NASCAR Preseason Thunder Testing
January 9, 2014
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Carl, what's it like to be here at the World Center of Racing? We're getting ready for the 56th running of the Daytona 500, what's it feel like?
CARL EDWARDS: I'm sad that it's raining. I was really excited to come here. I'm more excited about testing here at Daytona than I have been for a long time. It's been a cold, boring winter for me in Missouri. So the idea of coming to Florida and driving a race car sounds really good.
THE MODERATOR: So you're the one that brought the rain?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, don't lay it on me. I hope it doesn't rain for two days. I don't know what the forecast is for tomorrow, but would definitely like to get on the racetrack.
Q. I'll ask you the same question I asked Kyle as far as coming. It's a long season for you guys. Is there any special time of the year that you like better than others? Is there any time that kind of gives you more energy?
CARL EDWARDS: You guys know how it is. The start of the season there's always a lot of energy. The Daytona 500 is huge. That day is probably one of the most energy filled days in all of Motorsports. Then the end of the season it can get really exciting, but I don't know. The whole year there are times where it just depends on how you run. There are times it feels like a real grind and then there are times when you literally can't wait to get to the racetrack to go race again. I think it depends on how you're running at the time.
But some events, the Indy 500, Brickyard 400, Kansas for me, Homestead when you're in the Chase and you've got a shot at it, all those times are real high points of the season.
Q. Carl, Brian France talked again this week about possible major changes in competition and points and trying to make guys run harder for wins, that sort of thing. What do you anticipate happening and what is your reaction? Do you feel like drivers can be tossed incentives to make them run harder and try at the front more?
CARL EDWARDS: That's interesting. I actually got a phone call one time from a promoter after a race and he asked me. What could I do, how much money could I offer to make guys race harder, because it was a race that didn't end very dramatically. I tried to explain to him that all of us race to win. That is the whole point. That is why we started racing.
We didn't‑‑ I race just as hard in my little four cylinder modified car as I race now. I think it's $40 to win or something in those races. It doesn't matter. The money is not important. It's not about incentives like that. It's just we're trying to win.
So whatever format they come up with, there will only be two things on each driver's mind, that is to win the race and to win the championship, and that's it. So we're racing as hard as we can.
Q. Can sometimes those things be mutually exclusive in a way?
CARL EDWARDS: They can be, and I think they should be. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm off base and this is not what everyone else thinks. But to me the championship is a different‑‑ it's a different goal, a different prize than winning the race. Throughout my career as both a fan and a driver, I've looked at those two things.
You watch a race, and there is a race and what happens in the race and who wins and that battle for that trophy, but there are also the‑‑ there are the championship implications behind that. That's an exciting battle in itself.
I don't know. I don't know how you make it perfect all the time. I don't know you can make every race as important as the final lap of the final race for the championship. But I can tell you this: Every driver out there, you know, we don't have to get motivated to go try to win that race. If anything, you have to sometimes not be too motivated so you don't ruin your championship hopes. I think it's a battle, but everyone's doing the best they can.
I guess to put it simply, I don't think there is any incentive you can throw out there that's going to make people go put on a better race. I'm not certain of that. I feel we're all racing pretty hard.
Q. How much testing do you expect to have over the next couple months in the non‑plate package? What are your impressions of the rules they set a few weeks ago?
CARL EDWARDS: I hope we can have as much testing, literally, as much as we can do is what we'll do. I spoke at length with Gene Stefanyshyn and the folks during that test. We've had a little bit of correspondence afterwards. I think a lot of folks said the way that they did that test was perfect. I think all of us, including NASCAR are curious to expand the envelope a little bit and try some different parameters farther outside the box. Whether it's much softer tires or much less downforce, things like that. I think that could be something we see in the future. But the process was really impressive the way that NASCAR tested those things. I believe of the three things we tested, basically three packages, I think they chose the best one in my opinion.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Roush Racing did over the off‑season to try to put you in a better position for 2014, you and Biffle and even Stenhouse? Obviously, Stenhouse went through a crew chief change which should help him get up to speed. But mechanically speaking, what have you guys done?
CARL EDWARDS: We've got Robbie Reiser working about 25 hours a day, which is good. We just sat and talked for the last hour, hour‑and‑a‑half about the state of Roush Fenway, what we're working on. And I think just that in itself is huge for Robbie to sit down in a room with Greg and Ricky and myself Bill Gates, Jack Roush. We've communicated better than we ever have. But I think for us as a company, the simple way as a company is we feel like we have the best people. We feel like we have the best manufacturer support behind us. We believe we have drivers, including myself, that are as good as anybody in the garage that we can compete. We have to put all of that together and we have to have a really strong leader like Robbie Reiser to put all of it together and see the results that we think we should have.
So that's what we've been working on without going into details. If we can be a stronger team and greater than the sum of our individual parts, I think we'll be very good.
Q. Are there changes?
CARL EDWARDS: I asked Robbie about that last night. We flew down here together. He said the changes to the Ford specifically are negligible performance‑wise, so it shouldn't really make a difference. The big keys for us are the way we work together as a team.
Q. As far as turning points, I've asked other drivers this this morning, turning points in your career as far as the one thing that moved you to the biggest next level for you where you are, what would you say that was? Who gave you that break that got you noticed?
CARL EDWARDS: I had multiple spots where I think of as bottlenecks in my career. The goal for me was just to make a living driving a race car, and now it's different. I want to be the champion of the Sprint Cup Series more than anything in the world.
But I'd say the fact that Kenny Schrader gave me an opportunity to come down and see the sport, the professional side of NASCAR and what it could be, that was huge for me. I was 16, 17 years old, that was big. Him and Timmy did a lot for me. And the single largest opportunity I had was for Mike Mittler. The fact that he ran that NASCAR truck shop right out of his business in Foristell, Missouri up the road, it allowed me to go up there and basically beg him for four years to drive his truck, and that was huge.
Then the huge opportunity was when Kyle Busch left Roush Fenway and left that 99 truck seat there, and Max Jones and Jeff Smith and Jack decided to give me that opportunity. I felt like each one of those moments barely happened, and if they wouldn't have happened, I definitely wouldn't have the job I have today. So I'm more than grateful for all of that.
Q. You've always been, as far as I know, an advocate of taking downforce off the cars. It seems like with the new package what they've actually done is added a little bit of downforce on it. Do you think ultimately they may experiment with something that goes in the direction you'd like to see?
CARL EDWARDS: I think they will. That is the most exciting thing to me about the whole process. I'm not a very patient person, so it's difficult for me to say, hey, okay, we're going to go ahead and go down this road for a while.
But I think the coolest part of that test was the fact that a couple things. Number one, Brian France, Mike Helton, Darby, Stefanyshyn, all those guys are open to the fact that, hey, we can change these cars and make them better and make the racing better. That's good. They're really open and honest with us. More than I've ever seen. Share with us and listen to the drivers more, which might not be smart, but that's good.
Then the second thing is we got done with that test, and even though everyone didn't agree on everything, they said, hey, listen. Just give us a little time. We'll work with Goodyear, come up with another test plan. There are more things we can test down the road, and they're committed.
You can say what you like about NASCAR or the directions they go. But they are very committed to changing whatever it takes to be the best we can be. I've learned and seen that more lately than ever. That makes me excited.
For the record, I'd be all for chopping the spoilers completely off and wetting down the track, but that's me. They know that about me (laughing).
Q. How much affect do you get the feel that if we miss a whole day here today would make other than your hanging out without a lot to do, and when do you think you'll get an idea‑‑ are you said communication was great at Roush Fenway. You guys were not ahead of the game as much last year. When will you know or get an idea as to really where you're at?
CARL EDWARDS: That's tough. We talked a lot about that a little while ago. First of all, the testing to be honest, we're not going to miss much here. We have tons of practice before the race. We were going to go out and make single car runs for two days and try to find that last little bit of speed.
But I'll never forget the Nationwide race. I think it was at Talladega when Kyle Busch won with basically the fenders ripped off the car and the hood buckled. I remember making a mental note it's more about where you position yourself at the end and the shape of your race car.
So this is just kind of a fun time to get out and try some different things and prepare for qualifying.
On the second front, the second part of your question, we won't know where we stand until basically ten, 15 races into the season. Even then if you look at last year, we led the points after 26 and we fell on our faces in the Chase. So it's a constantly moving target that you can't ever really catch.
But we'll know if we've made improvements, and I think that will be evidenced by Ricky and Greg and I being able to lead laps and win races the first part of the season.
Q. Following up on what you said there about NASCAR executives being more committed to changing whatever it takes. Jimmie Johnson was in here earlier and saying format changes he thought were going to be the key going forward, not just points, but it sounds like other stuff could be a possibility. Are you in favor of that? Do you think that's where they're leaning or there are benefits to it?
CARL EDWARDS: I can't imagine Jimmie being in favor of any changes ever right now. No, they do a good job dealing with any changes. I don't know. I'm torn on the format. I can see from a very self‑centered standpoint, I think, the way our team is right now and the way everything is, I'd rather see if we made any change it would be to make the Chase longer or to put less emphasis on those last ten races. We're better on the whole throughout the whole season right now.
But I don't know. I think there is something to be said about the history of the sport and keeping things‑‑ not moving things too far away from where we came from as far as determining a champion. Then I also think that we have to be careful not to diminish the‑‑ I don't know what the term is, but not to‑‑ you don't want to take away the credibility of a format by simply changing it all the time. You wouldn't believe if a cop tries to pull you over and give you a ticket because the speed limit is different every day on the same road you drive, it's eventually like come on, man. But you've got to have the same measure of it year to year.
Now I think the idea of giving more points to wins and things like that, I like that idea. I think it's interesting. You don't want to change things all the time just to change. I don't know if I'm really answering your question, but I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions.
Q. In terms of the Gen‑6 car and the changes, what areas would you not like to see changed going down the road?
CARL EDWARDS: Personally, for me, I think the more horsepower we have the better. I think that the more opportunities that we have for people to fail in that they don't put RPM limits on the cars, they don't put camera rules on the cars. When you give people out there the opportunity to try too hard and to fail, I think it makes it a more exciting event and pays off for the people that have their act together. You don't want to child proof the cars so much that they're hard to spin out, that they're hard to wear the tires out. They're easy to drive. You don't want to make it so simple that everyone can run the same speed because I think that that kind of just dulls the competition a little bit.
That is my input, and that's what I've told Gene and the folks at NASCAR, and I may or may not be right. I don't know who would agree with me or who wouldn't, but that's how I feel about it.
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