Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, enters the Air Guard 400 as one of the hottest drivers in the field, fresh off a second place finish last weekend in Atlanta and his seventh top-10 in the last eight races. Edwards, who has already clinched a spot in the Chase, talked with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway.
HOW DID YOUR CARL FEEL OUT THERE IN THE FIRST PRACTICE? “It didn’t feel that good, but we were still really fast, so I think it is going to be a pretty grueling race tomorrow night. I think it is going to be a race a lot like the spring race where everyone is struggling to find grip and the cars will be moving around a lot. Our Cheeze-It Fusion was really good and our Copart Mustang was really good for tonight too. This is a fun weekend because we are locked in and we can go race really hard and race for a win and those 10 bonus points. It is going to be fun and a pretty relaxing weekend for me.” CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MOMENTUM YOUR TEAM HAS GENERATED RECENTLY AND WHAT IMPORTANCE YOU PLACE ON MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE CHASE? “Like I said last weekend and the week before that, I used to just laugh at people that talked about momentum because I didn’t believe there was momentum in this sport. I thought you just had what you had at the race track. Lately though we have been building this momentum and it has been working and I am enjoying it. The previous eight or nine races have been really good and if we can make the next 11 of them as good as the previous nine, then I think we are going to be really good. When we sit down and look at the schedule like we did yesterday and look at the Chase races to get our plan of approach at those races, we feel like we have a car that can win every one of those races. That is a far cry from where we were six months ago. I am really proud of my guys and if that is momentum, then I am enjoying it and all for it. Hopefully we can keep riding it.” HOW HAS MOMENTUM AFFECTED YOUR TEAM? “I think when you run poorly for so long, and now that we are running well I see things that I maybe didn’t see before when things were a little easier. I can see the spring in the guys’ steps and communication between team members being better. I think all of those things combine to really make you run better. That is the part of momentum maybe I didn’t understand before. We will see if it works. We could start the Chase and run terribly and then I will be right back to where I was before, but I think we will be pretty good.” YOU WILL HAVE TWO TEAMMATES IN THE CHASE WITH YOU. HOW DO YOU BALANCE BEING A TEAMMATE AND RACING IN THE CHASE? “It all depends on the way everybody is performing. If we are all performing very well, then it could get pretty tense toward the end. You might not share as much information if the guy you are racing for the championship is in the same shop as you. I think right up until that point it is advantageous to have guys that are in the Chase that are working just as hard for the same goals. I feel that we’ve kind of built this bond in the trenches over the last year or so that I feel are working very well. I don’t see why that wouldn’t continue. The last lap at Homestead could be different, but I think up until then it will be advantageous to have our guys running well.” DO YOU FEEL THE’HAVE AT IT’ MENTALITY WILL CONTINUE IN THE CHASE AND DO YOU WORRY ABOUT DRIVERS PAYING EACH OTHER BACK AND CAUSING HAVOK? “Who knows? It has been so wild this year and each race is so different. You just never know. I think that the wild thing about this Chase is that there are really 14 guys that could win the championship in this garage. I can’t pick a favorite as a fan looking at it and I don’t think you can say which rivalries are going to build. I think this is going to be the best Chase we have ever had.”
YOUR MIND AS YOU LOOK AHEAD TO THE NEXT 10 WEEKS? “For me the big unknown is Charlotte. Obviously Talladega and Martinsville are going to be one and two on the bottle necks. Those are races you have to make it through. For my team I think it is Charlotte. We have run really well there and we have run really terribly there. As a group I hope we can go there and figure that place out and have a good race there. I feel the way we’ve run at Dover and the way Kasey and AJ ran at New Hampshire and the way our mile-and-a-half program has been, that we are set to run really well. Even though Charlotte is a mile-and-a-half, it is just different.” CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT YOU HAD ONLY LED SIX LAPS OF THE FIRST 24 RACES, HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO LEAD 32 LAPS IN ATLANTA LAST WEEK? “That felt good. We talked after the race and you guys know how much fun I had. If we have a car like that every week we will lead laps and win races. I think I said last week that the fact that we haven’t led that many laps but have run this well in the points just shows the determination and the experience level that our team has built. If we have cars that can run like we ran in Atlanta, it kind of makes things easy. When you have cars that you can’t lead races with then it takes really good decisions by the crew chief and really good pit stops and good decisions by the driver to build as many points as we have built. I don’t know if I am explaining it well, but it is like while you are not that good, you can build everything else up. If we can have cars like that, we are ready to do some serious good things on the race track.” SEVERAL DRIVERS HAVE STATED THAT THERE SEEM TO BE SIX OR SEVEN GUYS THAT COULD WIN THIS THING. WE AREN’T HEARING ABOUT THE 48 BEING SO DOMINANT. ARE THEY MORE CATCHABLE THIS YEAR? “You just never know about those guys. There was one of the championships that he won, I don’t remember which one, where I sat there at the banquet and told him how at one point I felt sorry for him and bad for how bad his year was going, then he goes and wins the championship. You guys know how those guys perform and what they are capable of. I do believe that the gaps between teams have narrowed up and it is really anybody’s championship. I believe more than ever, this championship will be defined by bad days. There will be a number of teams that run very well and the difference between them and the other teams will be bad days. It might not be how many races you win or how well you run.” IF THIS DOES TURN OUT TO BE THE BEST CHASE YET, DO YOU THINK THAT WILL INFLUENCE IF THERE ARE CHANGES TO THE CHASE FOR THE FUTURE AND WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON POSSIBLE CHANGES? “I think that if we can go out and have a battle like it looks like we are going to have, then I think you are exactly right. I think it will make a difference to if we change it. I think NASCAR is in a tough position PR wise to change it now. If they don’t change it right away then it looks like it is a reaction to something that may happen this Chase, which I don’t think they would do anyway. My opinion is that you should just take the points and the rules and lock it in stone for a certain number of years. That repeated longevity of a system will lend credibility to it. If you keep changing it, it is hard to believe that this is the champion and deserves to be champion. Whatever it is they are going to do, do it and keep it that way for a long time. I think this is good.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED … CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE INTENSITY YOU FEEL OUT THERE AND IF YOU ARE FEELING IT EARLIER IN RACES LATELY? “I don’t know if you guys can see that every race or not. There is a point in each race where a switch flips and everybody just goes all or nothing. The first time I felt that was in 2005 was the last restart of that race in Atlanta. I started in the lead and Jimmie was on the outside and blew by me on the first corner. He was driving at a whole different level. It is pretty amazing that all the guys in the field can do that, really every week, especially if you have a late restart. I don’t know if it is getting earlier in the race, but it is amazing in the driver’s seat. When they throw the green down, you have to go really hard to keep up.” DOES ONE GUY START THAT OR IS IT JUST SOMETHING EVERYONE SENSES? HOW DOES IT GET STARTED? “Sometime s if you have multiple restarts you will have one guy go ballistic down into the corner and move everyone out of the way and you will see like little light bulbs over everybody’s cockpit and they will say ‘Oh, lets race like that.’ A lot of times it is just that you get a sense that this might be the last restart and let’s just go for it. At a place like Richmond, that is going to happen easier and combine that with the fact that so many guys have nothing to lose tomorrow night, it is going to be a pretty wild race. SOME OF THE DRIVERS HAVE INDICATED THEY PICKED UP STUFF FROM PRACTICE WITH THE NEW NATIONWIDE CAR THAT THEY CAN CARRY OVER TO THE CUP CAR. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY AND DOES IT GIVE THOSE GUYS A LEG UP? “With the size of this track, you drive the cars more similarly than you would at a bigger race track. That combined with the style of car being so close, I think you can pick up a little bit. It is still a different front end and huge horsepower difference. This track is so line sensitive that it has always helped me to run the Nationwide race the night before. I don’t think it will be a big difference than years past.”