NASCAR's Carl Edwards has agreed to do a Q&A series with SI.com this season. This week, we caught up with him following Nationwide Series qualifying at Texas to talk about short track struggles, the history of his back flip and a little April Fools' Day joke ... where his wife came out the big winner.
Q: Let's talk about your recent short track swing. The results for Roush Fenway Racing were far worse than anyone expected, with just one top-10 finish among the five drivers over two weeks. What do you think the organization needs to work on for when you come back to these places in the summer?
A: Well, Bristol was a total debacle for us. We were all slow [at Roush Fenway], you know what I mean? Greg [Biffle] was the fastest, and he had bad luck; but the rest of us were out to lunch. So we've got to work on our setup going back to Bristol. Martinsville, on the other hand, I felt like we were pretty good. That was the best car I've had at Martinsville. I just cut a tire racing with David Reutimann, and went two laps down, and my day was pretty much done at that point. We were real fast, a top-three car for sure [that day]. But we ended up with a 15th and a 26th for those two weeks ... that's terrible.
Q: Now, when your own car is struggling, usually you go to one teammate to try and find advice. But when all five cars are struggling, what do you do?
A: That's what's really tough. You just have to buckle down, use the engineering guys at the shop and figure out what exactly we need to do to be on the same page with the rest of the field. It's a tough thing. When no one's fast, it makes it really hard to figure out what you're doing wrong.
Q: You've always said Martinsville is one of your worst tracks. Can you explain how drivers who cut their teeth on dirt tracks and bullrings -- like you did -- can still really struggle to find the right line at a short track, a place where you'd think everyone has the most experience?
A: Well, first off I feel better than I ever have at Martinsville after this race. I passed more people -- and I was fast. But the thing about the short tracks is ... it's different. As a driver, everybody in this field -- the 43 cars that start on Sunday -- I can tell you no one grew up racing at places like Texas or Atlanta. So we're all even, you know.
But some guys grew up racing at tracks just like Martinsville. They grew up racing a flat, half-mile pavement track. I grew up racing at 3/8-mile dirt tracks. That's a totally different style of racing. So there are guys that are much more comfortable with it, while I've had to learn [a different short track rhythm]. It's been a challenge. But I can't wait to go back there again. I wish we could start the race again tomorrow, I learned a lot.
Q: At Martinsville, you had the rare experience (for you, at least) of being a laps-down car for a large portion of the race. How is the racing different back in the pack as compared to up front?
A: It sure makes me appreciate running up front! Generally, the guys that are running in the top 5 or top 10 are a little more seasoned. They understand the give and take, and they're easier to race around. But if you get back there towards the back and you're trying to get laps back ... it turns into a real dogfight. You don't know who's on which lap, and people are racing hard with other people trying to get to the Lucky Dog position. At the same time, everyone's trying to stay out of the way of the leaders -- and then there are new guys who are just racing their guts out for their job. I understand their position, because my first couple of runs at Martinsville were just insane.
But the bottom line is it's just a lot different. It's a different style of racing versus running in the front, and nobody lets anyone go if they don't want to.
Q: You were among a large contingent of cars that had tire problems at Martinsville (although yours was by contact with another car). What do you think was the culprit there? Was it aggressive setups, Goodyear, or a combination of the two?
A: You know, I don't know. We were very fortunate that we did not have a tire issue. That was something where I was so frustrated over what happened with our car, I didn't ask about the tires afterwards. I just know it was a little petrifying on that long run when you see all these people having flat tires in front of you. It made me nervous. But luckily, we didn't have any more trouble.
Q: Jimmie Johnson finally broke through with his first win of 2009 on Sunday. Does seeing your main championship rival hit Victory Lane give you extra motivation to "punch back" this weekend?
A: They did their jobs on Sunday. They won the race. At this point in the season last year, though, I think Kyle [Busch] and I had a bunch of wins and Jimmie hadn't won yet. Momentum just doesn't matter as much right now as [it does] later. So yeah, it's motivating, but we just have to keep our heads up and keep working.
Q: As we've mentioned often in past columns, the pit crew has been a major struggle for you guys this year. Have you guys done anything special in recent weeks to boost morale and make sure they don't get down on themselves?
A: It's really important to boost some morale [Carl's team lost another eight spots on pit road before contact with Reutimann Sunday]. Right now, we've got two injured guys, so we've got guys that are doing their best to fill in and pick up the slack. We're just struggling on pit road, but we're all a team. So we're all in this together, and hopefully we'll have a good, solid day on pit road on Sunday and get back in the game, so to speak.
Q: April Fools' Day was this week. Did you have any jokes played on you?
A: Yeah, my wife. Together, we just bought a new car. Now, I'm not a big spender by any means. I've only bought one new car in my whole life, and it was for my mom four years ago.
But we decided to buy a Ford Fusion hybrid -- great car. The second day she drove it was April Fools' ... so I'm on the phone going over my calendar and some media stuff, and my other line rings and it's her. And she's just panicked over the phone. She said she needed the proof of insurance because she just got rear-ended -- and she sounded hysterical. And all I could think is "Oh my God, here's my wife, she's on the side of the road and this new car's crashed and I hope she's all right ..."
But she got me! April Fools' ... that was a good one. She had my heart pounding a little bit.
Q: Wow. How long did she leave you hanging?
A: Nah, she only let me hang for five, six seconds on the phone -- but that was enough. I was scrambling, looking for the insurance. It was pretty good. She got me. And it was only 8:30 in the morning, so she really didn't give me any time to get me in the April Fools' swing of things.
"I want to learn how to do back flips. How did you learn -- and what made you decide to use them to celebrate a win? Did you ever think of starting a school to teach people how to do a back flip? Hope I will see you in Talladega ... have a good few weeks." -- Andrew Hawley, Fabius, N.Y.
A: OK, first of all, be very careful. I do not endorse back flips without proper supervision and safety. The best way to learn is on a diving board, diving into a pool. That's much safer than trying to do it off your mom or dad's car -- and that was good for me. It all started by just goofin' around. I'd go to a hotel, and they had a pool or something. Trampolines, too ... my buddy had a trampoline and we'd goof around. I mean, it's a back flip. A bunch of people can do it.
But I got the idea to do it at the race track from Tyler Walker, another racer. He won a World of Outlaws race and was on TNN, when they did the World of Outlaws races, and he did a backflip and I thought, Man, that's cool! I can do that. So I started doing it at my local dirt track in '98, '99. But Tyler ... he did it off the ground. That is tough. I can do it on the ground if my life depends on it ... but it's ugly.
So I had been doing them and then I won my first Truck race at Kentucky [in 2003]. So I was standing there on the doorsill and I had my hands up in the air and I started to go backwards. And I was like, the hell with it! I'll just do it. And all of a sudden, the next day it ends up on SportsCenter. So it's kind of crazy.
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Today's Topic: Books
Pumping Iron: The best one I've read lately is Elie Wiesel, "Night." It was a book about the concentration camps. A very powerful book.
Losing Steam: You know what I'm not reading? Any James Patterson books. That's what my wife reads ... she's obsessed with them, reads like one a week. I don't know anything about 'em, but to me they look addicting -- so those are going to be the last things I start reading.
Kenny Powers' Hot Rod Lincoln Jump
One of the most ridiculous daredevil stunts ever attempted with a car. Kenny Powers tries to jump the St. Lawrence River from Canada to the United States ... with a rocket-fueled car. Can he make it? You'll just have to watch to find out.
Q: Take us around a lap at Texas.
A: So a lap at Texas is fast. That's the number one thing. The transitions here are different than at other places. The straightaways are very flat while the corners are extremely banked, and the way the banking picks up is different in 1 and 2. In turn 1, it really picks up quick and you kind of launch into the corner. But Turn 3 is a flatter, more gradual banking change. There's also a big bump in the middle of 1 and 2 where the tunnel goes under the track and it's settled a little bit. It's kind of a little dip ... but that bump is pretty pronounced.
The other thing is the track has a lot of grip, so you end up running right around the bottom most of the day. But then, as the tires wear out, you can move up and run a second groove. It's just not as much as a place like Atlanta; but it's a really fun race track that seems to get better and better with time.
Q: You pulled the season sweep here back in 2008. When you come back to a track with that much history on your side, does that give you more momentum going into the race ... or more pressure to perform?
A: Oh, more momentum. If we run well, and we don't have any bad luck, hopefully we'll have the same level of success we've had here historically -- and that's been great. We need to have a good day here.