Carl Edwards has agreed to do a Q&A diary with SI.com this season. This week he talks about everything from overcoming a tough start to the Chase (10th in points) to NASCAR talking tough love towards Brad Keselowski at Kansas. He also dishes on his uniforms, the AFLAC duck, the future of the car industry and more before heading to the fourth race of the postseason, at California.
Kansas was where you guys hoped to make up serious ground in the Chase ... but it didn't happen. Talk about your struggle to 10th place.
Yeah, the thing about Kansas that got us is the pit road speeding penalty we had. It was a strategy problem. I did not have an understanding of the pit road timing lines, and it cost us on the first pit stop. Fortunately, it was the first pit stop, so we got to rally back [from one lap down]. Tenth place is obviously not the finish we wanted. We didn't close on the leaders. We lost ground.
But we didn't make a disaster out of it. We were able to climb back up there. Greg Biffle gave us hope with his run, leading the most laps and being in contention to win (Biffle wound up third). That's two weeks in a row that Roush Fenway cars have been fast enough to win the race, and that's something we can build on. I got to hang my hope on something, and right now it's that performance with Greg.
You mentioned the speeding penalty, and I was curious how your dash is set up to prevent that? Do you have a red/yellow/green system similar to the one Juan Pablo Montoya uses to warn you when you're over the limit?
No, I just use the tachometer. It works well; it's not an issue. I haven't had a speeding penalty in the Cup Series, someone told me, for three years. So it's not something that's ever been an issue for me. It was just a strategy problem; I just did not understand how the timing lines were set up. That's my bad.
While it was a tough day, you were able to win the State Line Challenge between you and Clint Bowyer. As a Midwest guy through and through, how cool was it for you to do that at your Sprint Cup hometown track?
It was very cool. It was great for Sprint to do the State Line Challenge and donate $125,000 to Victory Junction Gang Camp (Carl's donation was $100,000 for the higher finish).
There was a giving spirit at the race track this weekend. We ran the pink Susan G. Komen Save-A-Lot Fusion on Saturday. Save-A-Lot donated $100,000 to that cause. And then Sprint donated to Victory Junction Gang Camp. That was a cool competition, fun.
You said Greg gave you guys a little hope. Are you guys changing your approach at all in the last seven races as opposed to the first three to find more speed, or do you feel like you're headed in the right direction?
Well to be clear, we go as fast as we can every race. We go there to win every race. The thing we could change with our strategy is we could take more risks [on pit road], I can take more risks as a driver. As we get closer to the end of the year, if we still have this deficit to make up, then that's the time to take those risks.
So, the strategy could change. If it's going to, it's going to be in the next couple of weeks and we'll make that decision.
Back in 2006, Jimmie Johnson was exactly the same amount of points behind you are (165) and came back to win the title. How important is it to keep the confidence high in the shop and make sure everybody knows that 'Hey, we can still do this?' One or two wins, and you can be right back in it.
Right. My guys know that. We got a great group of guys that never give up. That's how the sport goes. I didn't realize that Jimmie did the exact same thing in '06, but I've been around long enough to know that it can happen. We just have to keep going. In two weeks, we could be leading the points. That's how it goes; that's how racing can be. We've still got some really tough tracks coming where a lot can happen.
Right now, Hendrick supported cars are 1-2-4 in the standings. We've talked before about how they seem to have a slight edge this season. Have you guys figured out more where that edge would be over the last couple of weeks?
Man, they're unbelievable. They're on their game. So the advantage they have, we have to erase that. We have to be better. I don't know exactly what it is, but the things we've done the last few weeks with Greg and Matt, they've obviously worked. Our car was fast at Kansas, and we just have to keep going in that direction.
One major incident that happened at Kansas was NASCAR warning Brad Keselowski not to race the Chasers too hard. Do you expect any special on-track treatment from guys not competing for the title, and if you were in their shoes how would you race?
Well, there's a line to be drawn. I've been on both sides. But NASCAR sending that statement over the radio is, from what I read, is taken as commanding him to do something. And that's not what I think happened. They just said, "Hey, cut it out."
Look, Brad's an amazing racer. He's got a ton of talent, and he's out there trying to prove himself every week. But he's not doing anyone any good if a wreck happens with one of the Chasers. It would be bad for him as well. So NASCAR does that with everyone. Sometimes, they'll put their arm around you and go, "Hey, think about what you're doing," and in the end, that's OK.
We've seen the car industry go through a lot of different twists and turns this year. The latest was the deal for GM's Saturn brand falling through with Roger Penske. I just was curious as to where you thought the car industry would be in five years, and what you think the key might be to bring American cars back like Ford instead of struggling to keep sales up?
Well, I'm proud to both drive for Ford and represent them because they've structured their business to not take taxpayer money -- so it can be viable.
As for the future, in my eyes there're a couple things that are important. Number one, the cars that American manufacturers make, they have to be of high enough quality that they're a good choice for people to spend their money on an American car. That's something that Ford is working very hard at, and I think they've achieved it with their Ford Fusion.
The second thing is, like it or not, population growth is exponential and resources are finite, so there's going to be a demand for efficient vehicles. I think that's as important as anything. Utilizing the new hybrid technology, making cars that don't cost you your paycheck every time you go to the pump. I think that's the future of the automobile industry, at least for the short-term.
"Dear Carl Edwards,
I have a few questions. What do you do with your used uniforms? Will you be in a commercial with the cute Aflac duck again soon? And what does it feel in your race car when it's hot?"-- Elizabeth Mandernach, St. Louis, MO (age 9)
Well, the first thing is my firesuit. There's usually two of every firesuit. One goes to the sponsor, and a lot of times they auction them off for charity. And the second one, I try to keep so that I have a collection of all the firesuits that I wore. I don't keep very many things, but I like having one of each of my firesuits.
As for AFLAC, we will probably film another commercial this winter. Those commercials are a lot of fun. The duck, he lets me co-star in the commercials, and I appreciate that.
What does it feel inside my race car when it's hot? It feels like, in the summertime, when you first get in your car and sit down in the parking lot in your driveway, it feels like that. It's just very hot. Everything you can touch in the car, it's hot. There's nothing cool about it. There's no part of the car that is not very, very hot, so physically that's the hardest thing to get used to in the race car. But just like anything over time, you get used to it and it's not a big deal. But it's an amazing, amazing amount of heat. My first car in the Truck Series, I thought there was something wrong with my vehicle, I didn't think it could possibly be that hot. That's just how hot it is.
Take us through a lap at California.
California is a fun race track. For the drivers, it gives us a lot of options as to how we drive it. It's a two-mile oval where the straightaways are really long and the speeds are very high. It doesn't have a lot of banking, so the cars slide around a lot. Driving into Turn 1, it feels like you can drive it in all the way to the center of the corner, but the corner flattens out quite a bit. You have to be really be careful on exit. There are a couple of little bumps, very slick. And when the sun's out, it's like ice. The car moves around a lot.
Down the back straightaway into Turn 3, it's just a long straightaway. Sometimes, when the sun is setting, there's a little issue with visibility there. The sun sets right at the end of that straightaway, right in your eyes. Turn 3 is where you have a little more banking then Turns 1 and 2, and it opens up onto the front straightaway. It seems like it's a mile wide, you can run anywhere all the down on the apron or all the way up by the fence. So it gives you a lot of options as a driver. The draft comes into play there, too, so there's a little strategy as far as you position your car.
There's been a lot of talk the race track needs to be dug up and rebuilt, with a reported $20 million improvement project rejected by ISC that may have made it fast enough for restrictor plates. What's your take on whether the track needs to be changed?
I like the race track. I think it's great. I think building a restrictor plate-specific track is the wrong thing to do. I think that the restrictor plates are a necessary evil that we have to deal with at Talladega and Daytona, but I think putting another one on the schedule just to see that style of racing is the wrong thing for NASCAR. The fans that understand what's going on can appreciate things without it being the circus that is a restrictor plate race.