Tom Bowles
Friday September 25th, 2009

Carl Edwards has agreed to do a biweekly diary Q&A with this season. This week, he talks about recovering from a tough start to the Chase, dealing with last lap caution flags, and how to race fast with your street car the RIGHT way as he prepares to go for his first win of the season at Dover.

Your first race in the Chase didn't quite go like you expected. Have you guys figured out what went wrong at New Hampshire? (Carl finished 17th, and is now 110 points out of the lead in 11th place.)

We just weren't fast. That's something we've been working really hard at is trying to figure out what we're missing at these style race tracks: flat, shorter race tracks and just short tracks in general. We've struggled a little bit. Greg Biffle seems to be running the best out of our group. He got a ninth place out of it, but it looked to me like he was driving hard for that ninth place. A year ago, he won that race and I finished third. In just the past year, there's a lot that's changed in the sport. There's a lot of teams that have figured things out, and the competition has just become closer.

Fortunately for us, there's just one more similar track (Phoenix) for us in the Chase.

Well, maybe you can take some things you learned from that race and apply it to Phoenix later on.

Right. We did learn some things. So hopefully, we can apply it to Phoenix, which has been a good track historically for me. Hopefully, it works.

Everyone is talking about that caution flag that came out late on the last lap, where A.J. Allmendinger's car was stopped at the start/finish line while the field came barreling out of turn four at full speed. What was your perspective, and did you even recognize there was a caution before the start/finish line?

Yeah, my spotter was telling me what was going on. I watched a replay of it and it ended up being a bad situation, but NASCAR is in a tough spot there. Because it looked like A.J. Allmendinger was going to pull away at any minute, and if he could have pulled away and NASCAR could have finished that race under green, that's better for everyone involved. But what happened was, NASCAR threw the caution really late, and when they do that, as drivers you don't know where the scoring loop is. If everybody would have slowed down right when NASCAR said, "Caution's out" there wouldn't have been any issue. But just to be sure they held their position, everyone raced a little bit longer.

So NASCAR threw the caution in time for everyone to slow down, but all of us still raced for another couple of seconds 'cause you want to make sure you cross the next timing loop and get scored in your position. I do think it turned out OK, in the end there wasn't a big disaster and NASCAR did what they had to do.

Now as a driver in that type of situation, because of those type of safety issues, would you rather they go back to the last lap?

Nah, I think what they have right now is very close to a perfect system. The only problem with what they have now is they go to the previous scoring loop. So let's say there's eight of them around the race track. You might have passed a guy, and then you get put behind them because you didn't pass them until after that last loop -- that happens a lot. But for every person that loses, there's a person that gains; and other than going back and reviewing freeze frame video footage, seeing the lights come on and pointing out where everyone is, this system we have now is pretty good.

During that race, there were a number of debris cautions. Are you comfortable with the concept of a debris caution as a driver, or would you like to see stricter rules in place for when a caution should and should not come out?

All I can say is it's very frustrating to have a caution come out for a piece of debris that nobody sees. That's really frustrating.

Mark Martin is quickly becoming the sentimental favorite in this Chase. If you can't win it, is he the guy you're pulling for to come out on top?

As a competitor, it's terrible to see Mark win. He's good, he's the point leader, and he's going to make it hard to beat him. As a person, he is a great ambassador for our sport right now. There's no one that care mores about it, that puts more into it and who's a more quality person. So I think that it's the happiest I can be for someone else to win the race.

How do you feel the foot progressed on Sunday? With Dover being a tough physical track, are you guys going back to a softer pedal or is everything back to normal inside the car?

Yeah, we're almost back to normal. They're letting me take the orthotic out of my shoe. I just have a piece of carbon fiber in the sole of my shoe to stiffen up the sole, to help me a little bit. So I'm progressing every week, and this week it feels twice as good as it did last week. Just walking around, or "hopping around," it feels good.

Last week, Juan Pablo Montoya had an incident where he blew off a reporter during required media time for Sprint Cup drivers in New York City. Do you think anything should happen as a result of the incident, and can you give a little insight as to what your schedule is like so fans know what you're up against?

I think of myself, of my job, as driving a race car. That's my job, that's what we all do. The media and things we do outside of that when things are going well is in addition to our regular job. Obviously, Juan, myself, all the drivers we do as much media as we can because it's a great part of what makes our sponsorship work. And we want to connect with our fans, it's something that we all do even when nobody forces us to do it.

I watched that clip, and I'm not certain, but I would guess what happened was they told him you're going to sit down for an hour or an hour and a half or however long it was, and at 5:00 you'll be done. Juan had his family there, his wife at least was there, and he had other things he was going to do that evening. For all we know, he had an autograph session he was going to go to with more fans. It looks like it was 5:01, and he had been sitting in that chair for a long time and he had something else he needed to do. I understand that side of it, but I also understand that the interviewer was really frustrated because he had been waiting for that interview.

But he tried to reason that it was because of Juan not wanting to do that interview that NASCAR's popularity is dropping. I believe that's a stretch. I think they could have rescheduled that interview for some other time and been just fine. If Juan committed to that interview ahead of time, he should have done it; but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying the satellite interviews went long, beyond the scheduled time. If that's the case, the gentleman on the other end of the line has to understand. I don't think it's that big of a deal, because that stuff happens all the time.

It's not often we ask drivers political questions, but the health insurance debate is continuing to sweep across America. With your wife as a doctor, you've seen a bit of a unique perspective on the issue. Do you think reform is needed, and will we be able to come to a compromise solution?

The reason it's such a big debate is because it's a good one. It's very difficult to say what needs to be done. Yes, our healthcare industry is inefficient, and expensive for people who don't have the right insurance coverage. That's a fact. Is the answer a government option for health insurance? I don't know. In my opinion, there's a legitimate fear that having the government run an industry takes away some freedoms. That's a little scary.

So I don't know the answer, but the problem with any system you come up with is there are going to be people that take advantage of it, and that's the root of the problem. I think if we all went to a children's hospital, looked at those kids and then someone said, "Hey, would you mind giving an extra two percent of your income to help kids in this position?" Everybody would do it; they would do it if they could. But I sure don't want to pay some administrator's salary through my taxes for something that's no better than what we have.

"Hey Carl,

I'm in trouble with my parents. I'm 16, and just got my license a few months ago. The other night, the cops caught me and my friends drag racing my '95 Pontiac down the highway with another car ... I was going about 100. My parents grounded me and took my car away for a week, saying they're scared for me to do any type of racing -- they think it's too dangerous. Any advice on how I can convince them otherwise and get back in their good graces?" -- Tim French, Cincinnati, Ohio

OK, so the first thing, racing on the road is dangerous for a number of reasons. And this is not to say that I did not act like a complete idiot when I was a kid. I think everybody who's got a NASCAR Hard Card has probably done some things they shouldn't have on the road. I mean, we like our driving ... but racing on the street is dangerous. Even if you do everything right, if you are the best driver in the world, you can come over some hill and the road can be blocked by some idiot driver who's not doing everything right and you're in a bad position there.

You also don't have the safety equipment -- and that's something now I understand better than ever. I've seen the crash footage, the videos from the seatbelt manufacturers and all this impact footage. I now drive much more carefully on the road, because the forces that are there; even when you hit something with your car at 35 miles an hour, you can do massive damage to your body. So for that reason, you've got to be careful.

Now, if you really want to be a better driver and learn to drive, there are a number of places where you can do track days, like at a road course, or do auto crossing with your street car where there's really nothing to run into. You can learn all the fundamentals of how to do things; it'll make you a better driver, and you can do it in your street car. Or go to the local drag strip and do some sort of bracket racing; you can learn a lot about racing inexpensively.

As far as getting in your parent's good graces, I don't know how you do that, man. Mow the yard, clean the house for a little bit, maybe go get him some groceries and show them that your car is useful for something good.

Take us through a lap at Dover.

Dover is a track that gives a higher sensation of speed than almost any track we go to. It's amazing. Even now, when I pull in on the back straightaway -- you have to drive across the race track when you pull in -- and looking at it always makes me chuckle. When I look at this track, I think, "Who sat around in a meeting and decided, let's build this thing this way? "It's got walls on both sides, all the way around, there's no runoff area, the banking is really high ... and it's always perfectly smooth and has a ton of grip. So, the speeds are really high.

When you drive the front straightaway and drive down into turn one, it almost feels like the car is going to come off the ground as the track drops away underneath you to make the banking. The cars launch into the corners, and you get this roller coaster sensation inside the car. Then it slams into the banking, and everything in you is screaming, "Give it a minute, let the car slow down before I get to the throttle!" But to be fast, you have to get right back to the throttle, even though the G Forces are relatively high around the center of the corner. More than most race tracks, you have to be on the throttle right on the bottom of the race track, and you're looking right out of the top of the windshield like at Bristol coming off the turn.

But you can't see the straightaway ... you're kind of looking around the corner, it almost feels like you're going up a big hill. And when you come out on the straightaway, the banking goes away really fast and it kind of throws you up close to the wall if you don't plan it right. And it's symmetric, one of the few race tracks where the corners are very similar.

It's a tough track, but one I've had a lot of success on and I'm hoping we've got a fast race car. I love racing there.

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