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October 14, 2014

Carl Edwards

THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Today we're joined by Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
Carl, thanks for joining us today.
CARL EDWARDS:  Thanks for having me.
THE MODERATOR:  Carl, you head to Talladega this weekend fifth in points standings.  While you have a good shot at advancing to the eliminator round of the Chase based on points, a win would automatically push you through.  With that in mind, what is your strategy going into the weekend?
CARL EDWARDS:  I am not sure yet.  We'll have to see where we qualify and how basically the starting lineup shapes up.  If we're out front, we definitely want to stay there.  If we're in the middle, I don't know how aggressive I would want to be early on.  We just have to basically watch where our competition is running and try not to get caught up in the race too much and focus on the fact that we have an opportunity to advance to the next round based on our good finishes at Kansas and Charlotte.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll now go to the media for questions.

Q.  According to NASCAR, if you finish 18th or better on Sunday, you'll advance to the next round.  Can you talk about the dynamic of approaching that at Talladega versus if it was another track.
CARL EDWARDS:  18th or better sounds simple to do, but it is not at Talladega.
Talladega obviously poses bigger risks than most racetracks.  That's because you are literally in a pack of cars.  One mistake or one parts failure or something on any of those cars could affect you.
You're not just subject to your own mistakes or your own problems, but being in a pack like that makes it very easy to finish 40th even if you're doing everything right.
It is a tougher race to guarantee a good finish.

Q.  How do you balance when to take a risk or not take a risk?
CARL EDWARDS:  Oh, man, I don't know.  It's tough.  I rely on my spotter, Jason Hedlesky.  I rely on Jimmy Fennig.  He has a lot of restrictor plate success, specifically with Matt Kenseth.  I've spoken with Jimmy, spoken with Robbie Reiser.  Jason and I will have a lot of discussion leading up to the race.
We will basically have a plan for each scenario.  Early on let's say anyone that we were racing for points were to get caught up in something, yeah, it's a lot more fun to just go race, race for the front, try to go get the win.  If it looks like other guys are playing it safe, they're taking less risks, we would probably have to follow suit just so we don't do something foolish.
I mean, the way the format is, is that we feel like we have a big opportunity to make it to this next round.  Especially with everything that's going on and the craziness that has happened, we feel like this is perfectly suited to us and we don't want to give that opportunity up.

Q.  Carl, obviously there was some crazy stuff that went down after the race on Saturday night.  Guys playing bumper cars, Matt Kenseth probably showing more anger than we've ever seen from him.  We don't usually see that.  Maybe at Martinsville, but not at a place like Charlotte, not in the middle of the Chase.  What is your take on why we saw so much emotion and passion?  Is that a positive for the sport?
CARL EDWARDS:  I can tell you that people are interested in it.  I mean, I'm in NASCAR just like most of the people on this call are.  Being inside the sport it's sometimes hard to get a gauge of how it's perceived.
I can tell you a lot of people were really excited about all of the drama.  It's real.  I mean, I don't know if people outside of the sport really understand that.  I mean, all of us drivers and the teams, the sponsors for that matter, we take this really seriously.  This is fierce competition.  There's a lot on the line.  There's a lot of risk, not just financially, there's real risk.
When you see people get that wound up, I think it shows how much passion there is inside the sport.  I mean, I've always said that.  I know that after an event like that, there's always people saying what people should have done, what they shouldn't have done.  But overall it's obvious that this format has raised the level of intensity which all of us have to compete.  People definitely care.
That's what I take away from it.  I'm glad nobody was hurt.  At the end of the day it was just a display of passion, I think.

Q.  You said it might be ruthless, early on, you might have been the first one to say that.  What you had to say about the intensity of it, I'm wondering if you understand even going over the line and what the lines are about pit road, fighting.  As a driver, only you guys can understand what it would be like to have that kind of feeling.  Can you explain it at all?
CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know.  I mean, I think we all kind of know where the lines are and what the rules are.  I think it just becomes a question of how upset are you and how much is it worth to you, what are you willing to do to stand your ground.
I mean, I don't know.  Things like this happen.  When guys get into it, they're so dynamic, there's so much going on.  The interesting thing about racing, I'm sure everyone can relate to driving down the highway, somebody cuts you off, somebody gives you some hand signal, there's some communication.
You can't really communicate well from car to car or even from team to team.  It's a loud environment.  You're wearing your helmets.  You perceive someone has offended you or wrecked you, and things escalate very quickly.
Anyway, it's a long way of saying every situation's different.  Everybody's responsible for their own actions.  At the end of the day you just have to decide what you're willing to put up with or what you're going to do something if somebody does something to you.
I don't know how to describe that for everyone.

Q.  Given what we already know Talladega was going to be, coming out of it last week, what do you think about Talladega then?
CARL EDWARDS:¬† I think, and I'm not certain, but I think that everyone will go to Talladega and they'll be very professional.¬† I don't believe that you would see any on‑track retaliation at Talladega.¬† It's such a fast place.¬† There's so much potential for collateral damage with other cars, other teams.
I have a feeling, my gut feeling, is that Talladega will go pretty smoothly.  I think once we get to Martinsville, some other places, if there are any hard feelings over stuff that happened over the year or even last week, I think that's where you'll see most of that dealt with.

Q.  You're not the NASCAR disciplinarian.  Do you think other drivers will talk to Brad Keselowski about it besides what NASCAR does, tell him you don't drive through the garage area?  Denny Hamlin said that he was acting like a dumb ass instead of a champion.
CARL EDWARDS:  I'm really careful not to get involved in other people's fights because a good sound byte can sound good, but you never know the whole story.  I know I've been involved in stuff with people and I have seen things personally that have been framed in ways that I did not think were accurate.  So I try to stay out of all that.
As far as guys in the garage talking to Brad or something, I would say you won't see that happening.¬† People might give each other a hard time joking around.¬† But really, you know, every guy out there racing, I mean, we are professionals and we've been doing this long enough, I've learned even when I'm the oneonone side of something, somebody is on the other side ‑ I don't know how to put it ‑ but if you stop and listen to each side, there's good points on each side.¬† Guys have legitimate gripes or concerns, or there's a misunderstanding.
Anyway, I'm just saying I don't think guys will be going to Brad and talking to him.  I know I won't because I didn't see specifically what happened and I don't know the backstory.

Q.  Carl, if you could rewind back to the beginning of the year when NASCAR announced the elimination setup, did you expect this much driver intensity with that new elimination?  Did you expect to be doing as well in the Chase as you've done so far?
CARL EDWARDS:  I had no clue what to think.  This format surprised me.  I didn't think that was possible.  The idea of a format like this caught me off guard.  The only thing I knew when they announced this format, I knew that Homestead would be extremely interesting.
If you would have said Charlotte ended the way Charlotte ended, I never could have guessed that.  As I left the racetrack the other night, I thought I guarantee you Brian France is kicked back with his feet up with a smile on his face because right now this is working.  There's a lot of interest in the sport.  All the teams are trying their very hardest to do the best they can every week.
From that point of view, it's pretty amazing.

Q.  Do you think Chase drivers will look out for each other at Talladega, if I draft him a little harder, maybe he won't do as well?  Do you think you'll see Chase drivers putting other Chase drivers in bad positions intentionally, not necessarily wrecking, but not necessarily doing them any favors either?
CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, towards the end of the race 100%.  This is a zero sum game, specifically between certain guys.  Everyone's going to be very aware of who they have to beat and by how much, by how many positions.
I think there will be a lot of stuff like that that goes on in this race.  I think it will be almost impossible for the competitors to keep up with, and hopefully the broadcasters can do a good job of keeping up with it so the fans can see what's going on.
It's too hard to guess how it's going to go right now.  But, yeah, you're exactly right.

Q.  I saw on Twitter where Clint Bowyer got a flame flower as a gift.  I was wondering what was the craziest gift you ever received.
CARL EDWARDS:  Man, I don't know.  Well, okay, I did get after winning at Milwaukee in the Nationwide Series one night, a guy gave me a stuffed porcupine.  It was mounted.  I'm trying to remember the porcupine's name.  It was something really funny.  That's probably the craziest thing I've gotten.  Just caught me off guard.  He really wanted me to have it.

Q.¬† Knowing it's the last few races with you and the 99 team, it's ironic because it's like the 10th anniversary when you joined the team full‑time.¬† What are some of your favorite memories with the 99 team?
CARL EDWARDS:¬† All of my Sprint Cup Series, all of our successes have been a blast.¬† We had a great time.¬† I learned a lot from Jack Roush not just about racing but about a number of things.¬† For me, I guess the most fun stuff that we've done together would be the 2008 season, that was a blast, won a ton of races.¬† The championship battle with Tony was a lot of fun.¬† That's probably the neatest racing thing I've ever been a part of.¬† The All‑Star win was huge.¬† Really, I'm excited about the final races of this season.
I think even though we haven't had a ton of speed, we've done a really good job strategy‑wise, and Jimmy has made great calls.¬† I think we have an opportunity to still have quite a bit of fun leading up to Homestead.

Q.  A lot of people may not have put you in the eliminator round of eight bracket.  Knowing you have a chance to go to the penultimate round of the Chase, do you view Talladega to go for the win or just go and realize you have to finish in the top 15?
CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, just kind of depends on how we qualify.  Like I said earlier, a lot is going to happen in that race.  I don't know.
The hardest thing is you go to those races, it's hard not to be extremely aggressive.  It's a lot of fun.  You're staring up there.  You can see the lead.  You can go up there and try to do that.  I just have to try to be careful not to get too excited, and definitely think about getting to that eliminator round.

Q.  You going to the Gibbs team next year, might we see a new form of celebration or will you keep the backflip?
CARL EDWARDS:  I plan on doing the backflip for as long as I can.  I don't think people realize the winning is the hard part.  Backflips are really pretty easy.  I have noticed I don't practice them as much, I don't do them as often.  When I have to do them, I get a little more nervous.
As long as I can do them and I'm winning, I'll keep doing them.

Q.  Your thoughts on John Henry as an owner, maybe a memory or two of interactions you've had with him?  For the laymen out there among us, what sort of role does an owner like that play in the driver's development beyond the obvious financial support?
CARL EDWARDS:  I mean, John Henry, he's an amazing man.  I'd say the most striking thing to me about Mr. Henry is he's just a normal guy.  I mean, I sat and had dinner with him early on in the Roush Fenway Racing partnership.  We talked about life, a little bit of baseball.  We talked about his farming, all the things he's got going on.
He's just a good guy.  I think he's a great leader.  From a driver standpoint, I don't have a lot of interaction with him competitively, but I know on the corporate level, all of our business stuff, management, those folks have leaned a lot on him and the Fenway group.  They've been a huge help.
It's been really good.  I think a lot of him.

Q.  Obviously you have a chance to give him a championship this year.  When you're leaving a team, how does that motivate you any differently than it would if you had been planning to stay with them indefinitely?
CARL EDWARDS:  I've got a couple things going on this year that really make this year important.  Number one, there's just the fact that I'm very aware of the rare nature of having a shot at winning a championship.  I've only had this opportunity a few times, to be this close to it.  With this format, I think we have a real good shot.
The second thing is that obviously Jack Roush, the relationship with him, everybody at Roush Fenway Racing, Henry, and my crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, this is the last year he's going to crew chief, and I think he's been doing this longer than I've been alive.  There are a lot of doors closing, chapters closing or finishing here.  It would be really cool for a number of reasons to win this year.

Q.  You're going from a guy who has won three World Series to a guy who has won three Super Bowls.  Is that a prerequisite for you?
CARL EDWARDS:  I hadn't thought of it that way.  I've had the opportunity to be around some really amazing people, from Mike Mittler, my first owner in NASCAR, Jack Roush, John Henry.  Just a lot of people I've had the opportunity to be around and see how they operate, how they deal with people.  It's really amazing.  For people that have been around those guys, they know what I'm talking about.  It's really cool.
That's one of the neat things about my job, is there's some really great leaders and some amazing people I get to spend time with.

Q.  Carl, it's not uncommon that we see drivers departing teams get left out of meetings.  In this case you're the only driver from Roush Fenway Racing left.  How does that play into how you prepare for races?
CARL EDWARDS:  I haven't seen anything change.  I told somebody the other day, If they're withholding anything from me, they're doing a good job of it because I don't notice it.  Everything's been the same.  Jack Roush, Robbie Reiser, Steve Newmark, everybody on my team is committed to giving 100%.  Robbie walked in the trailer the other day, we talked about it.  He said, I hope you notice there is no quit in any of us, we're going 100% at this.
We've been doing this a long time together.  I've been at Roush Fenway Racing for almost 12 years.  I feel like it's family.  Yeah, we're going different ways at the end of the year but we all want to win this thing.  So far it's gone great.  My hope is that we win it, we're able to shake hands and move forward as friends.

Q.  Looking ahead to next year, do you find yourself racing or getting raced by your future teammates a little bit differently than you were prior to the beginning of this year?
CARL EDWARDS:  No, I really don't.  That would be nice.  It hasn't worked that way.  I mean, I know that once the green flag drops, it's not about who your teammates are, your future teammates are, your old teammates were.  Everybody races based on how they race, how they act on the track.  It's pretty professional and buttoned up once the green flag drops.
So, yeah, that hasn't really been a factor.  Nothing's changed there.

Q.  Considering how things have played out thus far under this new format, is it different than what you expected going into the Chase or pretty much what you thought it was going to be?
CARL EDWARDS:  It's a little bit different.  I didn't really bring any preconceived notions or I didn't really have an opinion on it before it started because it appeared like it would have the opportunity to be pretty chaotic.  That's what it has been, in my opinion.
If you look at the guys that could potentially be out of it after this week, historically those guys would be way up in the front of the points.¬† Yeah, I think it has shaken things up.¬† It has definitely taken the season and taken it from a full season down to a 10‑race season, and now it's a series of three races.¬† There's no place to hide if you have a bad race with this format.
I guess to answer your question, I didn't really know what to expect.  It's about as chaotic as I would have guessed it to be.

Q.  Is it a good thing or bad thing that three of the drivers who were most successful during the regular season are on the verge of elimination?  Is that a good thing for the sport or is that how the playoffs are?
CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know.  I don't know what's good or bad for the sport.  I know that it's definitely a paradigm shift from the way I grew up racing.  It's totally different.
But without this format I don't know that you'd see the intensity level or the excitement you saw the other night at Charlotte.  I mean, I don't know.
I will say this.  Whatever format we end up with here, I hope this is a time in the sport that we look back on and say, We perfected this, got it right, then stuck with it.  I think in the long run there's a lot of credibility to be had, a lot of interest in something that is, number one, the right format and, number two, stays the same for a long time.

Q.  You attended the University of Missouri.  You had three semesters of studying engineering.  You stopped doing that.  My question is, back when things were not moving as fast as today with technology, are there things that you learned back then that still help you with the new engines of today or has technology blown all that away?
CARL EDWARDS:  Technology obviously is changing rapidly.  I mean, the amount of information that goes around is building exponentially, not just in racing but all around us.  I think for anyone, it's hard to keep up with everything.
But some of the stuff that I learned, not just from school, but from my father, some of the peripheral stuff I read about scientific method, the way you figure things out, the way you problem solve, all that stuff's the same.
Really, if you look at our sport, the guys who are most successful, the crew chiefs and the team owners that are the most successful, are sometimes not the most educated.  They're the guys who just understand how to simply solve a problem and move forward.
I mean, my crew chief is a great example.  I don't know how much formal education in engineering Jimmy Fennig has.  If there's a problem, he can solve it, period.  If he can't solve it, he's very good at delegating and finding someone who can.
I'd say if I could go back, all that time I spent in school, I don't know if I would have spent it on some of the things I spent it on.  I probably would have worked harder on management, basic sciences, understanding people.  This sport is about getting the most out of people.  It's truly a team sport.
THE MODERATOR:  Carl, thanks for joining us today and good luck this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
CARL EDWARDS:  All right.  I think it should be pretty crazy.  Hopefully it's fun.

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