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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 3, 2008
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teleconference ahead of Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. Our guest is Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford, who is fourth in the series standings. And he's a former winner of this race in Juneâ€ 2005. Carl, welcome.
CARL EDWARDS: Hey, glad to be with you.
DENISE MALOOF: Good to have you. Pocono is kind of a unique layout. I know that it is one of the more difficult challenges on the schedule. Is it one of those tracks where you race the track, technically speaking?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, you do. It'sâ€ -- it is one of the most challenging. It is a mentally challenging track just because it's a really long race. Like you said, you do race the race quite a bit.
You know, but it is different trying to pass cars there. It is difficult. You have to time everything just right so you don't cost yourself a lot of time. So a very mentally taxing racetrack. It is a good challenge.
DENISE MALOOF: And very quickly, I know you are involved in a lot of promotions for your sponsors and you have a lot of fun with them. The one that's going on now is the Office Depot's fourth annual small business of NASCAR promotion. How's that going?
CARL EDWARDS: That's been a really fun one. We've had a lot of really neat people win it. And the idea is that Office Depot is supported by small businesses, you know, and their business couldn't exist without them. So this promotion is to take one of those small businesses at random through a selection process online and give them a small business makeover, $10,000 Office Depot makeover.
They will be the official small business of NASCAR for the duration of the season. And they will come to the race, have a fun time, get their picture taken and have their name on the race car and their logo and everything. So it is really a pretty cool promotion. And the last three winners have beenâ€ -- have been very cool.
It is one of the exciting things we do with Office Depot throughout the year.
DENISE MALOOF: Sounds good. We'll now go to media questions for Carl.
Q. I want to ask you about Eldora. Now, who are some of the guys on dirt that are good that we might not expect or we might not, you know, assume would be guys to beat?
CARL EDWARDS: It's hard to say because you go into this thingâ€ -- I was just looking at the list of guys that are coming, and it just depends on how they get their cars set up and what the track's like.
Last year I don't think anybody expected Kyle Busch to run as well as he did. And I think a lot of people were nervous that -- you know, that Jeff wasn't going to run that well. But then those two guys ended up being the guys that I had to beat to win the thing.
So I don't think there's someone you can point at. Anything can happen. Bill Elliott could win the thing. He has been running a lot of dirt. Really a dirt race like that comes down to who gets their car perfect that night, you know?
Q. Question about the Pocono test you guys finished up last week. What kind of things did you go there anticipating that might beâ€ -- give you guys a problem and maybe that wasn't the case? On the flip side, what were some things that you thought might set up well for you and give you guys a little bit of problems and give you guys some things to think about going into this weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: I went into that Pocono test with a pretty open mind. I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't think this new car would run that well through theâ€ -- you know, through all the different types of corners. I just thought it would be a lot tougher to drive than it was. So I was pleased with how well the car has ran.
The one thing that I didn't expect and that I think everyone, you know, is going to work with all day at the race will be in the last corner, they paved a big strip around that corner. You know, everybody was tryingâ€ -- you know, running on the new pavement, which was way up high, versus the low line where, you know, generally we run.
So I think that's going to be pretty fun to race on. I don't think anyone really knows how that is going to work out, whether we'll be able to pass up there or ifâ€ -- you know, which line is going to be the fastest. That was the biggest thing that surprised me.
Q. I want to ask also about Eldora. Can you summarize what makes it so great for you guys? You know, race car drivers, even though you say this takes you back to your roots, there is no stress but, still, everybody is going crazy about wanting to win at Eldora. Where's that line and what's the feeling about it?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. It is fun. I'm telling you, I'm so grateful I won it on my first try. I mean, truly a lot of guys can say, "Hey, we're going there to have a good time" or whatever. I'm truly going there to have a good time because we did it last year. If we win again this year, that will be spectacular.
But it is a thing that you do once a year. It's a one-off thing. It would be like, you knowâ€ -- in a lot of ways, it is like Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400 or a race that you only run once a year, you want to run well in. You really like to win because if something happens -- no matter what happens here tomorrow night, you got to wait a whole year to do it again.
So that's part of what makes it special.
The other thing is just the curiosity. I mean, everyone wants to see who can, you know, run one of these late-models on dirt and who can do well. There are a lot of bragging rights there to say, "This is pure racing." Nobody really has an upper hand here, we just go here and see what happens. It is kind of like if we have a foot race or something. Everybody wants to win it because you can just say, "In that category, I can beat these guys."
Q. I'm looking down the road a little bit here to Infineon, which is coming only three weeks away. How do you prepare for a road course? And have you done anything different coming up to this Infineon than you have in the past?
CARL EDWARDS: I haven't done anything different than I have done in the past.
That's becoming one of my favorite racetracks. I really, really value the road courses on the schedule. That one is a lot of fun. I mean, it is an area that's beautiful. Everyone loves to go there. I mean, my mom and my assistant and my girlfriend and everybody wants to go just to have a vacation out there,
You know, on the racetrack, it is really neat because the driver makes such a huge difference. So for me in preparing for that race, you know, physically it is important. It is usually pretty warm. And then going over all of our notes from last year, you know, spending some time watching the tape, really focusing, you know, because the driver is such a big part of that race. But that's what makes it really fun.
So no huge change in preparation. I just hope we're as good as we were last year and get a little better fuel mileage and maybe we can win the thing.
Q. Carl, this year's race at Eldora, the money is going to the Kansas City version of the Victory Junction Camp. Kansas, kind of your neighborhood. Any extra feeling this year about going because of that?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's a good question. I think that Victory Junction Gang Camp is one of the greatest things that we have in this country for kids. And the way I understand it is that they provide more health care to children during the times that their kids are there than anyone else.
And the idea that they're putting one of those close to my home, where I live in Columbia, I got to talk to Patty a little bit about it and I'm really excited about that.
To me, it is very special that Tony and everyone, you know, has decided that this race is to help that camp. I hope it's something I can be a part of a long time living in this area. I think it is amazing.
Q. Up here in Michigan, you have just been a great car here the last couple years. And we're about a week and a half out from the Father's Day race. If I can ask you about your father real quick, how instrumental has he been in your career and any life lessons or advice you carried from him?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, yeah, I got to hang out with my dad a little bit today, my dad and my little brother. I mean, you know, my dad'sâ€ -- if it weren't for him, I definitely wouldn't be racing, that's for sure. He was my racing hero growing up. He was an unbelievable race car driver, and he still races a little bit. But, you know, just about the smartest person that I have ever met and really helped me to make sure that throughout my racing career, that I looked at things and been very objective and, you know, really solve problems and look at things pragmatically so that I was going the right direction all the time.
And I think that that mind-set of making the most of your time and making the most of your money and your opportunities, you know, that he instilled that in me for my racing career. And I'm super grateful for that.
He's got the trophy from the last Father's Day race we won there, and it would be really cool to go back there and get another one.
Q. Carl, can you talk a little bit about the relationship that your team and the other four teams have with the Ford Racing folks. Talked to some of the engineers on the Ford side, and they said a lot of the information they get to improve their production cars comes from things they learned at the track. Just how does that relationship work back and forth? How much support do you get from Ford Racing? And how critical is that in terms of your success?
CARL EDWARDS: It's been very critical. This year we've had a lot of help from Ford. That's helped a lot. I don't know how the money goes around. You know, I don't know what their monetary investment is, but I definitely know that, you know, from my standpoint, talking with their engineers and the people that are working to help our team, I think we've made a step forward with Ford and I'm excited about it.
And I feel like this next week when we go up there and do the really neat thing where we drive their new vehicles, they tell us how they've beenâ€ -- you know, changed the designs and things they have been working on. And ten we actually get to, I'm sure to their disgust at some point, we get to go out and drive these cars around a test track. And it is one of the most fun things we do all year. It is hilarious.
We will be in a Ford Taurus with four wheels off the ground, sliding sideways, smoking the tires and stuff. And we get to wring them out pretty well. So we get to have a little bit of fun with their products. And definitely they have been helping us.
So I'm proud to be driving a Ford. I'm excited about their resurgence in the market.
Q. Carl, I wondered kind of a two-part question. Obviously with this news breaking about Jamie McMurray looking for a new ride for next year, what effect do you think that will have from your perspective on the team? And what might you speculate would happen to McMurray's seat?
CARL EDWARDS: What exactly is going on there? I'm not very familiar. Is it definite? What's the deal?
Q. Supposedly, heâ€ -- yesterday, the "Charlotte Observer" broke that he is looking for a new ride. Possibly his manager is kind of shopping his around to some different places and some different teams for next year.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I mean, I don't know exactly what's going on there. You know, I mean, I guess, that would be a big point of speculation.
All I can say is, you know, Jamie and I have had a really good relationship. Just this weekend he helped me out a lot on the racetrack, you know, trying to give me as much room as he could and it cost him a position. You know, that was at the end of the race when I was trying to catch Kyle.
So I like having him as a teammate, and I hope that we can get it worked out to keep him. I don't know what'sâ€ -- I don't know all the details about that.
Q. Just talk about how tough it is going back and forth from Pocono to Nashville this weekend and put that in perspective with Kyle running all three races at three different tracks this weekend.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I read that Kyle is going to do that. I am a little jealous. That sounds like a lot of fun. That's very neat. He is going to run four races in four days or something like that. So that's pretty coolâ€ -- or four races in five days. It is not really that difficult. It is mostly just fun.
I think this weekend I might get to fly myself back and forth. I'm not sure if we are going to go Friday or not to practice the (indiscernible) car. We haven't decided yet.
It is just fun. To show up at a racetrack and jump out of a jet and fly in a helicopter and then jump in a screaming-fast race car, that's every racer's dream to have a reason to go do all that stuff. It is really neat. It is just a really fun time.
It isâ€ not -- logistically it is tougher. But physically it is not any tougher thanâ€ -- you know, than running a regular weekend. It is mostly just added fun.
Q. I was going to ask you, how much as a driver you can help out your team? You know, at the beginning of the season you guys were the team to beat. Y'all had it figured out. Y'all are still that way. Now Kyle Busch and the AT&T team are the ones that have it figured out. From your perspective, from the driver's seat of the race car, how much can you watch the other cars on the racetrack and what they're doing and give that information back to Bob Osborne and say, "Hey, here's what their cars are doing, let's try to make ours do the same"?
CARL EDWARDS: You can quite a bit. But, you know, with Bob it is usuallyâ€ -- I go to suggest something to Bob, he usually scowls at me and says, "I thought about that a month ago." He is just real smart. I try really hard, though.
Racing with all the variables we have right now and the very small margins in performance that make the difference, any small thing can make the difference between winning and running fifth or sixth. So everyone's input is valuable.
You know, if a guy cleaning the windshield on the car in the pits looks over and sees something on another car or thinks of something, I think that's really valuable.
So I try to give my input, but usually the best thing for me is just to drive that race car as fast as I can and then not worry too much. That's the best for me.
Q. Now that we're at the halfway mark of this 26-race regular season before the chase, what are the key battleground tracks in the next 13 races? Key races for you to win to get those ten bonus points or for your team to just kind of get better positioned for the chase? Obviously, you have the mile and a half in Chicago and the two miles in Michigan and California. You got the big flat tracks like Pocono and Indy or some of the short tracks. Are there a certain set of tracks that are really kind of the key tracks in this 13-race stretch leading into the chase?
CARL EDWARDS: Obviously, you know, you want to run well at the mile and a half and make sure that part of your program is strong because it is heavy on that in the chase.
But, overall, it'sâ€ -- there are priorities. Number one priority is to make the chase because you can't win a championship if you're not in it. So that's number one.
Number two is to win as many times as you can. You know, I was talking with Bob Osborne about it. If Kyle Busch and I end up beingâ€ -- fighting for the championship at the end of the year, you know, what happened Sunday at Dover was literally like giving Kyle 20 points because we didn't get 10 and he did. So it is a 20-point difference in what could have been if we would have finished first. So winning is important.
And then just making sure that no matter whatâ€ -- right now we've got to work on our pit crew, so focusing on developing our pit crew to make sure that we're the best we can in ten races.
But no particular race is more important. It is just the whole package of making sure that you set yourself up to win that championship.
Q. I just had a general question about the team concept in racing. I know when you start out racing, you're probably going against everybody else. And then when you're in NASCAR or something, suddenly that team takes on a bigger importance. During a race, do you notice other teammates or it just comes up in certain situations?
CARL EDWARDS: It was very difficult for me to address the team concept of racing when I got to this level. Like a lot of racers, it was me versus the world. And, you know, when I was racing at the local dirt track, there was noâ€ -- zero concept of team, and that was just the way it was. So for me it's been difficult.
But I understand it now and value it. And, yes, you canâ€ -- you do race your teammates differently in different situations and you see other teammates race each other differently than they race me, you know? That's just the way it is.
You know, I know that Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle and David Ragan, their successes are going to help our team on the whole, and that'sâ€ -- that's reason to celebrate those successes. And that's justâ€ -- that's what the team part of this is about at this level.
Q. As you get to these next two tracks with Pocono and Michigan with this car, are you finding that it's as adaptable from one track to another as NASCAR insisted? And with Pocono, what things did you bring from that test, did you learn from that test that you think might help you this weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: I think you cut out a little bit there, but the question was whether or not the new car is as adaptable as they thought it should be?
Q. Between different tracks, and what did you learn from the Pocono test.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I don't know that the car is more adaptable other thanâ€ -- you know, I mean, it's justâ€ -- it is a car we have to run. That's what it is. With the car we run at Pocono, we could go run at Bristol.
I think that the car is fine. I don't really have any problem with it. I mean, competition is based on everyone having the same set of rules. And as long as thatâ€ -- you know, that keeps going the way it is, then the competition will be fine. And I feel like the car, you know, it's got its problems. It's hard to get it to turn sometimes because of that splitter and the bump-stops and things. But I was too loose a little bit at Dover, so I can't complain about that.
I think it's pretty good.
Q. This is more of a lifestyle question. Can you tell me what's involved with your sunglasses endorsement with Wiley X and maybe how it can be an extension of drivers' personalities?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, so, wellâ€ -- okay. PG. So my sunglasses, Wiley X, theyâ€ -- you know, the deal is those are the sunglasses I wear. And they do a lot for government contracts, the military. They make safety glasses. They're not just aâ€ -- you know, a fashionable sunglasses company. They're about true eye protection.
For me it is a good match because, like the sunglasses I wear on race day, they make them so that they have aâ€ -- like a foam backing so you can wear them riding your motorcycle or snowboarding or mountain biking and you don't get wind and dirt and stuff like that in your eyes.
So for me it is kind of an act of, you know, a neat company that's about safety and they're cooler than what I would probably pick out at the store. It is pretty simple. Those are the glasses I wear.
Q. Being the defending race winner at Eldora for tomorrow, I wanted to find out from you if any of the other drivers have come to you for any advice or do you expect to have any drivers coming to you for advice? And do you want to give them any?
CARL EDWARDS: No, heck no, I am not giving them any advice.
Clint Bowyer's dad was talking a little smack the other day. So my first mission is to beat Clint to keep his dad from mouthing me too much.
But it's good. It's fun. It feels like going to the local dirt track.
We talked about teammates earlier. There are no teammates there. It is every man for himself, and winning is what we're going for. So it is going to be fun. I definitelyâ€ -- I mightâ€ -- if I was going to give advice, I would probably give wrong advice just to help my cause there tomorrow.
Q. With the exception of Atlanta and Talladega, you have had a present consistent season. Talk about what you guys have been able to accomplish overall and here as you get into the last 13-race stretch before the chase.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah. Other than (inaudible) failures or running out of fuel, trying to gamble on fuel mileage, we've been great. That's a big deal. This is a very tough sport. At this level, it's extremely tough.
To be one of the guys and one of the teams every week that can run up front isâ€ -- that's a really big deal, and it is a culmination of a lot of effort. I am definitely enjoying it.
This is by far the best start to a season that I've had in the three or four years that I've been here. I am enjoying it. I mean, this is what weâ€ -- this is what we hope for. As long as we can fix a couple little things and keep it going, it's going to be good.
Q. Actually, when you were talking about the car and kind of how it was not so adaptable, maybe the car tomorrow, what was the passing like at Dover? I know there were some problems with that. And do you think it was caused by the COT?
CARL EDWARDS: Dover, to me, has always been a little tough to pass at. It was kind of hard to pass people, but I don't know if it is the car or just how close the competition is.
You know, to be clear, I think the car isâ€ -- it's not unadaptable orâ€ -- there's nothing wrong with it. It is the same car at every track, and you just have to make it work. So sometimes you can't do the little things you want to do to make a car better somewhere as opposed to somewhere else.
Dover, I passed a lot of people at Dover. I felt likeâ€ -- I felt like when my car was a little better, I could get by people. I did have a little bit of trouble with lap traffic there at the end of the race. For some reason, I was having trouble getting byâ€ -- it was a group of two or three cars that were together, I had trouble there.
But, you know, I don't know. I feel like this car hasâ€ -- has actually been a good thing for our team. I feel like I've been able to get more done with this car than I could sometimes with the old car. I don't know if it is just where we're at competitively or if it is a function of the car. I don't know.
Q. I wanted to ask you to comment about the guys that came over from open wheel racing, Juan Pablo, Sam, Dario. I know Dario has missed a few races. Can you comment on how they've done, how they are as competitors out there, and then maybe what your expectations were when you heard that guys were moving over from that rank into stock car racing and what you thought they might be able to accomplish and then kind of what your observations have been racing against them.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I was amazed. I remember hearing the news that Juan was coming over to race. I just couldn't believe it. I was really excited. The idea of guys leaving Formula One to come to Sprint Cup, I think that says a lot about the state of our part of the sport. So to meâ€ -- you know, I think it is a good thing for the sport.
From how they've performed, I think thatâ€ -- obviously, they're all really good race car drivers. I think that you've seen that. You've seen times when all of them have run really well, and then there have been times when they had to suffer through the same learning process that all of us have had to suffer through. And, you know, so I think it'sâ€ -- it's been about what a person could expect, you know.
I wasn't really surprised about anything. I was kind of surprised, though, in a way at how fast a couple guys were right off the bat. I thought that was pretty impressive.
DENISE MALOOF: Carl, thanks very much for spending some time with us today. Good luck this weekend.
CARL EDWARDS: Cool. Thanks a lot, everybody. I appreciate it.
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