those last two races, winning the Nationwide race and winning the Cup race. It's no fun to watch somebody celebrate the championship when you're second, but it was a little easier from victory lane.
I know that we finished strong enough, and yes, it is motivating to have finished so close.
Q. Do you think it's possible to plan out a season-long strategy so that you peak just at the right time of the Chase to win a championship, or is that just something that has to happen as it goes along?
CARL EDWARDS: I know I could do it from a driving perspective. I think it's really tough to do team-wide. If there's a guy that can do it it's Bob Osborne. He's really, really intelligent. But I think it's really difficult. I think there's so many variables in this sport, and everyone tries -- even myself, I do it and the media does it, everyone does it. You try to simplify things and say, oh, here's this pattern and here's where they peaked and here's where they didn't. It can just be a couple little things that go wrong, a tire failure or ignition box or a wreck or something like that that can kind of make it seem like the wave is going a certain way. But I think as a team you can plan in a way to be the best at a certain time, to structure your contracts, and that's where somebody like Robbie Riser is so great because he kind of structures the hiring, the training, the building of the cars, all those kinds of things, so that your workload and your stress level is at the minimum wind when your performance has to be the best.
There's a lot to it. I'm not a team manager. I know as a driver I can kind of in my head plan it out, but it's really hard for the team guys to do it.
Q. We all know jack's attention to detail. Has he sat down with you and said, okay, let's go over last season, A, B, C, all the way through Z, here's what you did right, here's what you did wrong? And conversely has he sat down with you yet and said, okay, here's how we're going to approach this season?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a really good question. No, he hasn't. But trust me, we covered the things we did right and wrong right after I did them. Jack and I have a great relationship in that he knows that I'm just as driven and determined as anyone, and I know the same thing about him. It's almost one of those things where now we don't even have to talk about it. When something happens, we know. But if he thinks I don't know, he goes ahead and pulls me in and explains to me, and that's his job. You know, he's a good manager.
But I know personally I've run over things in my mind I don't know how many times, and I feel confident that the things that I did wrong last season I can learn from them, and that's one of the things jack has always told me is, look, it's not that big of a deal as long as you learn from it and you don't make the same mistake over and over, then you'll be better and better. I think on that front we'll be good.
Q. Thinking back to when you were a rookie, for a guy like Joey Logano, how much is the testing ban going to hurt him, and are you glad in this economic condition, are you glad you're not a rookie?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, it's always been tough, I think, to get to this level as a driver. There's only 43 cars that start. I mean, that's an elite group. When I was running the Truck Series and winning in the Truck Series, I still thought, man, I don't know how I'm ever going to get the chance to race in a Cup car.
I think when I go back to 2004 when I first started running in the Cup car, we had those 14 races, we tested all the time. That really, I think, helped me. It definitely didn't hurt me. So I do think it's tougher on these guys.
I think it gets tougher on the guys coming in all the time. You guys are all so good at covering everything that when a guy comes in, he just by default, or by the nature of this thing, has this giant amount of pressure on him, and I think a guy like Joey Logano never -- I personally haven't seen a guy come in that could have that much pressure, any more pressure than him. I think it will be tough for him because of the testing thing, but I'm almost certain there's still enough loop holes in the testing deal where they can go test places. I think Joey has the experience level and the maturity to be able to deal with it. But it would have been harder for me.
Q. Could you go into a little bit more detail on P.K.'s move? Somebody asked me the other week what happened with the Nationwide team. I really didn't have a good answer for them. He had great success with Jeff Burton's team at Roush in the '90s.
CARL EDWARDS: Right. I don't want to speak for P.K. I'm not the one who -- it's jack's deal is what I'm saying. But I don't want to speak for P.K. but the way I saw that deal happen is P.K. was the car chief on the 99. He was probably the best car chief in the garage. He had been doing it for a long time. We went out and won a bunch of races in 2005. Brad Parrott was moved from my car, and Jack said, okay, P.K. is the guy to be the crew chief. He deserves it, he's been here long enough, and that's what he needs to do. So P.K. got thrown in this position where he was like, okay, now I'm a crew chief. He did a great job. We went out and won a championship and I don't know how many races.
Then in 2008 -- so that was '06 and '07. In '06 we won the championship, then in 2007 we were struggling a little bit, and same thing, Jack just said -- we all sat down and said, hey, we're going to make this change. We've got a team that can still win the championship. Drew came over because they were having great success, P.K. went and chew chiefed the 17, was on a more part-time schedule, and it ended up being great for us, and P.K. picked up his game quite a bit. They almost won at Gateway and Jaime had some sort of trouble, and they almost won at some other tracks. If I understand correctly there was not a full time crew-chiefing job for P.K., this was offered to him, and I'm assuming he could have gone anywhere else and crew chiefed for anyone else anywhere in the garage, but he came back and did this car-chiefing thing again.
I'm sure he's probably better now, and I will bet you that probably his job is not too secure with me because if another crew-chiefing job he's probably at the top of the list to go somewhere else in the organization, but for now we've got him and I'm really happy about it.
Q. Just wondering about Jason Myers. You said he was still going to be on the team; in what capacity?
CARL EDWARDS: Jason Myers is the car chief, and I'm not sure what his title is now, but I'm assuming he will be the lead mechanic, I guess, or -- I mean, he was a car chief for nine wins this year, and he's really good, so I'm assuming it will just be him and P.K. being a team together. They worked together for years, even before I was there they had worked together. To me, often, I think about, hey, we were so good in 2005, we started off so strong. If we just had those same guys, how good would we be now, and we're kind of going back towards that, and for me I think that's really good.
Q. A couple more Nationwide questions. It looks like sort of you and Kyle are going to battle for the championship this year. You seem to be the two leading contenders. You guys have a little bit of a history. Can you just talk about the rivalry, and will it spill over into Cup at all if you guys do some Nationwide stuff?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think it's going to be fun. The way those guys ran in the Nationwide series, I just hope we can compete well enough to have a good rivalry. We went testing the other day with a Nationwide car, and I got to meet Dan Stillman, and it was cool, the guy came -- we were at Rockingham and the guy came over with the clipboard to check in, and he walked up while I was changing, and I was like, man, this might be Dan. I didn't know if it was Dan or not, but it was the dude that worked at the track. Then I finally did find Dan and got to meet him. I'm real excited about it. He's really good. He made a couple changes on the team, which was a little crazy because I planned on going into the season with Drew. We had won seven races, three out of the last four, I guess, so I'm curious to see how well we run. I think it's going to be really good, and like I said, I hope we can run well enough to have a good rivalry with Kyle.
I think that's the best thing in the world for the Nationwide series would be for a few guys to go out and have a really good battle like Clint and I did at the end of the year. I thought that was pretty cool.
Q. And about the crew chief change, how big of a fight did you put up to kind of keep Drew, or was that sort of, to you, that was going to happen?
CARL EDWARDS: No, it was really cool. I've had the deal where it was told to me it was going to happen like with Bob Osborne in 2006. But this was cool. Robbie called me up and said, I want to run something by you, here's what we're thinking about it, what do you think? And I was for it. They said if they could get a guy of Dan Stillman's experience level and that Drew, Matt and Chip and those guys really felt like Drew could help that program, then maybe it's a move where everyone benefits. They did give me the option. They said, if you don't want to do this, we won't do it. But you can't hold a guy like Drew back. He's really good. If Matt and him go and win a bunch of races together, that helps the whole organization. So I think it'll be good.
HERB BRANHAM: Carl Edwards, thank you very much. Good luck in the 500.
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