Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion, is 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings – 34 points behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski after 17 races.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS? “I’ve thought about it a lot this week. I got the chance to talk to Jenna (Fryer, AP) and we talked a little bit the other day, and I tried to relate to her that this is a race that we have statistically run really well here, but we have to go be aggressive. This is a tough place to decide how aggressive to be because as easily as you can go have a top-five finish and have a great night, you can be backwards in the grass frustrated, so this race is one I think that if it goes well, it could be very good. If it goes bad, it’s gonna be tough, so we’ve got to be very smart. We have to minimize our mistakes. I think you guys saw how frustrated I was and how frustrated our whole team was after last week, and the week before running about 20th the last two weeks from little mistakes that are not really the norm for us, so we’ve got to do better than that. We know that. We’ve rallied together this week and to run well here at this race, as exciting as it is, to have Subway on board with the avocado paint scheme, they’re really excited. It’s a big Subway weekend. We’ve got Jared, the Subway guy, Major Gadson is gonna be here tomorrow, he’s the Grand Marshal of the Jalapeno 250, so if we can just cap it off with a good run Saturday night this will be a fun weekend.”
DID YOU HAVE A MEETING TO RALLY THE TROOPS? HOW DO YOU CHANGE THINGS? “We had kind of a hastily organized meeting after the race the other night, and basically it boils down to this – our luck has been so bad this year that we can’t make any other mistakes. We have to go forward assuming that the things that could go wrong are gonna go wrong, so we need to go out and minimize the mistakes around the things that we can control. It’s like my dad told me at the beginning of my career, something broke on the car one night and he said, ‘Listen, there are a 1,000 things that have to go right in a race, and if any one of those things go wrong, your race is over, so the very least you can do is control the ones you can control and not make mistakes in those areas.’ That’s what we have to do right now. We all understand that. Bob and I have talked about it. We have to go the extra mile to make sure all of our bases are covered because there’s just no room for anymore error the next nine races. We have to be on it. This to us is almost as if we’re going to race for the championship for the next nine races. We’ve got to think that way and remember and respect the fact that we’re not in that Chase right now. We’re outside of it. We’ve got to go get it.”
ARE YOU AWARE OF BRUTON SMITH’S PROPOSAL OF MANDATORY CAUTIONS? “I’m not aware of it. I have to preface what I’m gonna say with a disclaimer that I’ve never been a race promoter. I don’t have any stake in any of the race tracks. I don’t understand how tickets sales are going and things like that, but from a competitive standpoint, to me, auto racing is auto racing. That’s what it is. It’s not gonna be a Game 7 moment every race. That’s what makes some races great. To me, if you start affecting the competition like that, that is analogous to stopping a basketball game if the score gets too far apart and putting the score back even. That, to me, is not what auto racing is about. If you let these races play out naturally and let the racing be racing, sometimes there are some wild things that happen and things happen that are unexpected, and that’s what makes that true, real drama that happens every once in a while. That’s why it’s so appreciated in our sport, and once you try to create those things, it’s my humble opinion, I’m not saying what’s right or wrong – it’s my opinion – that that takes something away from the sport. If a guy wins by three laps, well he was meant to win by three laps and you don’t want to take that away from that guy and that team.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF RACING? “I don’t know. I think it’s hard for me or any of the drivers, or maybe even you guys in here, to really have an honest, objective opinion of what’s going on because we’re so deep in this thing. It’s really hard, so I guess at the end of the day you have to ask the fans what they think and if there are things that can be changed, that don’t directly change the results people get based on the level of performance, I think that you could change those things. If you wanted to shorten the races or you wanted to do something, but just throwing a caution because the race is ‘boring’ to someone or doing things like that, I think that’s a dangerous road to go down, in my opinion. I think if somebody is good and they go out and win every race by a lap for a year, then they ought to be held up for that and say, ‘Hey, that’s great.’ And if it makes the race a little bit more boring, we get a little bit less sponsorship dollars or a few less people in the seats, that’s just the way it is. That’s real competition. That’s the way things can go sometimes. You can’t fabricate competition, I don’t think. That’s what’s so great about sport. There’s a whole other world there – politics and the real world where everybody is changing the rules all the time to try and get an advantage. We might as well just leave sports alone and may the best man win.”
DO YOU FEEL GETTING IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS IS STILL REALISTIC? “I think that’s realistic. That window is closing, though. If we don’t make up some ground here in the next three or four weeks, it becomes a different story. The best way we can do it is to obviously go win races, but I think in the next nine races we could make up 50 or 60 points, but that would be the best case. We know how to do that. We’ve had runs like that where we just knocked off five or six or eight top-fives in a row and we can do it, but we’ve got to step it up.”
HOW MUCH OF YOUR RECORD HERE IS YOUR AFFINITY FOR THIS PLACE AND ROUSH’S RESTRICTOR PLATE STRENGHT? “For years we came here and we’d just kind of grit our teeth and slog through this weekend and try to get what we could because we didn’t really have the fastest cars, and then it seems like Jack and everyone at Roush Yates – Doug and everyone – said, ‘Hey, let’s really put some more effort into this. Let’s be the best we can be. It’s four races a year,’ and it’s paid off. We’ve got fast race cars. We’ve got better teamwork on the race track. I think we understand these races a little better and it’s been a lot of effort and it cost Jack a lot of money and Ford, and I think it’s paid off. I don’t think it really has anything to do with me. I think I’ve learned how not to crash as much here, that’s helped me, but I think good teammates have helped me a lot too. If you look at the way Matt, Greg, Kurt – all those guys I’ve raced with at Roush – the way they run at these tracks is pretty amazing. They do a really good job.”
WE HAVE ARTIFICIAL ASPECTS ALREADY – GREEN, WHITE, CHECKER, THE WAVEAROUND, THE LUCKY DOG AND THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART. “The double-file restarts isn’t artificial. The wavearound, it is and you’re right on that one. Three green-white-checkers, I think that’s OK. But the idea of a mandatory caution is completely different. That’s in the next dimension of…let’s just start at the beginning. Let me just lay something out here for you guys. Is it your understanding that when they throw the green flag, that the only reason another flag is gonna come out – like a yellow one or a red one before that checkered flag comes out – is if there’s a condition on the race track that is unsafe to continue the race. Is that what everybody understands? That’s the theory, right? OK. So that tells me I should do a couple of things. I should prepare to run the whole race. I should prepare to run the whole race under green. I should plan my pit strategy to run and I should only change it when I see something that happens on the race track, like a wreck, oil or debris – something like that. Those are the rules. That’s the way I understand auto racing to work.
“That’s the way it’s worked at every dirt track I’ve ever raced at, that’s the way it works. If we start getting away from that and we say, ‘OK, halfway through the race we’re gonna throw a caution and we’re all gonna line back up,’ well now it’s two races, where the first race doesn’t even matter. Now you’ve just got a shorter race.”
BUT WOULDN’T IT JUST BE LIKE QUARTERS IN BASKETBALL? “No, it’s not like quarters in basketball because in basketball you don’t have a bunch of people racing for a distance and you don’t have a lead that you’ve built up. The lead in basketball is a figurative one. It’s a score, so it’s as if you’ve stopped a quarter in basketball and then you evened the score. In racing, I go out there and I gain an advantage – maybe not at this track, but at most tracks – that caution erases that advantage. Now, if they want to start, I’ll tell you one thing they could do, if auto racing wanted to move towards something that kept real competition alive, you’d throw a caution and take note of where everyone was on the race track, you’d line them up like that from a standing start and you’d throw the green flag again. That way, if a guy’s got a 100-yard lead, he starts with 100-yard lead. Now I know that’s not as exciting maybe to some fans, but that rewards the guy who works hard.”
SO THE STANDING START WOULD BE AT THE DISTANCE YOU ARE FROM EACH OTHER? “Yeah, why not? If we’re gonna change the sport, but that’s from a driver’s perspective. That’s what I would like. I would like to be able to go out there and earn a lead and then when there’s a caution, for whatever the caution might be for because we all in this room know there are a lot of cautions for different things, well, hey, it’s no big deal because we’ll pit and when we start again we’ll start with that same lead. I just think when we start using cautions to make the race ‘more exciting’ I think that’s going down a slippery slope. I don’t think it’s good for the sport. That’s my opinion from where I sit. That doesn’t mean it’s right, that’s just my opinion.”
DO YOU FEEL STRESS RIGHT NOW WITH YOUR FRUSTRATION? “I thought it was important last week to just let that frustration out right then because we’re all so frustrated. I thought it was more honest to get out of the car and say, ‘Hey, look, I’m mad. I’m not happy with this.’ And I think it actually worked out better in that case. I think it had been building up for a couple of weeks in our whole team. Bob came over there and we were both upset, we were honest with each other about what we were upset at. I was honest with the engineers and Jack and everyone. I thought that was really important, so, although it was not a rosy interview or great conversation, I thought we needed to do that. I think we needed to be really honest with one another and I was glad it went the way it went.”
ARE YOU FEELING STRESS NOW? “No, I’m not feeling extremely stressed. I understand the difference between auto racing and real life. This is really, really fun for me to work on and be the best I can be, but at the end of the day we’re 11th and we’re doing OK and we’re good enough that we can go do this, and if for some reason we can’t make it work, I will be as professionally frustrated as I can be, but I plan on being here for a long time and doing this for a long time and having lots of success, so this will be just one challenge.”
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO IMPROVE RFR’S PERFORMANCE AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS? “I think Doug Yates has helped a lot, and I think that Jack and everyone treats there races differently. I may be remembering it wrong, but it seems to me when we talked about restrictor plate races five or six years ago, we’d come in after practice and say, ‘Man, this car is slow,’ and then say, ‘It’ll draft fine. Once the race starts none of that matters.’ It was kind of like we blew off how much of a disadvantage we were giving up, I guess we didn’t really take it seriously to the extent that maybe some of the other teams did.
“We didn’t really, really focus on these races and it seems like there’s been a very active effort to go out and be better at these tracks, even though there are only a few of them a year and I think it’s paid off. If you look at those pictures of Jack and me and Greg sitting in victory lane after qualifying at Daytona, Jack was in his element. It was pretty cool and I think that we’ve turned the corner at these tracks and I think it’s really good. I think it’s the smart thing to do.”
HOW DOES WINNING FEEL DIFFERENT WHEN YOU SNAP A WINLESS DROUGHT VERSUS A YEAR WHEN YOU WIN ALL THE TIME? “I think you appreciate it more. It’s so fleeting, that success here. At the end of last year it felt like we could win every week, even though we weren’t winning. It was a surprise to me to realize that we won only one points race last year. At the end of the year and lately people have been bringing that up, that Vegas was our last win. It doesn’t seem real because we were doing so well, and to have races like we’ve had the last few weeks, it reminds you that there are no givens. You have to work that hard all the time, you have to be smart and be lucky, and I think when we do break through and get that win, it’s gonna be really, really good and it’s gonna feel great. So I plan on feeling that great feeling of winning and being successful that day, and then the huge relief of saying, ‘OK, we’ve turned that corner and now we can continue.’ I unfortunately have had that feeling a few times. We’ve gone through those droughts and then won a race and you’re like, ‘Man, alright. That’s what we needed to do.’ It’s like medicine.”