Carl Edwards has agreed to do a diary Q & A with SI.com biweekly this season. After a wreck in Darlington with his own teammate left him 12th in points, Carl talked about why there's no hard feelings between them while assessing where the No. 99 team goes from here. He also gives his take on the Mayfield drug suspension, advice to a struggling college student, and more, including a killer recipe for some ... blueberry crisp?
SI.com: Why don't we start with Darlington. You had a rough beginning overcoming some early adversity.
Carl Edwards: Yeah. Right off the bat, I put the car in the fence and we had to work on it.
SI.com: Now, people get Darlington stripes all the time ... how did you know that this one was a little harder hit than usual?
CE: You can tell (it's not just a small hit) when you've bent something in the steering, because the steering wheel won't be in the same position. And this just bent the right front tie rod a little bit, so it was toed out. But we were able to fix it, and then we passed a ton of cars ... came back up through the field. We were running well ... but then we had trouble in the pits.
SI.com: Was it weird to have pit strategy come into play so much? Because the "new" Darlington is so much different than the old ... you can take two tires for track position and not see your times fall off.
CE: Right. We never took two tires until our last stop, though. Every time we'd come in and stop, we'd lose spots. But we fought really hard ... I was real proud of Bob and everybody for adjusting the car and getting so good.
Really we were just playing it cool, preparing for the end, and I learned a lot. We just never could capitalize two or three times in a row (on pit strategy) to get up to the front.
SI.com: So, you finally get yourself in position for a solid finish and ... can you describe what happened with Greg Biffle?
CE: So, Greg for some reason was back farther than he should have been (Note: Biffle had a long stop that dropped him out of the lead to the back of the top 10). He had a real fast car, though. It was a lap after the restart, and everybody bunched up on me. My spotter Jason told me, "Sixteen's looking inside, he's inside ..." and right then, Greg just touched me. I got sideways, I hit the fence ... and it just destroyed the right front suspension of my car.
SI.com: You were mad initially ... but now, you've had a couple days to think about it. Do you have a different perspective?
CE: Greg and I have talked about it. It's simple: we were both driving as hard as we could. I just didn't expect him to be that aggressive, and he expected me to give him more room -- and it just worked out to be a worst-case scenario. He apologized, and there's no lingering issue there. We're fine. We race really well together.
SI.com: It seems like for both of you, you were in a situation where you've had a frustrating year, a couple of bad finishes in a row ... does that make it hard to roll with the punches when contact like that happens?
CE: Oh, yeah. I was mad as hell at first ... but we all make mistakes. It's like what we talked about when Michael Waltrip and I got together at Phoenix. Michael came over to me at Talladega the next week, and he said something to me I thought was extremely true. He said, "You know, I understand. We all screw up, we all make mistakes, and don't worry about it."
I think when you're dealing with people who're good people trying to do the right thing, you got to live with things when they happen. And I feel that way about what happened with Greg. I don't think we're going to have any more trouble.
SI.com: A couple of weeks ago, you said the philosophy for the regular season simply has to be to stay within the top 12. But now that you're on the Chase bubble (in 12th), do you have to change what you're doing a little bit because you're struggling more than you expected?
CE: Right now, our mission is simple: get as many points as we can so we can go to Richmond and be locked into the Chase. If you have an engine blow up or something happens at Richmond, you're done even if it's out of your control. Right now, it's gain as many points as we can. That's it.
SI.com: For you in terms of how it's gone ... would you envision this as a worst-case scenario?
CE: So far, it's not worst case but it's not good. We've had trouble on pit road and flat tires and cars blowing up and wrecks, all sorts of things. We've got 15 races left, 15 to make it in the Chase. If we don't panic, luck has to turn and you can't just keep having bad luck, bad luck, bad luck forever. So, we'll prevail. We'll be all right.
SI.com: Let's talk about Jeremy Mayfield and the recent drug suspension rocking the sport. When NASCAR called everyone together last Saturday and said we're going to have a big meeting, were you surprised by what it was all about? What are your feelings on how the whole announcement went down?
CE: I still don't understand exactly what's happened. I don't know what Jeremy Mayfield did, I don't know the whole process of how NASCAR determines when someone's violated their policy, I don't know. So, I have questions that I haven't had a chance yet to talk to NASCAR about -- but I plan on doing that. No one really understands what's going on with the drug testing policy yet, but I have confidence that NASCAR will make it more clear.
SI.com: Because so little information has been released, is it frustrating as someone who knows Mayfield to see all this speculation out there about his career?
CE: Yeah, that's just wrong. Jeremy Mayfield's a good guy, I like Jeremy Mayfield. Best case, this is all a misunderstanding. And worst case, he's still a great guy and I stand behind him as a friend and want to help him in any way I can.
I think any type of speculation on this thing is bad. In the past, I've had to listen to people spout their mouths and say things like Carl Edwards is on steroids, stuff like that. It's wrong. People are vicious ... it isn't right. And I don't have any respect for people like that.
SI.com: So ... you did something interesting with your off time this week. How in the world did you get involved with the Bill Engvall Show? (Carl had a guest role in an episode of the sitcom filmed this week).
CE: Well, they're connected to TNT through TBS. Bill was at the races at Chicagoland last year, I met him and he's just a really great guy. It seemed to me doing this for him would be something really fun, because they just have a good time on that show. Showing up there is just like walking into the shop. Everyone knows everybody, everyone was cool ... right from the beginning I loved the vibe on the show, and I was glad I did it.
SI.com: Since you've done so much acting at this point (among other things, Carl also had a guest role in 24 a few years ago), have you found acting to be second nature at this point?
CE: No, no. Acting is far from second nature. Probably about eighth nature for me right now ... so I was nervous. It's tough because the race car takes a lot of focus and everything, but it doesn't matter what your facial expressions are and how you say anything. But that's all acting is, being natural while you're trying to remember your lines and stuff. It's fun, I really enjoy it. I've got some other things on the horizon too that are going to be really cool. Once I get them finalized, I'll let you know.
SI.com: Now, I know you're really close to your mom. Did you get to do anything special for Mother's Day?
CE: Yeah, I got to say Happy Mother's Day to mom when the clock turned over to Mother's Day, flying in the airplane back from Darlington to Missouri. It was really cool to get to hang out with her at the races; she's a huge part of any success I've had and will ever have. She's just done so much for me in my life, so it was cool to get to hang out with her a little bit.
SI.com: With the All-Star Race this weekend, it's a good chance ... it's kind of been so different with all the guys from the shop coming here. Have you done anything special this week to get them to know how much you care?
CE: Well, the most fun thing I've done so far this week is the Pit Crew Challenge. Going to the challenge and watching the guys in their element, so to speak, that was the best part of the week so far.
SI.com: The Indy 500 will be run next Sunday without a NASCAR driver in the starting lineup attempting the Indy-Coca-Cola 600 double. Do you think they should change the time back around? And could you ever envision yourself running an open-wheel car someday?
CE: It'd be great to have the double back, where you run the Indy 500 and then people come and run the Coca-Cola 600. It looks grueling, to say the least. Maybe one day they'll work it so it's still possible.
SI.com: Did you ever dream of Indy instead of NASCAR as a kid?
CE: I think every driver would love to drive the Indy 500. But I didn't look at Indy Car racing as an option for me. There weren't enough rides out there ... if NASCAR was a one-in-a-million chance, in Indy there would be no chance. There are so many Truck teams and Cup teams and Nationwide teams over here in NASCAR, so many seats to be filled ... and it never appeared to me Indy Car was ever like that.
I'd be happy if I was over there at Indy right now getting ready to run that race, but truly the best racing on the planet's right here. If I had to choose, I'd stay right where I am. I like NASCAR a lot.
"Carl, I've been in college a year and it isn't going well. I really want to drop out of school to go racing, but my parents and I have been fighting a lot because they insist I get a college degree first. I don't know if I'll ever use a degree, though -- all I've wanted to do is be a mechanic or a racer and I can't ever imagine doing anything else. If I wait another three years and get through school, my parents will help pay for it, but then I'll be three years further behind because I can't always race full-time when I'm in school. College just leaves me so bored ... what would you do? Should I pursue my dream now? I feel like I can't do them both."-- Kenny Jeffers, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
That letter could have come from me in 1998 or 1999. I know exactly how you feel. The reality is, though, unless you have a contract in front of you where somebody says they're going to pay you to drive race cars, you're better off, I believe, to race all you can while still going to college and getting that degree. There's not one NASCAR driver starting a race this weekend other than Ryan Newman who has a college degree, so I think a degree could help you with your career more than you think. And not just as an accomplishment, either -- as a personal pursuit of knowledge.
What I did, personally, is I went to college until Jack Roush hired me to drive his race cars. Until I had a contract ... because I would have been stupid to stay in school and not go race for Jack, but if you don't have enough racing to fill up every day then you might as well go to college and get your degree. So, stay in school.
Today's Topic: Food
Pumping Iron: I'll tell what I'm liking right now. It's a lemon crisp that my motorhome driver's wife has been making. I'm pretty good on the crisp front right now. I've got a blackberry crisp that Angela (personal assistant) makes for me -- and a lemon crisp. And it's really ... it brightens my day when it walks in and I see it sitting on the counter. They make it with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, real fruit, some Splenda, some brown sugar ... it's as good as it gets.
Losing Steam: Black licorice -- is this a joke?? Who eats this stuff??
This is my favorite clip on FailBlog (Ken Lee) ... classic site.
SI.com: Take us around a lap at Lowe's.
CE: A lap at Lowe's is fast. You drive into turn 1, and it's kind of a big, long bump you go over to get to the banking. The car slams into the banking ... and then you try to get back to the throttle as quick as you can. It's a little hairy through 1 and 2 because if you're loose, it's really treacherous the whole time. Then, Turn 3 is a lot different than turn 1 because it's a much smoother entry, a real gradual arc and the banking picks up. It's a little more slippery, so you have to be careful. Get on the gas as soon as you can, and when you come off the corner it really narrows up the wall, comes up real quick ... and if you get tight in the middle, you can run right into the fence off the corner. Then, it's just a drag race heading down into Turn 1.
SI.com: With it being the All-Star Race, will you drive any more aggressively than you would in a normal event?
CE: Yeah, you'll be a little more aggressive than you usually are. Just a little bit, though. There's not much room ... if you drive aggressive during a normal race on a scale of 1 to 100, it's the difference between going 99.5 and 99.6.
SI.com: Would you say that other than Darlington, Lowe's is the hardest 1.5-mile track to pass on because of the high speeds there?
CE: Yeah, I'd say this one is one of the toughest mile-and-a-half tracks to pass on. Because the track's so smooth, the Goodyear tire has so much grip there's just not much room for error. So, you've got to be really careful where you stick your nose here.
The whitewater rafting training facility in town. I went there with Brian Vickers once, and it was crazy.