Tom Bowles
Friday September 4th, 2009

Carl Edwards is doing a diary Q&A with this season. In his latest edition, Carl talks about his foot injury, his thrilling last-lap win at Montreal, meeting President Barack Obama at the White House, what he needs to do to shore up his third straight bid in the Chase, and tells the story of the night a thunderstorm almost brought his career to an early ending.

Carl's foot injury happened after our interview, but I asked him about it early Friday. He said he didn't want to go beyond what he'd already said in his press release, which was:

"I know this probably sounds ridiculous to a lot of people and I could hardly believe it myself. I was playing Frisbee with a couple of buddies and we both went for the Frisbee at the same time. I put my foot on it, my friend dove for it, and the next thing you know...we all heard a pop. I knew it was broken and we all kind of looked at each other in disbelief that of all things, I would break my foot playing Frisbee. I immediately went to the doctor and have been working with a great team of people at the University of Missouri who work with all the college teams here. They have me on crutches to help me walk but said I could race in both races this weekend and shouldn't have a problem using the accelerator." Let's talk about your Nationwide ride in Montreal. Can you take me through those last two laps? It seemed like initially, you were just as worried about Andrew Ranger (who finished 3rd) than passing Marcos Ambrose for the win.

Carl Edwards: Yeah, Andrew did a great job. He ran me off the end of the track in Turn 1 the last three restarts in a row, but he did it slow enough that I knew what was coming and I was able to hold him off. It was really a lot of fun racing with him.

So once I got by him, I just had to run down Marcos. But I wasn't sure that was going to happen ... When did your mind change from just going for second to going for the win?

CE: Well, I thought that he was going to take off and check out, and I knew the race would be over at any moment because that was our one attempt at a green-white-checkered. So I just ran as hard as I could, and I had an advantage on Marcos because the track was drying up, so it was really tough to tell where you could brake. So I could watch him brake and get a gauge on how much grip he'd have to feel in the braking zone before I stepped on the brakes. That allowed me to go in a little deeper than him, enough to let me catch him. Looking back on the victory, is this the most surprising win you've had in your career?

CE: That was definitely the most surprising one at the NASCAR level, although I had one like that at my local dirt track in Holts Summit, Mo. when I was young. I thought about it since, and as happy as I was, Marcos had to be just as distraught and frustrated. But if you go back and look at Watkins Glen and how he got by Kyle, it was a very similar situation. He pressured Kyle enough to where Kyle made a mistake, and he got by.

Marcos left after the race, but we text messaged each other back and forth this week. He is a world-class driver and a really great competitor, and that's what made the win so special. I know next time, if the roles were reversed, he'll show me no mercy and it'll be tough to hold him off. That was just good racing. Now that you've gotten your first road course win in NASCAR out of the way, do you feel it's a type of monkey off your back considering how people have never considered you a road course expert?

CE: Yeah, it feels good. That's been a goal, but this race in particular a lot of people helped me. I drove the Daytona prototype car for Kevin Dolan, which I crashed before the race even started, and that was humiliating ... I didn't get the tires warm enough, and the car swapped ends on me and I just got behind in my steering and hit the wall hard.

So, that was awful. But I wouldn't have won the Nationwide race if it wasn't for that, because Marcos showed me a lot about how to get around that race track. And even before I got to this track, Juan Montoya, Max Papis, and Boris Said talked to me a little bit too. All those guys have helped, and to me that road course win was a big deal for a lot of reasons. It really made me feel good. You've been out testing for Roush the past few weeks. Can you elaborate a little bit on where you were and what types of things you guys look to tweak at this point in the season?

CE: Small stuff, small things we can tweak for the Chase. Really, the focus right now for our team is Richmond and even Loudon. But Richmond -- I know you've got myself, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle right there in kind of a precarious spot. We have to run well these next few weeks. So that's been the main purpose behind that, things to make our team solid that we can work on all year. The pit crew, our aero package, setups for the mile-and-a-halves... because that's the meat of the Chase. Over 200 points up with two races left, do you feel comfortable at this point as to your Chase bid?

CE: I think if I can make it out of Atlanta and be locked in, that would be great. But until I'm locked in mathematically, I'm not comfortable. Things can change in a hurry.

Auto racing will humble you very quick. It's completely possible that we could blow up on the pace lap in the next two races, finish 43rd, and be in a bad spot. So I know that, and I just have to go do my very best and be just as cautious as ever to make it in. How was going to the White House a few weeks back? It sounds like it was an amazing experience.

CE: Yeah, it was cool. I actually, I've had the chance to meet the President before, back when he was campaigning up in New Hampshire during one of the race weekends. So we went down to the White House and listened to him. He's a regular guy. It was really cool to be able to go see the White House and to be able to actually stand in the rooms, hear the history, and walk around and see everything.

But the coolest thing about it was the implications of him and his administration taking the time and effort to have us there and to recognize NASCAR in that setting. That meant a lot to everyone. Jimmie Johnson said something I thought was interesting. He said, "The thing that stood out for this particular visit to the White House was you left that whole experience feeling like you really knew the president." Would you agree with that?

CE: Yeah, he's just ... to me, his actions are the same as anyone that I'm around on a regular basis. When I saw him the other day, it was 'Hey man, how's it going?' You mentioned the importance of this visit. What do you think the implications of this visit will be?

CE: I think his statements were huge about the Big Three and their need to be in NASCAR because it is an extremely effective form of marketing. When it comes down to it, the question about the economy and its impact on NASCAR can best be described like that, that it is one of the most efficient forms of advertising for anyone. And that is why it's still viable and a good choice for people in this economy. That's the biggest thing which came out of it. We saw Jeff Gordon snap a little bit at Michigan last month when asked for the 1,000th time how his back was holding up this season. How hard is it to stay patient when you've got reporters asking you the same type of question week after week about your winless streak?

CE: Well, the question you just asked is a question about a question that is, I think, an ignorant question to begin with. The answer's obvious. So, it's almost humorous when people say, "What do you think about the fact you haven't won a race this season?"

Of course I wish I would have won more races. So, I guess the question that people should be asking that they hardly ever ask is what are you doing differently this year? And the answer is nothing. I'm doing everything the same way I did it last year as a driver; we just haven't had the results. So that begs the next question, which is, "Well, why do you think you haven't won as many races?" And the answer to that is this is an extremely competitive environment. And the fact that I haven't won shows you how competitive it is.

That's it. There's really nothing else to say. I could get mad about people asking a question, but I just humor them and give them the best answer I can. It's like asking Jeff Gordon, "So what do you think about your back?" Well, it appears it really hurts! So, I wouldn't ask him what he thinks about his back pain ... it is what it is, there's nothing you can do about it.

I can tell you this much: when I get in a race car, I drive 100 percent, I do the best I can, and I'm better than I've ever been. I'm learning tons, and I get what I can get on the track.

To some people, it might cross their mind once a week, "Oh yeah, the No. 99 team hasn't won yet this year." Trust me, it crosses my mind at least four times an hour, every day, "Man, we need to win a race." So you don't have to remind me. Heck, that's what I do for a living ... Richard Childress Racing recently shuffled their pit crew so their "A" guys would be aligned with their one team trying making the Chase (Clint Bowyer). With the pit problems all of RFR had on and off this season, are there any plans to do that type of thing for your team? Do you think changing the chemistry up at this point in the season would help or hurt the program?

CE: People don't know about this stuff a lot of times, but Jack [Roush, owner] does these kinds of things often. He recently took one of Jamie's really good guys and put him on our team. He consulted Jamie about it, and it meant a lot to me for Jamie's guys to sacrifice to help us out. That's something that goes on a lot in this sport. When you first look at the change, you think, "Oh, that's good for Clint Bowyer," but for the people who lose someone, it very tough. It shows you how much teamwork is involved in the sport, because that's tough to lose a guy or lose multiple guys to go help another teammate.

Sometimes, though, that has to be done for the big picture to work, so that the whole team can prevail in the long run. So it meant a lot for Jamie and their team to sacrifice for us. That was a big deal.

All eyes are on Hurricane Jimena this week as it batters the coast of Baja California. Being from Missouri, I don't expect you to be much of a hurricane guy, but what's the craziest experience you've had with storms during your lifetime? Are you a big-time thunderstorm guy?

CE: Well, the craziest experiences I have are all based on airplanes. I fly through the atmosphere, and weather is one of the most important things to keep track of. The scariest moments of my life have occurred in airplanes, in weather. So I have a much, much higher respect for weather systems and storms than I had when I started flying. Any time in particular that stands out?

Yeah, I was flying along coming from somewhere on the East coast. I was flying over St. Louis, at 18 or 20,000 feet, and there was a big line of thunderstorms with a very small gap between them. I couldn't see the actual thunderstorms because I was in clouds, but in my little NEXRAD radar it would update every five to seven minutes. The gap was getting smaller and smaller, and I was racing the clock trying to get through it. But suddenly, the NEXRAD updated and there was no gap ... and I was stuck in this storm.

That was one of the dumbest decisions I ever made as a pilot. For the next five minutes, I was petrified because I had done the thing they always say not to do: I gambled with the weather. Luckily, everything worked out fine, but I was by myself, and it was scary. In the airplane, I couldn't see anything out of the windows. It was a dull gray out of the windows, and I was just bouncing along in that thunderstorm at 20,000 feet, and just waiting for that one terrible updraft or downdraft ... it was bad.

So, from that point on I've always stayed far away from the bad weather.

"Hey Carl, I'm going to be an incoming freshman to the University of Missouri this year. I know you still live in the area, so are there any cool places for young people where you loved to hang out when you were in school? And seeing as you went to Mizzou yourself, any words of wisdom for an incoming freshman from out-of-state as to how to make friends on campus?" -- Shelby Thomaston, Brunswick, OH

CE: Columbia, Missouri's the coolest town in the country. I say that with respect to all other towns ... but this is it. You picked a good school. As for the best place to go eat dinner... there's a couple of places, but Shakespeare's Pizza is world-renowned. It's a very cool place downtown, you'll meet lots of cool people and eat some great pizza.

I'd say that Stankowski Field is also a good place to go meet people. They've got outdoor volleyball courts set up. Football, basketball, soccer, there's a running track ... and at night, there's a lot going on there. A lot of people are being active, which is really cool. As far as clubs and stuff, it's been awhile since I've been in that scene here but comedy at Deja Vu is always entertaining, and there's any number of places you can go downtown and have a good time. And don't forget the Katy Trail, the state park that runs across the whole state and right into the middle of town. You can ride your bike there, or go for a run and meet lots of people.

It's just a really cool town.

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

CE: 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 feeling ... 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 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. What differences do you anticipate during a night race at Atlanta as opposed to during the day?

CE: I don't think there'll be much of a difference because of the fact it's a night race. I think what's going to be different is the fact that now this race, there's going to be a huge amount of inherent drama because there's so many people's seasons that could be defined by this race and the next one. So there's going to be hardcore effort put forth by everyone to do well. It's a pivotal race in the season for a lot of teams. This track is where you got your first Cup win back in April 2005. Is it funny to think sometimes it was four and a half years ago? What do you think has changed the most about you as a driver from now till then?

CE: I'd say my confidence. That helps a lot, although there's still things I need to prove to myself I can do. For the most part, though, I feel real comfortable in the race cars now, and I feel that I have the confidence that allows me to go out there and do my best and do no more than that. That's a big deal, and it saves me a lot of headaches in the last year or two, that kind of maturing in the race car. That's been pretty cool.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.