Ford Martinsville Friday Advance (Edwards)

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings with four races remaining. He addressed this weekend’s challenge at Martinsville Speedway Friday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING IN HERE AS THE POINTS LEADER? “We hope to have a good run here. We’re leaning on Matt Kenseth’s success here from the last race and how well he ran, and I feel that we’ve got a good car, but you never know. This place has been a really tough race track for me and for our team, but we have had some really good runs here, and Matt’s good run in the spring is really what gives us the confidence we have here, and, hopefully, we can go run well and keep this points lead or extend it moving forward toward some tracks that we’re really confident about.”

IS THERE EVER A TEMPTATION TO WITHHOLD INFORMATION FROM A TEAMMATE, ESPECIALLY DURING A TITLE RUN LIKE THIS? “I’d say there’s always that temptation in competition. As much as we share and as good a relationship we have, we are competitors and we want to beat that 17 team just as bad as anyone else, but we’re not to the point in the season yet where we can really divide and go race one another. We still have to help one another and we can still gain more by helping one another now and trying to succeed based on that help, so, right now, we’re working as a team even this weekend. If we can work together and help each other, really all the way up to the race, I think it’s better for both of us.”
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WHAT’S YOUR FRAME OF MIND COMING TO THIS TRACK? “My first couple of times here went really well. In the Truck Series we sat on the pole, had great races and have had a couple of races here in the Cup Series where I thought, ‘Yeah, okay cool, this is not so bad, everything is good,’ but more often we’ve come here and struggled. It’s been one of those tracks to me that I come to and I guess for the last few races I’ve come to it dreading it a little bit, but now I come to it just realizing, ‘Hey, I’ve got my work cut out for me. I have to perform well. I have to go out here and give everything I’ve got,’ and, to me, to come out of here with a top 10 would be a success. So I don’t dread it as much anymore as now I just look at it as, ‘Hey, this is going to be a challenge.’ The great thing is having those 14 points. If we would have come in here tied with like the 29 team or Jimmie or somebody like that, I’d be really nervous because I’d say they had an advantage. I’d say they could do more damage to us in that situation, but having a little bit of a cushion based on our good fortune last week, I just look at it as a challenge. But I need to run well, so I can come back here with a little confidence, instead of just coming here realizing I’ve got a battle.”

ANY REASON WHY YOU STRUGGLE HERE? “I don’t mind driving here. I think part of my problem here maybe is the way that I practice and the way that I want my car to feel in practice because it just seems like we start the race and I always struggle in the race. A lot of times we finish practice and we go, ‘Okay, we’re not that bad. Everything is gonna work,’ and then it just turns into 500 laps of really, really tough work. I think in 2008 we came here to this race and finished either third or fourth and that was a spectacular run for us, and then last year in the spring we had a great run going and got a flat tire, so we’ve had some flashes where I thought, ‘Okay, it’s all working out,’ but most of the time I feel like it’s a pretty big job to run well – a pretty tough job to do it.”

IT SEEMS THAT WHAT TREVOR DID LAST WEEK WAS NATURAL AND THE POSITION HE WAS IN WAS PRETTY DEFENSIBLE. DO YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH WHAT HE WENT THROUGH? “Yeah, definitely I do. Trevor, I’ve not met a more quality individual in this sport than Trevor. He’s a good person and I think he just had to make a split-decision out there on the race track and I still think he made the right decision. I believe he did. I believe you have to go help a teammate when you can. I think he just got put in a tough position making a deal with Jeff and then having to abandon it and maybe he wasn’t able to deal with Jeff’s frustration as well as a veteran guy could, but that’s just all part of the learning process. I think he’ll be just fine. I believe he and Jeff talked about it. Trevor is just a good guy. He was just frustrated because he got put in a position where he had people mad at him for things that maybe he couldn’t have done any other way.”

HAD HE NOT OVERREACTED THINGS WOULD HAVE BEEN A LOT DIFFERENT, RIGHT? “Yeah. If none of us ever overreacted in the heat of the moment it would be a boring sport, I guess. That’s one of the hardest things to do, especially as a young guy when you feel like you make even a small mistake. It feels like the weight of all of you guys and the fans and the competitors is on you, it’s really hard to not jump back and be extremely defensive. I think that’s perfectly normal in my opinion at least.”

WHAT STRESS COMES WITH HAVING TO DEFEND YOUR POINT LEAD THAT MAYBE YOU HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED BEFORE? “It’s pretty blissful for me right now. It’s nice. I’ve been doing this just long enough now to realize how great any advantage is. Early on I think maybe even in 2008, I felt that being in the points lead had some sort of pressure, it was an unfamiliar feeling, but especially this season we’ve led the points for a number of races. I have a comfort level with that and this week in particular, this week has been a relief to have this points advantage. It doesn’t bother me anymore to lead the points. It doesn’t add stress to me personally, it’s just a cushion and part of that comes from realizing how quickly it can go away. It can be gone this weekend, so I’ll take all the points I can.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE CHASING THE POINTS LEADER VERSUS BEING THE POINTS LEADER? “First of all, I’m more grateful for the opportunity to be up here racing for the championship than anything else. I’m grateful to be in this position and to have a shot at it. Last year, I don’t remember where we were for this particular race, but we were far enough out that I knew we didn’t have a shot at it and it was kind of frustrating because I knew we could run well enough, we were just starting to ramp everything up. If it were a four-race Chase or something like that, we would have been right there in the thick of it, but I guess it was frustrating because I felt like we were kind of spinning our wheels there because no matter how well we ran the last few races, we weren’t gonna have a shot at the title, so now I’m real grateful for being in the position that I’m in now – that we have not fallen off performance-wise. We’re still running well and we’re up there and we can fight for this title. Some of the guys that we’re racing in this Chase have had bad races and had bad luck and they probably feel more like I did last year, where they’re thinking, ‘Man, we’re 50-60 points out, but if we were even right now we could win.’ So I guess I’m just truly grateful for the position I’m in.”

WHO ARE YOU LOOKING AT AS YOUR MAIN THREATS? “I think all of those guys (Kenseth, Keselowski, Harvick and Stewart) are gonna be tough. I know how tough Matt can be. He could literally go win three out of the next four races and dominate this thing. I think from what we’ve seen out of Brad this year, I think he’s a huge threat. He hasn’t made any mistakes. He’s done a really good job. Tony is a two-time champion and only 19 points out. I think all of those guys are tough. Even Jimmie. I know a lot of people are discounting Jimmie, but those guys can definitely win this race. I know how fast they are at the new surface at Phoenix. They could win that one. They could literally just go on a tear and dominate this thing, too, so I still think the shape of it is not set. I don’t think you can set one or two guys up there and say they’re gonna be the definite guys to race.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP AS FAR AS RISK VERSUS REWARD? “I think as race car drivers we all debate what we’re willing to do to win races. I think that’s a common thing that every racer thinks of, whether you’re running street stocks or Formula One racing there’s a set of rules and any sanctioning body has a tough time writing a rule for every way you could get around it, so the way I’ve always raced and the way I think of it is that everybody pushes the envelope – everybody is gonna do everything they can to get an advantage and as long as the areas that you’re trying to get an advantage in are ones that everyone is aware of – for instance, if you knew everybody had a little trick, everybody is doing it – I don’t think any racer really thinks of that as cheating or not right. I think when you kind of step outside of that box and you come up with something that, A, nobody else is doing and, B, is definitely outside the intent of the rules, I think all of us kind of feel like you don’t want to win that way. I know I don’t personally. I want to win and I want to compete on a level playing field. I think that’s truly the greatest thing about NASCAR is that we go out there each week and there really are 20 different guys that could win because of the rules package and how close every one is.”

WHERE IS THAT INTERNAL DEBATE WITH ANOTHER COMPETITOR BECAUSE EVERY POSITION IS CRITICAL? “I guess you’re asking do you just go up there and spin somebody out for a position or if you think you’ve got a low tire do you fake like you spun out to bring out the caution or do you spin out for your teammate. There are all these gray areas. Man, I personally cannot think of all those different possibilities, so every situation is different. It just depends. There are certain competitors out there that I feel like if you’re walking down the street and a dollar bill fell out of your back pocket and nobody in the world saw it, they’d pick it up and they’d run up to you and say, ‘Hey, Carl. You dropped your dollar.’ They’re fair, honest people. And then there are other competitors who would do anything to beat you, and I think you can only race people based on your opinion of them and make the best decision you can. But, personally, for me, I try really hard. I feel guilty if I do something that I feel is kind of wrong or outside the rules, so I try not to do that stuff. I’d rather win fair. That’s just the way I am and I think that’s the way most of these guys are out here.”

SO IF YOU HAD TO SPIN SOMEBODY OUT TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WHAT WOULD YOU DO? “That particular question, ‘Are there some guys you would spin out to win the championship?’ Right now, I can’t say that if we’re at Homestead and it’s the last lap and the guy in front of me, all I have to do is get in front of him to win the championship, I don’t know that there’s anybody right now out there that I would spin out. But I’m not in that situation right now. I don’t know. I’ve learned the hard way. You’ve got to be careful about wrecking people on purpose. You never know what the outcome of that will be.”

WHY DO YOU SEEM TO STAY OUT OF CONTROVERSY WHEN ASKED ABOUT CERTAIN SITUATIONS? AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER DID THAT HAPPEN? “It’s not a point in my career, personally, if you have a problem with someone else or if two people have a problem, I don’t think it’s right to stand up and state your opinion on that because it’s not your business. I feel like it’s important to mind your own business and take care of things in a respectful manner. There’s always more to the story and I learned through trial and error that sometimes when you jump out there and you comment on something, you can actually be doing something that’s not right, especially in our position as drivers and your position for that matter as journalists. You have a lot of influence and we have a lot of influence on people with our opinions, so I don’t think it’s fair to just throw out an opinion that’s uneducated. I think that’s the wrong thing to do and I don’t appreciate it when people do that about me, so, therefore, I try not to do it about other people, but that’s just the way I feel. That’s why I try not to get in other people’s business.”

IF YOU WENT TO A NASCAR-THEMED HALLOWEEN PARTY, WHO WOULD YOU DRESS UP AS AND WHY? “I think the world is lacking really good Mike Helton costumes. I think that’s what we need more of. That would be fun to go to a party as Mike Helton. You could get the good hair wig, the good mustache. I mean, there could be some really good Mike Helton costumes and, hey, you instantly get more sway than any driver costume there right away, so that’s good.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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