When the field comes to the green for Sunday’s Daytona 500 it will be Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion who leads the way. Edwards, who sits on pole at Daytona for the first time, talked about the upcoming race with members of the media Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
Carl Edwards, No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE LAST FEW DAYS AND HOW YOUR CAR WAS IN THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION. “It has been fun. I got to spend a little time here in Florida and the weather has been pretty nice. We have just been hanging out. Today it was great to see Bob Osborne and begin to formulate our plan for how we are going to approach the 150’s and the race and everything. It was nice to work with him.
The car seems really good. It is the first time we have run it in a group like that and it seemed to run really well. We had a little vibration and we got that fixed. The car is smooth and fast and I am not sure if we are going to run the next practice or not. We learned a little bit in this practice and I think we might let the car sit until the 150’s”
QUESTION INAUDIBLE. “It is definitely different running in a pack than it is when you are running as a pair, nose to tail physically touching. I guess it feels when you are running in the pack like you have more control of your destiny and at least you can move your car and have a little bit of time if something happens to get out of the way. People have more of an opportunity to save the car. But you are in a bigger group so there is more chance of one persons problem affecting a number of people. I don’t really know which way is more comfortable. I think the temperatures out there right now are higher than we have run and the track was a little more slick. I think it is probably better in the pack but you still see cars teaming up and able to run a lap or two at a time and I think it will be a lot like the shootout and the winner is going to be doing that.”
FIVE OF THE LAST SIX YEARS THE DRIVER THAT FINISHED SECOND IN THE CHASE HAS REALLY FALLEN OFF. DID THE POLE SHOW THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO REVERSE THAT TREND? “We have talked about this a lot but our whole team looks at last year with a lot of pride. We did a very good job and the best we could and the true test for us will be to go to work and not hang out heads but to be motivated by that. I don’t know how much it actually tells you but it feels like this pole proves that our whole team went back and worked hard and people didn’t complain and whine and make excuses. They got to work and this is the best we have ever come to the Daytona 500 since I have been here, for seven years or so. I am really proud. You never know how a group is going to take a loss like that but I am really proud of our guys. That pole feels good.”
YOU GUYS HAVE THE FIRST TWO SPOTS FOR THE 500 AND FOUR FORDS WERE ON TOP IN PRACTICE TODAY. IS THAT ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY ENGINES? ALSO, SEVERAL TEAMS REACHED 300 ON THE TEMPS IN THE SHOOTOUT, IS THAT FLIRTING WITH A DANGER ZONE? “I think the engines are a big part of our success here but the guys spent a lot of time on the cars. At these speedway races any little thing makes a big difference. Obviously the engine is what makes the car go and Doug Yates and those guys worked very hard, especially after the test where we weren’t very good. I didn’t see the high temperatures but to be honest I didn’t look at the gauge very much. I don’t think you can run 300 degrees and make that work though. Maybe guys have a different setup with their cooling system and are able to do that but I am certain we aren’t able to run that high. If we do I don’t know if we will get it back from that.”
DO YOU ENVISION WITH PACK RACING THAT YOU WILL BE RELYING MORE ON INFORATION FROM SPOTTERS AND DO YOU THINK THAT INFORMATION FROM SPOTTERS IN PACK RACING IS OF ANY PARTICULAR VALUE? “Yeah, the spotters are a huge help. Jason Hedlesky, my spotter, has a ton of experience driving and that helps me a lot. He has run all over in trucks and Cup cars and Nationwide cars and ARCA cars. He knows what I need and I still think that NASCAR ought to allow us to talk between cars. I still think that is safer. I don’t think it gives you any competitive advantage and it is just safer. If we are going to run in a pack, if they do get this thing worked out so we can’t really push, then the spotters are going to be invaluable. You really need the spotter to help you to make sure that you are clear, especially toward the end of these races. It is just amazing the chaos out there and you are trying to figure out which line is moving and as a driver you look up and think you are clear but at the same time you are listening and I have to hear it from my spotter because you can’t always see what is out there.”
WITH TONY ALMOST WINNING THE BUD SHOOTOUT AND YOU BEING ON THE POLE, I AM WONDERING IF THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF THE CHASE WITH YOU TWO GUYS AT THE TOP OF THE PACK AND IF THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A RIVALRY OR A CLEAN SLATE? “No, that would be great. The best case for me would be to be able to go down to Homestead and go head to head down that back straightaway and pass Tony in turn three and win the championship. That would be awesome. That would be great. It would feel good. I think it would be really entertaining. I am sure we will both go for it the best we can but you never know. We all know here that anyone, any of the top-20 cars can be the guy to beat and like we saw last year Tony wasn’t even a factor until the Chase and then all of a sudden he was on fire. It think it is way too early to say who it is going to be but that would be a lot of fun to be able to do that again.”
TOMORROW, HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR DESIRE TO WIN THE RACE AND YOUR NEED TO PROTECT YOUR CAR? “I think it depends on Bob Osborne. I think it is how much he can stomach. Just in practice today I started having a little bit of fun out there and I think it made him a little bit nervous. I think it would probably be entertaining to tune into Bob and our radio conversation. For me, this might sound dumb but I am not too worried about if we crash the car. We have a good back up car and it is identical and should be just as fast. I think there is value in learning something from that 150. I think you are going to learn things you can apply the last five laps at the 500 that could make a difference. I would like to race pretty hard in that 150. Obviously if it gets really crazy then maybe I would think about trying to give myself more room but right now the mission is to go race and learn.”
WITH THE OLD PACK RACING WE USED TO SEE THE BIG NAME DRIVERS HANG IN THE BACK FOR AWHILE, ESPECIALLY AT TALLADEGA, AND THEN WITH 30 TO GO THEY WOULD RACE BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WITH THIS PACKAGE, CAN YOU STILL DO THAT? “I think we are going to find out in the 150’s. I think you will see as the 500 goes on. It might be a case where if they are three-wide six rows deep, you aren’t just going to drive up there at the end of the race and go by them. I think that is something every driver has to balance. How hard do you want to race so that you are in a position to capitalize at the end. I have been in that spot where I have been really aggressive and had things go badly. I have been really cautious and had things go badly too. It seems to be just a ton of chance involved and there is no real sure way to make sure you are there at the end to compete. There is no set path or sure plan that works. I think it works different ways for everybody at different times.”
YOU MENTIONED DOUG YATES EARLIER. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HE HAS MEANT TO THE ORGANIZATION AND WHAT YOU SEE IN HIM AND WHERE HE GETS HIS COMPETITIVE JUICES FROM? “I can’t tell you what exactly motivates him but he is motivated, that is for sure. You guys have been around him enough to know that he is dedicated. I don’t know if you guys have taken a trip to his facility but it is first class. There are hospitals I have been too that aren’t as nice as his engine shop. He is a racer. The cool thing about Doug is that he is very open minded and he does not have a big ego. As much success as he has had and as good as he is at his job, he is very good at listening when you have a problem. I can come up to him and tell him something that I find out later is just completely silly and I shouldn’t have brought up but he will listen and try to address is and always follows up and calls on the phone to talk to you. He is just a solid guy and a really good guy to work with and his engines just keep running better and better so it is fun.”
HOW MUCH WHEN YOU ARE IN THE DRAFT IN THE DAYTONA 500 IS IT JUST INSTINCT FOR YOU AND HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO THINK THROUGH? “I haven’t had the success that Dale Jr. has at these races but I am learning more and more each time. I feel like my average finish is getting better and better and I have had some real close races that I feel like I could have won. I learned something through all of them. I think there is a lot of calculation at these races and I think you have to kind of catch on to patterns that aren’t very clear. You have to see which line is working best and how things develop through a run and which guys are willing to stick with you and build a model in your mind. If you operate correctly you get a good outcome. I have tried everything. I have had crew members yelling at me. One of the Nationwide races I was running third and I pulled out like I was going to make this great run and I miscalculated and everybody drove by me and I finished 12th or something. My crew was so mad at me. For a long time it had been beaten into me to stay in line with the fast guys and learn something and I think as a driver I have learned a bunch over the last couple years doing that.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE BOB BACK THIS WEEK AND HOW WOULD YOU SAY HE IS DOING? “I think Bob is doing really well. He is a tough guy. It is neat to see him back here at the race track. I can’t speak for him but it seems like he is enjoying it. I walked in there this morning and he had the pole award trophy on the desk in the hall and that was pretty cool. I don’t think there could be a better way to get this thing started this week, especially with everything that has gone on with Bob and his family, than for us to be on the pole. I hope the week goes well for him and we have a good solid run. I hope we have some fun because that is what this is all about. We come here to the race track and want to have a good time and enjoy this whole process and I think Bob is ready to do that.”
IS THERE ADDED PRESSURE FOR GUYS THAT ARE CONSISTENTLY IN THE CHASE TO WIN THIS RACE? “That is a good question. I don’t know if it is added pressure but more of motivation. It is fun to have a challenge and something out there that is such a huge accomplishment and is still there. Those experiences, they are really special. My first win was huge and I will never forget that moment. A win at the Daytona 500 would be huge. It would be like being a kid again and getting your first win in a race car. That would be an awesome feeling. I don’t know if it is more pressure because of that but I get more excited about the race. I am not certain but I think if I would have won this race one or two times it wouldn’t have that same feeling, that same anxiety and build up of excitement.”
DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU MIGHT DRAFT WITH TOMORROW AND GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 AND BRICKYARD 400 WHICH WOULD YOU WANT? “I want them both. That would be great. I talked to Trevor a little bit and hopefully I can work with him or Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.). I feel comfortable with both those guys. I think Tony is in our race and I don’t know who else but if I can get with any guys, anybody I can work with that I can learn something from that is not going to drive me crazy that would be fine with me. I don’t know which race would be bigger to win. The Brickyard would be huge but I think the Daytona 500 would be the bigger of the two for me to win. They are very different races. The Brickyard, there would be a lot of pride in that. That is a very special place and a lot of precision driving and thought goes into that place. That would be a huge win too. Neither would be as big as Kansas for me though. I get two shots at that one though, so maybe that will happen.”