Carl Edwards has agreed to do a diary Q&A with SI.com biweekly this season. After dodging Kyle Busch's car at the end of last weekend's race at Daytona, Edwards reflected on his own restrictor-plate wreck, discussed Jeremy Mayfield and the importance of a drug policy that works and, of course, Michael Jackson. It's all here in the latest edition of Kickin' It With Carl.
SI.com: Take us through your race at Daytona. It was a bit of an up-and-down night for you, but you ended up with your third straight top-5 finish in the July race. You had to be happy with that, right?
Carl Edwards: Yeah, it was a good race. Aside from winning, the goal was to have a solid finish, try to be there at the end, get some points, and solidify our position in the Chase. When we achieved those goals, I was happy. I really would have liked to have been up there racing for the lead ... although like I said after the race, once I saw how that finished, fourth wasn't that bad.
SI.com: It had to be a different feeling coming to the checkers in a plate race and everybody else wrecking in front of you ...
CE: Yeah. I was truly worried for Kyle [Busch] there. From where I was at, that looked like it was going to be a real bad situation for him, the way he went into the wall. After looking at the replays, I think he was really lucky to not get hurt, and I think the fans that were up against the fence were lucky not to get hit by flying parts.
SI.com: Psychologically, now that you've been through a wreck like that, do you feel differently now when you're going through the last laps of a plate race -- knowing all the stuff that can go terribly wrong?
CE: You watch the replay, you'll see my Subway car. When I saw Kyle get turned, I drove it as far as I could to the left. I drove it through the grass ... I saw the wreck, just because in that situation, there's so much going on, and especially after Talladega I realized when there's a wreck like that, no matter what I just want to be as far away from it as possible, because you don't want to be a contributing factor. You don't want to compound that situation...
Looking back, that was a tough spot there for everybody. When you see a wreck like that but you're also racing for the finish ... you do everything you can to not be part of the wreck but still cross the finish line. I think that situation puts us as drivers in a very bad spot.
SI.com: Based on what you described, it's almost like you were self-sacrificing in a way. You're relying on your own talent to get through there because you're getting as far away from the wreck as possible ... but you're putting yourself in a bad spot going through the grass. But at least then, you can look back and say, 'Well, at least if I spin myself out I'm not contributing to anything else.'
CE: Yeah ... all I know is when I saw Kyle's car turn sideways, lifting those right side tires off the ground, I just wanted to be as far away from that as possible. I don't know if that comes from my experience at Talladega -- realizing how much can happen just in those split seconds there or what. But I do know I have a lot of respect for those situations now, and I wish we weren't put in them.
SI.com: Two and a half months ago, you met with NASCAR after your wreck and came out optimistic they were on their way to making plate racing safer. Do you still share that optimism now ... or are you worried after seeing the same type of thing unfold?
CE: Well, here's the facts. Talladega and Daytona both were some of the most exciting, spectacular finishes of the year. Part of that excitement is because there's an element of danger there, and it's chaotic and there's the big wreck, etc. The problem is -- and the thing that I'm most disappointed about is -- after watching the replay of it, seeing hundreds of fans standing against the fence, leaning against the fence, and realizing that puts them in huge, huge danger and puts our sport in a lot of danger because of what could go wrong there.
Now, don't get me wrong. If I were up in the grandstands, I'd be one of the people wanting to stand against the fence to watch the finish ... but I would hope someone wouldn't let me. We've gotta keep the fans where they can't get run into.
SI.com: On the bright side, with all the pit road struggles you've had this season, how gratifying was it to see your crew put out such consistent stops Saturday night?
CE: Yeah, they were great. That's going to be really, really big in the Chase. Stops like that can define your season, your championship. So, that was cool. My guys have been working hard.
SI.com: OK. Off the track, the big story the past few weeks has been Jeremy Mayfield's drug suspension getting overturned by the court system (and NASCAR's subsequent appeal). With the judge ruling that the possibility for a false positive in the case was "quite substantial," does that make you nervous that a similar mistake could happen to you without any changes to NASCAR's policy?
CE: Here's the thing. We all agree, everyone agrees, that we don't want anybody racing out there that's impaired in any way if we can help it. But none of us wants to be put in a situation where someone's reputation and livelihood and happiness are all ruined by a mistake. So somehow, those two things, they have to be able to both be prevented under this policy.
Now, having someone out there on the race track under the influence of some sort of drug, that's a problem. But I think the idea you could have a false positive and you have no recourse against it, no way to disprove or prove its falsehood, I think that's a systemic problem. The death penalty's great until you get the wrong guy.
So, I don't know how to fix it, but we've got to. In the meantime, I sure as heck know that it is absolutely wrong to discuss this matter as if Jeremy Mayfield is using meth, as if he's already guilty -- because nobody knows what really went on. I am certain that NASCAR will get this worked out.
SI.com: At the halfway point in the season, you're rounding the turn fifth in series points -- but have yet to visit Victory Lane. How do you balance the difficulty of scoring points to make the postseason with the frustration of seeing that winless streak start to pile up?
CE: We've run well enough to win races ... we've just had a couple of breaks go against us. On pit road, the wreck at Talladega, a cut tire at Martinsville, things that have kept us from winning... but the more important thing that we're focused on is being in the Chase and winning a championship. Right now, we're on target, we're doing everything right. We've come back from 12th or 13th at one point to have over 200 points separating our No. 99 car and the 13th place car. That's the mission right now.
So, in the back of my mind ... yeah, it's frustrating that we haven't won. I can't wait to feel that feeling of accomplishment when we do. But I'd rather be where we're at now with no wins than 13th in points with two wins.
SI.com: So, it's almost like a Jeff Burton said once, 'As long as you put yourself in position to win...' That's what you want?
CE: Yes. Guys like Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, those guys are always there, they're always putting themselves in position and they win a lot of races because of that philosophy. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson ... all those guys do that. We did it last year. We won nine races, and we could have won 12.
But you just got to take what you can get in this series, move on, and that's it. So, that's where we're at right now ... it wouldn't surprise me if we won the next three races. The only thing that I'm going to be disappointed in is if we make the mistakes and put ourselves in position to fall out of the Chase.
SI.com: There's been a sudden wave of celebrity deaths these past two weeks (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays) that have saddened everyone across the country. Which death affected you the most, and do you have a favorite memory of that celebrity either growing up or meeting them in person?
CE: Well, Michael Jackson was huge when I was a kid. To me, he was larger than life. My buddy had a red jacket -- I was so jealous of him. And who didn't try to moonwalk? I still goof around and do that. It's tragic, as is the death of anyone. The amount of media dedicated to this story says more than the story itself
"Hey Carl, I'm about to tie the knot with my girlfriend of nearly two years. I know you just got married in December; any advice you can throw my way about being a newlywed and what it's like?" -- Johnny Troutman, Portland, ME
CE: It's the greatest thing I've ever done. One issue though; we weigh in twice a year, the drivers do -- and I weigh about nine pounds more than I did when I got married. So, watch it if she cooks!
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Mid Missouri Moped Gangster. My friend Ryan, from Junior High, has a moped gang -- I'm hoping to join.