Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings by eight over second-place Tony Stewart. Edwards held a press conference Friday after practice to talk about this weekend and the championship chase.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – WHAT’S YOUR MINDSET FOR THIS WEEKEND? “We couldn’t be coming to a better race track. This track has been great for us. Practice went really well. We’ve got two Fords one and two and we’ve got as good a car and engine as we’ve ever brought here, so that’s good and I’m just ready for qualifying tonight. We’d like to qualify well and get a good starting position.
It would be really nice if we could qualify on the pole and get that first pit box. That would be spectacular, but this race is one of the most fun races we go to. The track, you can run a couple different grooves. In the daytime it’s a little slick. It’s one I look forward to, so I’m excited about it.”
TONY HAS SAID A LOT OF STUFF THIS WEEK.
IS IT ALL IN FUN OR DO YOU HAVE TO RESPOND? “No, it’s in good fun.
We get along real well and, for me, this week I’ve thought a little bit about who my real competition is and, no offense to Tony or anything, but I think the guys that are behind him are truly the guys who have the biggest chance of doing well over the next three weeks.
They’ve shown they can run up front in the points all year and although Tony could go on a roll, what I’ve been sticking to this week is that it would be foolish of me to just focus on him and not pay attention to these other guys who have been very, very fast. All the talk in the world doesn’t mean anything. You have to go out here and perform and race well and that’s what we’re here to do, but it is kind of fun to joke around a little bit. Eddie has had a good time with it. That’s pretty neat to see my locker on the way in here. I didn’t realize Tony volunteered to do a boxing match. I’m actually pretty excited about that part, but I didn’t know that was gonna actually happen, but that’s cool of Eddie to set that up and that should be fun.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AT PHOENIX NEXT WEEK? “Phoenix is really the big unknown. This week, I think at least every one on our team and our shop, we’ve all been excited to come here to this race. We all have an expectation of how we’re gonna run here. We think we can run well. We can have some fun and go fight for the win, but nobody really knows what’s gonna happen next week. That race track could throw curves to us that no one has thought about yet, that you could be ruined by or you could take advantage of and beat the competition.
We just don’t know what’s gonna happen and we hope that race track is one that’s kind to us. We’re hoping that we can run really well here, really well at Homestead, take whatever is thrown at us at Phoenix and make the most out of these three races.”
WILL PHOENIX STILL BE A
DRIVER’S RACE TRACK? “It’s hard to say. I would say this first trip to Phoenix it will be more of a crew chief/engineer race. You’re gonna have to really pay attention to tire wear. The setup is going to be hugely important. The track is very smooth, very easy to drive.
I don’t know that you’ll be able to go there and manhandle the car and hustle it around there like you could the old Phoenix – not this first time.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO COMPETE IN THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS THIS YEAR? “The Race of Champions has been a lot of fun and, hopefully, there will be a NASCAR guy that can go and compete. I haven’t represented everyone here in the NASCAR garage very well here the last couple of times, but I would love to go back
and do that whenever it’s possible.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED — IS IT BEST TO JUST PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU’RE DOING AS OPPOSED TO WORRYING ABOUT THE GUYS BEHIND YOU? “As a competitor you’re always kind of keeping tabs on what’s going on. It allows you to decide how aggressive you want to be, but we’ve led the points for a little over half the season based on the way we go about our business and I’m definitely not changing anything. I’m doing the same things now that we’ve been doing all season and, really, when you look at it seven races into the Chase, to have not had the screaming fast performance and to still be leading the points, I think, says a lot about our team’s ability to focus, to rebound, to work together and I’m really proud of that, so I guess what I’m trying to say is with the way we’ve run, to be leading the points now going into these three tracks – two of which I feel very confident about – we’ve never been in this good of a position before. I’ve never been in this good of a position as a driver in this sport and I feel that we’re in a really good spot, but what I was talking about as far as looking back is Tony won the race and made his statements, but what I was trying to describe there is I don’t think Tony is the only guy that can be a threat to us. I think those other guys are gonna be just as tough, so what I was trying to describe was not focusing in on one guy, but looking at the big picture and with three races left, there are a lot of guys you have to worry about.”
DOES IT WORRY YOU THAT YOUR GOOD
FORTUNE HAS BEEN USED ALL UP? “I do feel like luck has been a huge part of our Chase here, but that’s okay with me. I’m okay with that.
We’ve had bad luck too in these Chases, so, no, I feel like what’s happened happened. We’re in this position. We are leading the points. It doesn’t really matter performance-wise. As much as you’ve just got to focus on what you’re doing, you can’t look backwards, you’ve got to look forwards and say, ‘Hey, we know we can run well at Texas. We know we can run well at Homestead.’ Phoenix, we tested well. We hope we can run well there and, yeah, if we need a little more luck, I hope we still have some in reserve, but I hope we don’t.
Historically, we’ve been able to rally pretty hard these last few races, we’ve just never started that from the position that we’re in now, but it’s amazing. I’ve been very, very fortunate a couple times the last couple of months.”
HOW IMPORTANT WOULD IT BE TO YOU TO SEE
YOUR NAME AFTER ALL OF THOSE JIMMIE JOHNSON’S ON THE TROPHY? “To be honest with you, that’s not that important to me. It would be nice to have my name six times in a row right after his five in a row. That would be the great thing and I don’t count Jimmie out of this thing.
I’ve seen those guys do amazing things and I’ve seen a lot of people falter this season, so anything can happen.”
YOU’VE BEEN KNOWN TO
TAKE RISKS ON AND OFF THE TRACK. HAVE YOU TALKED ABOUT HOW MUCH OF A RISK YOU’RE WILLING TO TAKE IN ORDER TO WIN A RACE? “We don’t settle for much, but at the end of the day our job is to win the championship. We’ve gone seven races and we’re doing our job. We’re leading the points. I don’t have to tell Bob Osborne what risks to take or not to take. He’s very good at balancing those things, but, to me, I really and truly don’t care what anyone says. There is no shame on my part to finish this Chase out without a win in the Chase and win the championship. I think the last guy to do that was Tony in 2005, and then in 2008 we won nine races, including a bunch in the Chase, and didn’t win any championships, so, to me, it’s about going out there and getting all the points we can. No one is gonna give up a win or not go for the win. That’s what we do, but we’re here to win
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED — ISN’T THIS CHAMPIONSHIP YOURS TO LOSE RIGHT NOW? “That’s how I feel. That’s my opinion. I feel that we can do it. I feel we’ve escaped some of our bad tracks and bad days and still been able to fight and claw and come up with something good.
Now, we’re going to some tracks that we can run well, but I also understand how much can go wrong. I know things that can happen and it’s not over until it’s over. At the end of the day, I don’t know if I’ve ever really talked about this, but, to me, I really and truly learned some valuable lessons in 2005 and 2008. In 2005, we were leading the race at Homestead. I think I almost put Tony a lap down to win that championship and it didn’t work out. He ended up winning and we ended up tied for second. That was my first shot at a championship. Right then, I thought, ‘Aw, that’s no big deal. We’ll win it next year.’ That was obviously pretty naïve. Then in 2008 we were very, very fast and really good at every race track. I learned a lot of lessons through losing that one, making a mistake and having a part failure. But the biggest thing I learned is that at the end of the day what I do and how I value my performance and my abilities as a race car driver is how I perform. If I go out and perform the way I can and everything works out, great. If I go out there and perform the way that I can and things don’t work out and I don’t win the championship, well that’s great too. That’s all I can do. Win, lose or draw I’ll be back here next year, the year after that and the year after that. We’re gonna be tough for a long time, so what I’m doing is trying not to let myself think about this particular championship.
I’m not putting a bunch of importance on it or trying to change things. I don’t go to bed thinking about this thing – winning it or anything. I’m trying to go do my job.”
SO YOU ARE SLEEPING WELL?
“Yeah. I’ve got two kids at home, so a little extra noise is not gonna keep me up any longer. I’ve been sleeping real well. My wife is a saint.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Sam’s Club/Cargill Ford Mustang, is leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings with three races to go. Stenhouse Jr. came into the Texas infield media center to talk about the championship battle and his hopes for this weekend.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 Sam’s Club/Cargill Ford Mustang – YOU HAVE A 15-POINT LEAD OVER SADLER IN A GOOD POINTS RACE. “Yeah, I wish it wasn’t that good, but it is. We’d like to be further ahead, but we can’t look back on the days that we lose points, we’ve got to look ahead to Texas and Phoenix and Homestead where we can gain some points. We feel like these are really good race tracks for our team and, really, Roush Fenway as a whole. We’re looking forward to the rest of the season. The 2 car has been really strong the last couple of weeks, so it was good to have a couple weeks off and not really worry about anything, just hang out and relax, but it’s definitely good to be back at Texas.”
WHAT’S THE BALANCE BETWEEN AVOIDING
MISTAKES AND BEING TOO DEFENSIVE AND NOT GOING FOR ALL YOU CAN GET?
“I think you don’t make mistakes when you give 100 percent. I think you start making mistakes when you’re too defensive, so we go out every week and run as hard as we can – practice, qualifying and the race – and we go for wins. That’s what we’ve been doing all year and that’s what has gotten us here, so we’re not gonna change anything.
The mistake part, like not getting caught speeding on pit road, making
sure our pit stops are smooth and no penalties, things like that.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. CONTINUED — HOW IS JACK THESE DAYS LEADING THE POINTS IN BOTH SERIES? “Jack doesn’t treat anybody different. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. He’s treating me the same now as what he did last year when we were struggling. That’s the one good thing about running for Jack is he’s passionate as we are about this and it would be awesome to bring him another championship and it would be cool to sweep both series this year.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU THINK ABOUT
THESE LAST FEW RACES DURING YOUR TIME OFF? “We sit and think about the races that we have coming up and think about the things we can do to gain the most points. The guys have been working on our cars really hard in the shop, in the wind tunnel, they’re working on the motors, and we’re just making everything the best we can to make sure that we’re not giving up anything. The 2 car is coming to get all they can get and we can’t control what they do. We just go out and control what we do. These two weeks that we’ve had off, I spent the first week the first couple days looking back like, ‘Man, I wish I wouldn’t have given up some points at Charlotte,’ but then I realized that I had to get over that and move on and look forward to these last three.”
HOW DO YOU ASSESS YOURSELF AGAINST ELLIOTT AT THESE LAST THREE TRACKS? “I would have to say you’d have to give him the advantage over us at every single race track we’ve run this year. He’s got more starts at some of these tracks than I do period in the Nationwide Series, so I would say he’s probably got the upper-hand as far as the experience, but I feel like our team is really strong. I feel like we’ve assembled a good team with good race cars. I feel like our race cars are better than his and I just feel like our package is where it needs to be, but experience-wise, he’s probably got the upper-hand but the way we’ve been running this year and the way we’ve run at Texas and Phoenix and Homestead in the past, I feel really good about our chances.”
ANYTHING NEW ON NEXT YEAR? “No, sir. We’re focused on going to get this championship and whatever happens next year will play out. I just show up to the shop every week, show up on the plane and whatever Jack tells me to do, I do.”
WHAT HAS JACK SAID ABOUT
NEXT YEAR? “I’m under contract with Jack, so I just plan on doing whatever he tells me, but he hasn’t said Cup, Nationwide. He says I will have a job next year, but just what we’re doing is unsure right now.”