Tom Bowles
Friday March 6th, 2009

NASCAR's Carl Edwards has agreed to do a Q&A series with SI.com this season. In the first installment he discusses last week's race in Vegas, his take on Alex Rodriguez and steroids and what he likes about this week's track in Atlanta.

Q: Talk about your Cup race at Las Vegas last weekend (Carl finished 17th). It seemed like track position really hurt you; how big a role is that playing in the series these days?

A: Well, it shows you how much of a team sport it is. Our car -- my car -- was the fastest car on the track during the first run. Drove all the way up to second, was catching Jimmie Johnson for the lead. But then there was one pivotal pit stop that we made where a lug nut fell off a tire, and the inspector saw it. When that happens, they say, 'Hey, you gotta come back in and put that lug nut on.' So, we went from coming out pit road right up there with the leaders to going back in the pack.

So then we fought the rest of the day to gain those positions back, and finally got back up there to the front. But that's the deal ... I pass people on the race track, and then they get back by you due to pit strategy and you have to pass them again. Kyle Busch and the No. 18 guys did a great job [and won the race], but I drove by those guys on the race track [before that pit stop sent me to the back of the field]. That's just the nature of the sport... but that was tough to take.

Q: How can you motivate the crew from the driver's seat during that situation? I know nobody's perfect, but do you try to pump them up on the radio or just let your crew chief, Bob Osborne, handle it?

A: Bob usually handles it, but I always try to make it clear that I'm behind the guys 100 percent, just like Bob is. Because it truly is the case that we all make mistakes. I mean, I've run into the wall and wrecked a car and drove by my pit stall and sped on pit road. So, I believe it's really important in those situations to build the guys back up and say, "Look, we're all in this together, win or lose." Because I know when I make a mistake, it means the world to me when the guys pat me on the back and say, "Hey, don't sweat it, you're the man and we're behind you."

So, that's cool; we've got a good group of guys like that, and we all stick together.

Q: Talk about losing your engine in the final lap at Las Vegas.

A: OK. So my faith in the engine throughout the day went from great at the beginning of the race, to not so great once I realized that [teammates] Matt [Kenseth] and David [Ragan] both had [engine] trouble. Then, for most of the race -- for the meat of the race there -- I was babying the engine. I was nervous the whole time the thing was going to break. But then on that last run -- it was a three lap sprint to the finish -- I could see the leader, I know I had got the fastest car, and I thought to myself, Man, this thing's lasted this long, whatever problem it might have is probably not going to show up in the last three laps. [The engine blowing up] was the farthest thing from my mind. So I'm going down the back straightaway 190 miles an hour and the thing's running great, and it just grenades ... and that was extremely deflating.

Q: Now, will you be the type of guy to ask all sorts of questions with the team as to why this happened?

A: Yeah, I've talked to two guys about it and I understand basically what happened. I feel like we've got great engines, we have very few engine failures, so I ask the questions -- but far be it from me to go over there and try to work on that. They do their jobs really well, and if I run into the wall or do something, they don't say anything to me... so I kind of let them do their jobs.

We might have been a little harder on the engines than we should have been. But you know, there were three engines at Roush Fenway Racing that failed for three different reasons. So that's pretty long odds for something like that to happen, and I think that in the end, I don't think you'll see it again that way. I think we know what went wrong and we can fix it.

Q: Now, with the CoT there's been so many problems with the car handling in traffic versus handling in clean air. Do you find it's gotten any better or any worse in 2009 compared to the first full season with the car?

A: I don't think you'll ever see an improvement in that. I think that as long as the cars are aero dependent -- that when you rely on downforce and you're following another group of cars -- whether or not your car is fast, you're going to have trouble approaching the car in front of you and passing it because the car is so aero dependent.

But I don't believe it's the function of the new car as much as it's a function of the fields getting closer and closer together as more people engineer these cars and get 'em perfect. All the cars are so close nowadays that if your car is the fastest car, it's only one tenth of a second faster than the rest of the field. And once you're in 15th place and you're behind 14 lead lap cars and 10 laps down cars and they're running in this pack, you lose that tenth of a second advantage because you lose the downforce on the car. So it becomes really, really tough to prevail from the back of the pack. But I think if we were running the old style car right now, it wouldn't be much different because I think it's more of a function of how close the competition is. That's my opinion.

Q: It seems like the racing at Vegas this weekend was a large improvement over past years. Do you think what Bruton Smith did to renovate the track a few years back was the right move?

A: Right now, it's great because the pavement is aging just a little bit. It's slippery, it's fun to race on, you've got multiple grooves. I liked it before as a driver, and it's still a great race track.

What he's done with the fan stuff in the infield is cool, too.

The Victory Lane there is one of the most fun ones to be in because of how many fans are around. And then like coming out of the driver's meeting on Sunday morning, I walked out and did a little segment on SPEED channel and there were people everywhere. It seemed like thousands of people were on the walkways above, in the garage area and all over. And they were pumped up to be right there that close to everything. That's cool. I think the more we can get the fans down in the garage area, near the race cars, near the race track, the more access they have, the better it's going to be for the sport.

Alex Rodriguez is meeting with Major League Baseball, who will ultimately determine his fate after taking performance-enhancing drugs. As someone who works out regularly -- and works hard to get in shape -- do you have extra disdain for athletes like Rodriguez who cheated in their sport to get ahead? Or was he the victim of the steroid era, a culture that seemingly enveloped everyone within Major League Baseball?

A: It just seems a little odd to single out the best player in the game right now. It was half a decade ago or more, and he said he's sorry about it. So, you've pretty much just got to move on. I think it's a non-issue.

"My wife says I'm gaining a little too much extra weight watching you go 'round in circles on Sunday. She's telling me to lose a few pounds. Is there a quick and easy exercise you'd recommend to someone who's trying to get in shape for the first time in ... well, a while?" -- Jerry Taylor, Mobile, Ala.

A: So Jerry, the first thing is real simple. It's what you eat that is the most important thing. And then just -- if you just start out with walking or jogging or riding an exercise bike for 20-30 minutes a day, a few days a week, that's a good start. Stopping the soda or the milkshakes, that's good, too. Have a drink of water when you're thirsty instead.

I know the first thing for me when I started working out, the first thing was to quit drinking soda, and that probably made the biggest difference. And you've got to ask your doctor first before you start any sort of exercise regimen. You don't want to be on the treadmill and have a heart attack...

(Looking for your chance to chat with Carl Edwards? Email tbowles81@yahoo.com with what's bothering you, and you might just see your question pop up the next time!)

This week's topic: Music

What's hot: "Handlebars" by The Flobots

What's not: Whoever was playing on the radio in my engine shop this week

At first, you watch and you go, 'Oh my God, look at this guy.' But then, when you think about it, this dude is having a blast and he's enjoying life. So I called this guy up, the Turtle Man, and he's super cool. And he left me like a good, motivational message this week that meant a lot to me. So ...

Q: Take us around a lap at Atlanta. What's the best place to make a pass there, and why?

A: OK, so Atlanta, right off the bat, is special because I won my first Cup race and my first Nationwide race there. I just like going there. It gives me a good feel ... the track itself is really fast. It has some bumps and seams -- where the asphalt comes together -- that make it a pretty technical race track. And the surface of the track is very abrasive. That means you can really go fast the first couple of laps of your tire run -- but then the tires fall off a little bit, and then you end up having to kind of manhandle the car for the last half of the run. So driving down into the corners there, you're going almost 200 miles an hour, and the car slides around a lot and you can run right down by the white line or straight by the fence on the top. It's got multiple grooves, so it just becomes a really, really fun race track ... that's why I like it so much.

I don't know if there's going to be an improvement in the quality of racing with the offseason tire test. I thought the tires were great last year ... I didn't have a problem with them. Because my car was good, and I'm glad the tires were so hard to drive because I didn't have to race as many people. I think as long as the tires hold up and they don't come apart and everyone has the same tires, then the race will be fine.

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