Tom Bowles
Friday October 23rd, 2009

Carl Edwards has agreed to do a biweekly diary Q&A with SI.com this season. In the latest edition, he walks us through a disappointing night at Charlotte and discusses how a rough first half of the Chase has the No. 99 team switching up its championship strategy for the final five weeks. Plus, in the wake of some exciting news he tells us all about his wife's pregnancy, what it feels like to be an expectant father for the first time, and more.

Charlotte was a rough weekend for the team (Carl was a 35th-place car most of the night before dropping an engine and finishing 39th). Can you walk through what happened from the drop of the green through your disappointing finish in the race?

Yeah, we were just off. We missed the setup, and we were just too loose from the very beginning. We worked and worked, tried to get it tightened up and we couldn't. We made a really drastic change [in the race] and then still it wasn't tight enough. So the whole night was a struggle, and then we had a little bit of trouble in the pits and went another lap down. So once you get two laps down, if you don't have a really fast race car, your race is over.

It was the worst performance we've ever had as a team, so we hope we will not have another one of those. And the engine blowing up... at that point, you're just letting me get home earlier. That was the only good part about it; really, it was just insult to injury. There was no way we were coming back from where we were at.

You called the engine a "mercy killing" based on how badly you were running. Was that awkward for your team? I'm sure they felt just as bad as you ...

Yeah, my guys know that they all want to win just as badly as I do. So I don't have to say anything to 'em -- they know. The only good thing about it is that it could have been a run like Matt [Kenseth, who finished second] -- one where you're racing for the win and then the engine blows up. So it could have been a lot worse.

After that DNF, several drivers including Jeff Gordon have accused you of "clutching" the engine in order to just head to the garage and finish off your day. Is that true?

Nah, as much as I would like to do that sometimes I've never done that. And I hope I never will. Those guys work really hard on those engines. If I was going to do something like that, I'd admit it. But I can understand why people do, I can tell you that.

One thing that did stick out to me was how composed you were while your car was running so badly, as opposed to other drivers who lose control on the radio. How difficult is it to keep your frustration from shining through on a night like that?

Yeah, let's just put it this way: I'm glad you have to push a button so people can hear what you're saying, because if it was just every word that came out of your mouth, every thought that came to mind, I would not have seemed so composed. But I think it's important not to lose your cool with your team. They're your team. It's one thing to be angry at a competitor or something like that, but to yell at your guys... it's something I try not to do. I think that's important, especially since they don't yell at me.

Now that you're 336 behind, 10th in points, explain how your in-race strategy changes for the second half of the Chase with the title a bit of a longshot.

Well, Bob and I talked about it: we're just going to go for it. We're going to take risks, be slightly more aggressive, and maybe take some gambles on pit road. Try some things with setups, too, because at this point, to run in the top 10 for the rest of the Chase is not going to get us really anything. So we need to go out and try to win some races, just so we've got some momentum to go into the offseason with.

Mathematically, we can still win a championship, but realistically, we have to go out and try some things and learn.

Does what Matt did on Saturday night (finishing second) give you guys hope you've found something in the Roush organization?

Oh, yeah. If Matt hadn't run like that, the whole night would have been a disaster, and we would have nothing to gain from it, nothing to take from it and look to the future with. But Matt's run, that was cool. I watched the end of that race from my motorhome, and that was pretty amazing. It gives me hope.

With the Cup title an uphill climb, do you hold out hope on the Nationwide side that you can catch Kyle Busch?

Yeah, with us not being in the hunt right now, the Nationwide title is getting to be more important. The reality is we have to run better over there. I feel like our balance is good, the car handles well, and we're just not competitive at these mile-and-a-halves for some reason. We've been working hard at trying to figure out what we're lacking, and we'll give it all we've got for the rest of the season; but I'm looking beyond this season, as well.

For the next 2 years, I plan on running for the championship, so I want to be able to win those.

Is the horsepower for the Toyotas part of the problem over there? It seems like their engine program in Nationwide is top notch.

Yes, it's definitely down on power in the low end of the RPM range. Those races, they're "restrictor plate" races so to speak (with the tapered spacer) so it's difficult to make up for that, it really is. If you look at the tracks I've won at this year, they've been short tracks and a road course. So I don't think that's chance -- it shows where we're lacking.

Let's change topic to something really exciting. Congratulations on your wife's pregnancy! Has it hit you yet you're going to become a father in a few short months?

Yeah! It's amazing. I am blessed, man. I've got the greatest wife, and so far everything looks good. The baby's staying healthy, and I'm really excited to say the least.

Now, I know you guys have known about this for awhile. Being somebody that's constantly in the limelight, how hard was it to keep the secret from leaking out until you wanted to tell everyone yourself?

Well, we only told a few people. We just decided we would wait until we were sure everything was going well, and until we both felt comfortable talking about it. It really wasn't that tough, though. Kate's really cool. She's a private person, and I'm pretty private, and I think we told people when it was right.

It's a personal thing, and if folks are interested that's fine, but it's really something that's between Kate and I. So I felt like we'd tell people when we felt like it.

Now, have you guys started decorating the nursery yet now that you know it's going to be a little girl?

No, we haven't (laughs)! I'm kind of a last minute person, but we'll figure something out. We have not been planning at all yet, really ... I need to call Sherwin-Williams and get some pink paint.

You know, everyone says having a baby is a life-changing experience. How has the pregnancy put your racing career in perspective during what's been an up-and-down season?

Everyone tells me that when she's born, it will really change my perspective. Already though, it's changed the way I look at my relationships with my family. Kate and I, we dated for a long time and now we're married, and marriage was a big step. But now, I look at our relationship differently and it's much, much stronger.

It's also made me think a lot about my parents. My dad was the same age I am when I was born, and it makes me understand our relationship a little better. My mom, too. So it's different; I think everybody goes through that, but it's changed the way I look at my relationships.

Have you gone to your parents for advice yet?

We've talked a little bit, but not much yet. I'm definitely going to need their help a lot though come February.

Halloween's coming up next week. What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up, and do you have a good trick-or-treating story?

Well, I had this Oscar the Grouch costume I wore a few years in a row, until my classmates in second grade, third grade, fourth grade told me, "Dude! You wore the same thing last year." I just didn't think anybody would remember. But that was my favorite costume...

For us, Halloween was about trick-or-treating. You'd get all the candy you could, and you'd smuggle it to school and eat candy for the next couple of months. So it was always fun. And you always left the candy that was no good, so all you'd have after awhile is a pile of candy that you didn't want to have.

"Carl, my wife and I are pregnant with our first child too! My question is: my wife's working full-time, she's an elementary school teacher and in the middle of the school year. Right now, we're busy trying to decide whether or not she goes back to work after she has the baby, because I have a full-time job and can easily support the family too. But she loves what she does for work and is very torn ... so I was wondering if you and Kate had any discussions about that because she's also a successful doctor? What's your take, and do you have any advice on what we should do as we try and make our decision?" -- Jeremy Linden, Lexington, KY

For Kate and I, it works out well that she works and I work. We both have our jobs. So I can't say what would work for anyone else, but for us, it's nice to both get home and have work stories to share. When we get home at the end of the day, we'll share things from both of our jobs. And I think that's important, and it definitely gives me a lot of perspective on my career. Her career, what she does is like being a teacher. It's important, and her job helps people.

So my advice would be, if your wife loves what she does, then she should just keep doing it.

Take us through a lap at Martinsville.

Martinsville is a quick lap. Very fast ... not speed-wise, but things happen very quick. You drive down into Turn 1, and it's really a dragstrip. You're on the throttle, 130 miles an hour, and then you just have to slam on the brakes and get the car slowed down to 50, 60, 70 miles an hour or somewhere in there. And as you roll into the corner, the car slides and decelerates ... and the tires are low pressure, so you feel the car squirm around quite a bit. And then right in the center of the corner, you're going to lift up the brakes and roll as fast as you can around the center. Then, you push the throttle as hard as you can without spinning the tires off the corner. It's just a drag race after that, once you get the car straight -- the front end is up in the air, the rear end is squatting down with springs down the backstretch. And then you go down into Turn 3 and do the same thing. You slam the brakes, and you've got to be careful not to axle hop. If you hit the brakes a little too hard, you're going to hop the rear axle, and the rear tires will bounce off of the ground like a pogo stick and you're going to go up and hit the fence.

I know that because I did it my first time in a Cup car. Then you roll back to the start / finish line ... and you do it for 500 laps. So the brakes are huge; your left foot, it hurts so bad after the race from pushing the brake pedal so hard. And you're just so mentally worn out because you're always working the steering wheel.

OK, now you're talking about hitting the wall ... but you guys are going so slow there in comparison to the bigger tracks. Is this the one place where you can hit it several times and still bounce back for a top 5 finish?

Yeah. I'll never forget a couple of years ago, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ripped the entire right front bodywork off his car and still finished third or fourth. You can do well in that race as long as all four tires are pointed in the right direction. It doesn't matter what your body looks like.

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