Kickin' It With Carl

Saturday May 2nd, 2009

Carl Edwards has agreed to do a diary Q & A with this season. This week, he took some time out to talk to us during an appearance to support Scott's GroGood program in Washington, D.C. An avid gardener himself, Carl got busy planting community garden plots with local youth groups -- part of a nationwide initiative to teach people at risk for hunger how to grow their own food.

Lucky to be 100 percent just days after a flip that injured eight people in the Talladega stands and demolished his car, Edwards talked about the wreck that changed his life, whether he still feels plate racing is unsafe, and tells us how to ask a girl on a date the RIGHT way. OK, first off... how you feeling?

Carl Edwards: I feel good. Just a little bit sore, just like you are after any wreck ... There's been so much focus on the accident -- but it's important to note it wasn't the only one you were involved in all day. How did you recover after running in the back following the first "Big One" on Lap 8?

CE: Well, I ran in the back on purpose. We had just a little bit of damage in the first wreck, but it didn't slow it down all that much. We got the car worked on ... I saw Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth run into each other on Lap 7 and cause a wreck. Those are two of the best drivers in the world, and in my small mind I thought to myself, "There's no reason we're not going to wreck again in another seven laps, and it doesn't pay any money or any points to be running up front at any point other than the last time you cross the finish line." So, I went and rode around in the back.

The plate races, you don't have to race for the first 9/10 of the day. You can just ride around in the back and try your hardest to avoid the wrecks -- and that's what I decided to do. Was there a particular lap in mind where you decided to start working your way up?

CE: There's no particular lap where I decided to go. I could just tell that the race, the cars were starting to line up and people were starting to go to the front. And at that point, you have to go. There were still wrecks after that... and I was fortunate enough to be out of them. But there's no one lap [where you make that decision] ... you just have to go with your gut. At what point did you know during that final restart that Brad was going to put you in position to win?

CE: I knew once we had a run at the outside of that line and we started passing people, [that] if we could keep that up we were going to be the two guys fighting for the win. I knew the last lap, once we crossed the finish line with the white flag that it was between Brad and me. So, there was no deal between you two?

CE: No, there was no deal. That was just the way it worked, and Brad did a good job. OK, so you come out of turn 4, and it's just the two of you fighting for the win at this point ... can you describe the last few seconds before it all went wrong?

CE: So, I saw Brad's nose move to the outside a little bit. I probably should have just let him go, but I moved up to try and stay in front of him, because we're still pretty far in front of the finish line.

When I saw him turn low, I tried to just turn low to stay in front of him... but he was already inside of me. I didn't turn down too much across his nose. I had just, just started to turn and he just held his ground... and it didn't take much at that point. As soon as I got sideways, it was over, and he just stayed in the gas and kept going. At what point did you know things went from bad to out of control?

CE: I knew when I was going backwards. I thought, "Well, I'm not going to win the race." But it surprised me when the car started to go up in the air. I didn't feel Ryan Newman hit me. Or if I did, I don't remember that part. But I remember hitting the fence, and that was a little spooky, because I knew the car was flying through the air but I didn't know it was going to hit the fence that hard.

And when I hit the fence, I could see the fence posts from my view inside the car. And that was a little bit scary, because I didn't know how high I was or what was going on. And there for a second after that, I was a little nervous because it was a real strange situation I'd never been in before. And I just wasn't sure exactly how bad the impact was or if anything was wrong. What was the moment where you were most nervous?

CE: Well, when I landed back on the racetrack, I heard one or two cars go by real fast and I thought, "There's about a 50/50 chance I'm going to get T-Boned here real bad." That's a terrible few seconds in any wreck. So, the car comes to a stop ... and one minute later, you're running to the finish line Ricky Bobby-style?

CE: Once the car stopped, I was really glad I didn't have any injuries. And I thought, "Well, maybe it counts if you go across the finish line, and even if it doesn't, I'm at Talladega and I'm 40 yards from the checkered flag so at least I have to go across it." It was nice to finish the race.

My brother joked around and he said, "Yeah, everybody on TV said you were joking, but I know you and I know you're thinking, maybe this counts." And I was ... I was thinking, "Maybe this counts for something."

I also didn't know people in the grandstand were hurt at that point. No one said anything about people being hurt in the stands. When did you find that out?

I didn't realize it until after I landed in Washington, D.C. that night. We went to a Ford Fusion hybrid event; we landed, and Randy [Fuller, senior media relations manager at Roush Fenway Racing] told me, "Hey, there's people that were injured. Two of them had to go to the hospital."

That's a feeling I've never had before and I never want to have again. It was a real eye-opener as to how serious this can be. We race cars, and we all wreck and we know we can get hurt ... that's something we all accept. But I don't think part of my job is people in the grandstands getting hurt. Once you heard the news, did you give [Blake Bobbitt, 17] a call the next day?

CE: Yeah. That's just ... I think anyone would consider that their responsibility. It was nice to be able to talk to her. It helped me a lot.

She was really nice... and she's a trooper. Her dad had told her, "Hey, we oughta move because those last laps can get really crazy," and she said, "Nope, I want to stay right here." And she was enjoying the race when it happened... but she said it was no sweat, that the good Lord was looking on down on her and she was going to be fine. It was cool to hear her say that. The four days since then have been a whirlwind. You were on the morning talk shows, Ellen [DeGeneres], Larry King ... what was that like? Instead of you winning a race, you escaped serious injury ... and now everyone in the world wants to talk to you.

CE: Yeah, even the air traffic controllers on the way to and from places gave me a lot of grief about my "flight."

So ... I'm just glad everybody's alright and I'm glad it worked out the way it did where it's something we can talk about and even joke around about a little bit. That's good, and we're real lucky it wasn't something worse. You ended up going down to Daytona this week to talk with NASCAR personnel. How did that all come about, and how do you feel now?

CE: I called [NASCAR president] Mike Helton to chat, and we both decided it would be best if I came to Daytona to talk about things some more.

And now ... I feel better. I feel like I understand NASCAR's position a little bit better, and they understand mine and certain drivers' positions a little bit better. Was it awkward to go down there after saying Sunday NASCAR won't change [restrictor] plate racing until somebody gets killed?

CE: They understood. They expressed to me they respect my opinion... and my opinion hasn't changed. I still feel like there's way more danger than there needs to be for everyone involved. And after what happened on Sunday, all of us agreed that we're going to work to do something to improve the situation. That's good. But I don't have any regrets for saying what I said. That's what I believe, they respect that and I think that's cool.

The bottom line is, everyone is in this together. NASCAR is the greatest form of motorsports on earth. It's unreal, and it's cool to be a part of it. So, I believe something good will come out of this. And it's good to be able to come out of there, close the door, have a good meeting and understand one another. Hopefully something positive comes out of it. Do you think the cars are going too fast?

CE: Well, it's not based on speed. Obviously, a car going in the air is a function of speed. But the whole problem with restrictor plate racing is not a speed problem. With that type of racing, you are going to have more accidents, more potential for things to happen. The trick is to try and minimize that danger while still being able to race at these tracks with restrictor plates.

It's a real tough situation ... and I don't know the answer. It's something that's been debated by many drivers much more experienced than myself, and I don't know how we're going to fix it. But hopefully we will. Would changing the yellow-line rule have made a difference?

CE: I don't know. It was such a split-second decision. The yellow line is a good idea, because you don't end up in the grass. I don't know if it would have made any difference in this case, though. So... I would have never pegged you as a gardener. Is that something you learned as an adult?

CE: I don't really have the green thumb. My stuff does not grow that well, but Scotts and Miracle Gro have been helping me, and it's been getting better. This is the first year that I have a real proper garden, and I'm getting excited about this initiative with donating the food. Scotts is going to donate a million pounds of food to food banks and people that need them.

My buddy that farms with me, he grows a big garden. It's like a quarter acre of all different stuff, and I have a very small part in it. But he lets me eat some of the produce he grows from it ... good food. How fun is it to work with kids at appearances like this one?

CE: It's so cool. To see these kids learn how to do this stuff... not only grow food for themselves, but to instill the idea of helping other people through hard work. We're in a crazy time in our whole history right now. There's a lot of things changing, a lot of things going on. But you look at these kids, and you realize they're the future. I think things like this project instill good values, hard work, and a giving attitude. That's extremely valuable, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Chrysler announced that they're filing for bankruptcy. Do you feel the U.S. government should ensure they're still allowed to funnel advertising dollars NASCAR's way?

CE: It's real simple: I feel that a free market is the best way to run our country. It's my opinion that the government should only help when it's the last resort. Whatever comes from that free-market mentality is. I feel. like the best for our country in the long-term. So, I don't know exactly how that affects our sport; but I think it would be shortsighted of me to say that the government needs to help something just because it helps me personally.

"Carl, there's a girl I think is really cute in science class but I can't gather up the courage to ask her out. Any ideas on how I can get a conversation started with her?"-- Johnny Blackmon, Atlanta, GA

CE: It's really simple. This is what I used to do with the girls in school... hand her a little note that says, "I like you. Do you like me?"

And you gotta have a "yes" box and a "no" box. And you're going to be tempted to put that "maybe" box in there... but just be a true player. No "maybe" box ... you just want to know yes or no. Did you ever get a "no" box note back?

CE: Yeah... but then you don't have to waste any more time with her because you know the answer. I learned early on, if you like a girl, just go and tell her you like her. The straightforward approach always works.

Today's Topic: Exercise Routine

Pumping Iron: Well, I've been doing my crunches on the big exercise ball and it's been good. It's something I always watched other people do and I thought, "Eh, I don't need to do that." But this real, real big tough dude showed me how to do it right, and it's been going well.

Losing Steam: The elliptical machine. That's built for another type of human being other than me.

Edwards' Flip... could it be anything else this week? The clip has been viewed 730,741 times since Sunday. Take us around a lap at Richmond.

CE: A lap at Richmond is a lot of fun. It's a ¾ of a mile, quick, very smooth racetrack. You go into turn 1, and it's a lot higher speed than it feels like. And you don't realize how fast you're going until the corner really gets tight -- and it's real easy to overdrive that corner.

So you're on the brakes real hard into 1, you go around and try and stay right on the bottom ... and coming out of turn 2, the wall comes up real quick. It's easy to smack the fence, so you gotta be really careful. The back straightaway is real straight. There's a little bit of braking in the corner going into turn 3, there's a little bump you go over ... the car kind of slides sideways right to the bottom. You get down all the throttle you can coming out of 4, though, because the front straightaway opens up into a big circle and you build a lot of speed up there.

It's a very fun track.

CE: There's a place on the river downtown, it's at a park. An island with all these rocks and these waterfalls ... it's the coolest place in Richmond I've been.

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