Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards is among a handful of drivers who hope a win or two within the next couple of races will get them a wild card spot in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Right now, Edwards is on the outside looking in, as far as Chase hopes go, not inside the top-10 of the championship points standings and winless so far in 2012. Only two races remain — Sunday’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway — to earn a spot in the 12-man Chase.
Edwards recently participated in one of NASCAR’s teleconferences with the media to talk about the position he’s in at this point in the season and his chances of being one of the 12 drivers in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Below, is a trandscript from the teleconference:
HOW IS YOUR TEAM APPROACHING THE NEXT TWO RACES?
“We’re going to approach them like we’ve approached the last couple of races and that’s just to go out and try to win the race and do whatever it takes to put ourselves in a position to win. I don’t think there could be two better tracks coming up. Atlanta is one of my personal favorite tracks to drive on. I don’t think there’s a more fun race track on the circuit to race on. Chad and all the guys, we spoke a lot this week about our strategy for the race and we feel like we’ve got a car sitting there in the hauler that can go win that race, so we’re really excited about it. I hope that it goes the way we want it to, and Richmond has been kind of a hot-and-cold race track for us, but this spring we found some things and figured some things out and I think we’ve got a good shot at a win at Richmond as we have at any other track on the schedule.”
IT SEEMS EVERY WEEK YOU’VE SAID ‘WE’VE GOT TO GET GOING RIGHT NOW. WE’RE OUT OF TIME.’ IS THAT SOMETHING YOU JUST DEAL WITH LIKE ‘IT IS WHAT IT IS’ OR DOES IT GET HARDER AND HARDER AS THESE WEEKS HAVE GONE ON? AND IS IT POSSIBLE WITH THE WAY THE TEAM HAS STRUGGLED TO ALL OF A SUDDEN HIT ON AN ATLANTA SETUP AND BE LIKE YOU WERE IN YEARS PAST?
“Two things. Number one, I’ve never said we’re out of time. I never said that. What I’ve said is we’ve got to go out here, we’ve got to let it hang out and take the chances that you always want to take but you’re worried about the points outcome and things like that. If I’ve given the wrong message, then that’s my fault, but I’ve been trying to express to you guys our feeling, which is we recognize the position we’re in, we don’t like it, and the only thing we can do is go out and race like we’ve got nothing to lose because, in a way, we don’t. We need to win. That’s why you saw me stay out at Bristol and hang on to old tires and a low tank of fuel to just try and hold guys off and stay out front. Those are the kind of things we need to do if we don’t have the dominant car. The second part of your question, you’re exactly right. The bigger part of competition, in my mind, is dealing with circumstances that don’t go the way you want them to. That’s the tough thing to do and in auto racing you’ve got to do it more than dealing with winning, so I’ve learned over the years that for me to be successful and for our team to be successful, you can’t let what happened last week, last year, last month affect you right now, whether it’s good or bad. You can have a bunch of success and that can affect you negatively because you feel like somehow you deserve continued success, which isn’t true, or you can let frustration and worry bother you over what’s happened in the past and that doesn’t really mean anything because every time you show up at the race track, and this weekend is a good example, we know that when you show up at the race track you have the same chance to win, you can hit the setup perfectly, you can make good decisions, racing luck could go your way, and all of a sudden you can get that victory that you need. I think the perfect example of that this season was Jeff Gordon at the Pocono race a few weeks ago. He restarted the race sixth or ninth, I don’t know exactly where he was, but you go down in the corner and everybody wrecked and he came out first, then it rained and he won the race. There’s a race if you would have asked him before that restart, they probably weren’t considered a favorite to win that race right then, but they didn’t stop believing in their ability and the circumstances arose and they did it. That’s kind of a long-winded answer, but basically I’m saying we feel like we have time. We feel like we have the team. We just need things to fall our way and we will capitalize on it.”
I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE SAID YOU HAVE A SENSE OF URGENCY.
“Yes, and that’s exactly correct. There is a real sense of urgency and I’ll say this, one thing about last season and 2008 was a good example, and last season was a good example, as two different ways to approach a championship run. In 2008, I made some mistakes and our team didn’t perform as well as we should have in the Chase, and then last season when all the pressure was on and it felt like the weight of the world focused on us, and all this pressure, we performed nearly perfectly. We didn’t slip up. We took what was given to us. We didn’t lose our cool, and I think that was a good exercise to go through, so I have a lot of faith in myself and my team, and even Chad – as little as I know about him – he’s a calm guy and if we can do it, we’ll do it and that’s all you can do.
“And I want to say one other thing to clear the air. I guess no one has asked me specifically about it, but I guess there’s a lot of talk about me driving the 22 car next year and I just want everybody on the call with the media to know that’s impossible. First of all, I haven’t ever discussed that with anyone at Penske, and, two, I’m contracted to drive the 99 car, which I’m very excited about, next season, so that’s what’s happening in case anyone wants to know. I wouldn’t mention it, except for it’s gotten bad enough that our sponsors and folks are asking me about it, so I’m trying to address that now and make sure you guys know I’ll be driving the 99 car next year for sure.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT HAPPENED AT BRISTOL? AND WHAT DOES LEADING THOSE LAPS LATE MEAN AS FAR AS CONFIDENCE GOING TO ATLANTA AND RICHMOND?
“What happened at Bristol is what happens at a lot of these races. We realized that we did not have the race-winning car. We didn’t have the fastest car, so we used a pretty optimistic strategy to put ourselves up front and then not pit when other guys pitted for fuel and tires, and the idea was to just stay up front and try to hold those guys off. I pretty much made the call, which, it turned out to be the wrong call because we ran out of fuel, but I stayed out hoping for more cautions. Those are the types of things that when you have to win, those are the type of decisions that are easier to make to put yourself in those spots and react to things like that. As it turned out, it definitely would have been better to just come for fuel and I think we’d be closer to the 10th-place in points, but I believe what you said is true as well. I think there’s a huge amount of confidence. I had fun. At the end of the day I had fun leading those laps. I had fun holding off Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin and all of those guys while I could, and it was nice to lead a couple of those restarts and to be in the race to win the race, even though it was fleeting when it went away. But I think that was really good. I had a lot of people comment on how much fun it was for them to watch even if it was just for a minute when it looked like we had a shot at it, so I think there was value to doing that even if it cost us some points.”
IT’S THE 20TH ANNIVESARY OF THE ’92 HOOTERS 500. WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THAT RACE?
“That would probably be the most storylines in a race. I can’t imagine how much excitement there must have been as a fan or as a competitor to be involved in something like that. I can only relate to it through a couple of my races that have been really neat that way. The one that stands out would be Homestead last year, where you go in and it’s a virtual tie and it’s a winner-take-all situation and there’s a lot of excitement everywhere. I think those type of moments that happen in a sport are really valuable and I think this sport has a way, even at the local level, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the local dirt track with my dad and it came down to one race, one lap, one restart, and there are so many different things happening. I think this sport somehow lends itself to creating those moments and they’re really special. I know for me growing up as a fan, I didn’t ever go to a NASCAR race, but I watched them on TV and I’ll never forget from my father and all of the guys who would sit around and watch these races on Sundays how much respect everyone had for Alan Kulwicki and what he did – being an engineer that ran everything, that drove the race car and made the decisions and paid the bills, and the success that he had, I can’t speak for everyone, but everyone I was around respected his achievements and his accomplishments as much as anyone I’ve ever seen, so I always thought that even as a young kid watching those races that he was really special.”
DO YOU HAVE THE SAME FEELING YOU DID NOW AS YOU DID AT THE END OF LAST YEAR WHEN YOU SAID YOU WERE PREPARED IF YOU DIDN’T WIN THE TITLE?
“Yeah, you can drive yourself crazy wanting the whole world to be perfect and everything to go your way, but sometimes what I’ve realized for me personally, and I don’t know if this works for everyone, but the only way to be able to feel content with a race or a season is to just lay everything you have on the table, do your very best, and don’t look back. And if you win, you win. If you don’t, you don’t. You can’t change the outcome, you can only change the way you compete and I’ve grown a lot over the years and been able to deal with success and failure a lot better on the race track. I think that’s one of the neatest and most valuable things that racing has taught me is just to do your best. Winning is a hell of a lot more fun than not winning, I can tell you that, but if you dwell on things and you beat yourself up too much, you actually hurt your chances of winning more in the future. That’s taken me a long time to learn.”
DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE DONE YOUR BEST THIS YEAR?
“I feel like I’ve done my best. I’ve made a couple mistakes that I try to look at every race when it’s over, whether I’ve won or lost, there have been races I’ve won that I really screwed some things up and I know I got away with it, and I always try to be honest with myself and say, ‘Hey, I messed up here. I did really well here.’ And there have been a few instances this year where I’ve made mistakes that I’d like to have back, but, overall, I feel like I’ve done the best job I could do and I think my crew and Bob and Chad and Jack and everyone feels like they’ve done the best they could do. Right now, I can look back over the season and I can look at 90 or 100 points that luck just took from us and that’s racing. If we were a little faster, we’d be in the Chase without needing that luck, but, as it stands right now, the way we are we needed things to go a different way to be in a better spot right now, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Let me put it this way. This is what I told my guys the other day after Indy. We had trouble at Indy with a fast race car. I said, ‘Guys, I am here to win Cup championships. If we win it this year, awesome. If we win it next year, great. If we win it 10 years from now, that’s fine too. We are gonna win these championships. It’s going to happen. The only way we are not going to succeed is if we give up and as long as we never give up, we’re gonna get what we want.’ And that’s the way I feel about racing and I think that’s gonna get me and this team to that championship head table. I think that’s how we’re gonna do it.”
IT MUST GET OLD HAVING TO TALK ABOUT THIS KIND OF THING ALL THE TIME.
“That’s fine. I respect that you guys deliver this sport and our personalities and the action on the race track to the fans, so you can ask me as many times as you want whatever you want to ask me, that’s fine. I try to just explain to you guys where I’m coming from and basically it’s just that I get in that race car, I put on my helmet, and I treat every race like it’s the most important race in the world. I go do my best and when it’s over, it’s over. I think that way of racing, what I’ve shown myself and from watching other people that are successful, that seems to be the only way to do it. I don’t know any other way. I doesn’t seem like hoping or dwelling or wishing or wanting really does much for you, you’ve just got to go out and do the job and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I don’t know if I’m conveying that to you guys well enough, but that’s pretty much it. We’re gonna go to Atlanta to win the race and get all the points we can and I’m telling you if we make the Chase, if we’re in it, we are going to be a force in that Chase. I truly believe that, and if we don’t make it, we’re gonna go win every race we can the rest of the season and gear up to come out at Daytona with guns blazing to win the championship next year and that’s how we’re gonna do it all the time.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TONY STEWART’S HELMET TOSS?
“I think throwing the helmet is reasonable if you’re mad. I tell you one thing I learned, I watched the video and I don’t want to be throwing helmets when the car is that close to me because if that helmet would have glanced back and hit him, that would have been bad. So I learned that my lesson from watching that is stand a little farther away when you throw the helmet, so if it bounces straight back at you, you’ve got a little bit of time. He would have looked real bad if it would have just bounced back and hit him in the face.”
WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING CAN YOU IDENTIFY WITH GUYS LIKE JEFF GORDON WHO HAVE STRUGGLED AND THEN COME OUT OF IT?
“Someone told me that the other day, I was sitting there and I think it was Pocono. We qualified second. We’ve got a fast race car and I thought, ‘This is the race. We’re gonna go out here and do great.’ And I drove down in the first corner and Denny Hamlin, his car slid up the race track, and he just nailed me in the left-rear quarterpanel and right then I thought, ‘Isn’t this perfect? This is just how the whole season has been going.’ So I was talking to someone about that and they were like, ‘Dude, you’re 12th in points and everybody expects you to be better, even yourself and all your team. You guys are in a really great position. You’re having a little bit of bad luck and it looks like Jeff Gordon and the 24 team are having the same kind of troubles.’ Kyle and the 18 guys have struggled in the points as well, and I think it’s a good reminder and a good little kick in the rear to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be perfect all the time, so you can absorb this kind of bad luck,’ and then it also exemplifies the competition level in the sport right now. It is off the chart. It’s hard to explain without going and sending people in the race car with you so you can see how hard you’re driving and the margins between the cars. It’s almost hard to put into words how close the competition is and any loss you have, there are gonna be a ton of people who capitalize on it, and any gain you have it’s really hard to have a real positive gain over the field technically or competitive-wise, points-wise. I don’t think that it could be any more competitive. Misery likes company and right now we’ve got a little bit of company back there, but I don’t know if it makes me feel any better, but it is good to see that it can happen to anybody.”
LIKE JEFF IT’S ONE RACE AT A TIME?
“Absolutely. It’s even more than that. It’s one lap at a time, one pit stop at a time. Right now, we have to be perfect and we have to really look at the big picture very often and re-evaluate our goals. If we get in the race this weekend and halfway through the race somebody has trouble or there’s an opportunity to gain track position or put somebody a lap down that we’re battling in points, we have to take advantage of all of those things.”
ONE OF THE OTHER PARTS TO THE 22 RUMOR WAS THAT YOU HAD AN ‘OUT’ IN YOUR CONTRACT IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE THE CHASE. WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADDRESS THAT PART OF THE RUMOR AS WELL?
“I appreciate you asking, but I don’t ever talk about specifics of my contract with the media. I think those are private contracts. I think there’s even a line in there that says I can’t talk about the specifics of my contract, and neither can other folks, so I don’t want to talk about any of those specifics. But I can tell you this, I will be driving the 99 Fastenal Ford next year. I’m glad to be driving that car and I’ve never explored the option of driving the 22 car, so that’s why it took me so long to mention that to you guys because I thought it was so silly that I can’t believe it has traction, but I guess it has. Does that satisfy you guys? Is there any other part I haven’t addressed?”
I GUESS THE ONLY OTHER PART IS IF SHELL COULD COME OVER TO YOU?
“That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’ve never spoken to anyone at Shell. No one has brought that up, so that would be a good question for Steve Newmark, but, right now, the way I understand it, full disclosure, I know nothing more than I am driving the Fastenal Ford Fusion for Jack Roush next year – the number 99 – I’m excited about it and if there are any other things like that going on, I do not know about them, which is probably better.”
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
— Follow Stock Car Spin on Twitter at SCS blog or like Stock Car Spin on Facebook