Teleconference: Carl Edwards

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Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford, was this week's guest on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference as he prepares for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Carl, you've got some momentum building, and with six races to work into the Top 10 and a possible spot in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, and you're returning to a track where you won. That's important this weekend, isn't it?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, this last week, that was one of the big questions marks for me and to run well and get some momentum heading into a place I love as much as Pocono; this is a good week.

I guess the big question everybody is asking is will Bob Osbourne be back with you before the Chase starts?

CARL EDWARDS: That's a great question. We just got done with the meeting about five minutes ago, and I think that with a we're going to do is Bob's going to stay with Jamie and Wally is going to stay with me. And the thinking of that is that either guy would be great, but right now, change for either of us may set us back farther than any long term benefits to the change.

Talk a little about the success you've had at Pocono, and you've only been there three times. Last year you had a win and a Top 5 and this year you had the jack problem; how is it you've had success there so earlier career where some veterans talk about that's a place you need to get used to before you can run well at?

CARL EDWARDS: I think the biggest thing about Pocono for me is it's one of those tracks that showcases every part of your team, you know. I mean, even it's like the engines, the bodies, even the fuel mileage, pit stops, everything seems to be important at Pocono. And I feel like I'm part of one I feel like I'm part of the best team in auto racing with Roush Racing. So the biggest benefit to me is the team I'm win just like Denny Hamlin, he went there and had great success not to take anything away from Denny's driving or whatever, but I think both of us have great teams.

The six week difference between the two races, how much does the track change from the June race to the July race? What are some of the differences in the track?

CARL EDWARDS: You know, last year, we ran really well the first race, and we didn't change much for the second race and seemed like we were not quite as fast. I don't know if it was the fact of the change or just that everyone kind of got, you know, a second crack at it. So for me personally, I don't see the track changing as much as it seems like everyone gets their stuff tuned in better for that second race.

Do you think that's a reason why only five guys have ever swept both races over the years at Pocono?

CARL EDWARDS: You know, I'm not certain. That would make sense, you know, because you come back there let's say you have great success there. The races are close enough together that it's really easy just to put away your Pocono card and not think too much it; and the folks that don't run well there may change a lot of things. So, I don't know, that would be a complex thing to try to put your finger on, but that could be true.

A lot of drivers say that Pocono isn't as much as a physically demanding track but it's a more mentally challenging track. Do you agree with that, and what are some of the ways that you kind of combat that mental fatigue without getting mentally drained over the course of the race and what do you feel after a race in Pocono?

CARL EDWARDS: I heard Jimmie Johnson say that a year or two ago and I think it's really true. It's one of those tracks that the speeds are so high and momentum is so important that, you know, you make one little slip in like the tunnel turns, you suffer that penalty, or coming off of turn two, you make one little slip, you suffer that penalty for a long period down that next straightaway. And really on a lap with you really only have three corners, if you mess up one of them, you've messed up a lot of the laps. So it does become kind of a repetitive, you know, perfectionist type racetrack where everything has to just go really well to make a fast lap.

And so it just drains on you mentally thinking about it over and over again?

CARL EDWARDS: Oh, yeah, it's yeah. I don't know. It's kind of one of those things where the tunnel turn, for example, you come off of turn one, and you sit there and you stair at the tunnel turn for, I don't know, ten or 11 seconds, and sometimes that's not a good thing for a race car driver. I can only speak for myself but you sit there and look at that turn and it's like, wow, should I brake a little later or how deep can I go on this corner. It's easy to get sucked into making mistakes there just because it's like this period of calm punctuated by these really difficult corners.

Talk about the crew chief situation once again. Did you want the switch, are you comfortable with Wally; how do you see it?

CARL EDWARDS: Honestly, I did not want to switch when we first did it just for the simple, you know, reasoning that, hey, we were running well and Bob and I had had great success together and I didn't want to change anything. And Jack Roush, you know, decided that he thought it would be a decent change to make and it could help Roush Racing as a whole. So, you know, I agreed with it just like everybody else, and we've worked really hard and Wally has not made many – Wally hasn't made any mistakes. He's done a great job and it just doesn't seem like changing back just to change back is the right thing to do right now, you know what I mean.

Do you see the progress with you and Wally as much as you saw progress between you and Bob when you guys first started and coming up through the series?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, Bob and I were in kind of a unique position because both of us were fairly new. Now I feel like, you know, it wasn't as – it seemed like a little bit more shallow learning curve with Wally just because he's been working with the team and Bob and I, we've been running pretty well. So I guess what I'm saying is, you know, Wally came on to the scene and seemed to really, we didn't miss a beat, so it was surprising to me. I wasn't sure what would happen but definitely this is the best it could go, you know what I mean. This is better than I expected.

Obviously you really want to get that first win, but I think Tom Jockey (ph) really wants to get that first win. How is he getting along and how long is the beard?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, the beard is getting long. Somebody told him it was looking shaggy and he said, man, it was looking shaggy three and a half months ago. You see a lot of people with beards, a lot of people wear beards real nicely. Eddie Gossage has a great beard, but those guys trim their beads, you know. Tom, he's not trimming it, so it's just getting bigger and bigger. It's kind of funny.

Kind of like Grizzly Adams?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, we have a good time with it. We joke around a lot. I'm sure he'll be really pumped when he gets that first win.

It's been such an up and down year for you guys. It looks like every time you get things figured out, you run into something else that sets you back. You raced real well last week. Do you think that you've got it going now?

CARL EDWARDS: I was talking to Wally about it this morning, and this year's been really interesting, because – okay, from strictly, you know, from performance, our performance on the racetrack and the speed of our cars in practice and most of the races has been better than last season. Last year we struggled so much at certain racetracks, like the road course at Sears Point, Dover, Martinsville, Bristol, those were terrible. And now we've run better at all these places. We just have those like just bad days where we wreck on pit road or something like that. So I don't know that I can control a lot of that. I know some of them are my fault, the Texas wreck and hitting the wall at Chicago were both my fault and those are things I could change. But this weekend is a first example of where if we can just make it to the end of the race and don't have anything unusual happen; and for that, yeah, I hope it's a sign that, yeah, things are going to be better.

So the bad times have been more the result of not so much of bad equipment but just bad luck?

CARL EDWARDS: No, honestly, there have been no races other than – we haven't run that well at Dover, but there weren't – if you go through the list, it's like, I mean, the ones that really set us back in the points, there are not a lot of like 25th place finishes. There's 39th and 40th and 43rd and those, and then there's a bunch of Top 12 or so races and there's not a lot in between. So there's not a lot of races where we ran poorly. We always seem to have some extraneous circumstances shuts down.

So your confidence is high heading into the Chase?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, confidence is as high as it can be. My confidence is high that at every racetrack we can go we can have great race cars, and however the race turns out, that's just up to racing, you know.

I wanted to ask you: What do you think it says about you and Kevin Harvick that you guys are doing what you're doing at both the Cup and the Busch Series? And with Kevin having, you know, almost a 300 point lead, I know you'd prefer that be switched around, but it says an awful lot about what you are doing to be successful both at the same tee time right now. Can you just talk about that?

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think I can just comment for myself but I think the that the Busch Series is a blast. I mean, it's fun to do. I think that it let's me kind of keep focused on racing. During the race weekend, I know last year a lot of times it was hard for me – or not last year but the year before when I was running the truck and the Cup car, there was a lot of weekends where the Busch cars would be running and it's hard to watch them run and not be in that race. I know for me personally, it's really fun to go run those cars.

I don't know what it says about us as individuals or drivers, but I just love to race. And getting to race in the Busch Series and race for a championship, getting to run at all these fun tracks, and win races, if it weren't for the three wins in the Busch Series this year, I would not have won a race so far. So it helps me just on my confidence level and aside from all the on track stuff.

I guess, you know, too, a lot of people would argue it's hard enough to do well in either series, much less both. I mean, is it kind of like what you said in terms of the confidence level, does it make a difference to be doing well in both, one kind of feeding off the other?

CARL EDWARDS: You know, I don't know that it's true that it's hard to do well in both. I feel like until it starts to encroach on your ability to go, like actual amount of time you have to prepare, that it only helps. If I were, you know, getting into the Cup car on Sundays, I didn't feel good because of the Busch race or something, then that would make it more difficult. I haven't got to that yet. I feel good and I feel like it actually might make it simpler to run better in both series to run in both.

You mentioned that you think it would be simpler to run in both these series, in the Busch and NEXTEL Cup. You're sitting 13th now in the points and there's still a chance that you'll make it into the Chase. Do you think you can get to a point in the season, though, where with so many races left that you may to have focus more on NEXTEL than Busch?

CARL EDWARDS: See, I don't know. I don't think that's – I've had a lot of people ask that, but I don't feel that that's – that's not the way I look at it at all. It's completely the opposite. I don't have a problem switching my focus. I mean, I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't feel like running one series takes anything away. It's not like I sit around all week and wait to run the race on Sunday and the less I do during the week let's me focus more on racing. I mean, I think about racing all of the time and sometimes it's almost good for me to actually step away and do something different.

I feel like sometimes in a way the Busch Series has helped me in that respect because I can just focus on something else during my Saturday afternoon. And if I learn something for Sunday, that's great; and if I don't, still I didn't sit there and just dwell on something for Sunday. I don't know if that makes sense, but focus isn't a problem I guess is what I'm saying.

And now Pocono, a demanding track, how important is this race to you, not just to get into the Chase, but even psychologically, mentally as you get to this stretch now?

CARL EDWARDS: You know, I've been thinking about that a little bit and last week at New Hampshire. Yeah, I think that you've just got to do the best that you can and try not to let the Chase thing – try not to let that affect my driving at all. I mean, all I can do is go do the best I can, and if at the end of the day I feel like I didn't make any mistakes, then it's a successful day for me. So I don't know if the stress level is really going to go up or anything. You know, it is a little bit more exciting. There's more on the line, so I don't know if that will – I'll try not to let that affect me, though.

I guess the main thing I want to know, you talked about the stress level, does it affect you during the week when you're away from the racetrack, do you think about the Chase and getting in or maybe getting knocked out?

CARL EDWARDS: You know, I think about it. I've done the mental exercises. I've thought about what it would be like both ways and I definitely like the making the Chase version better. You know, personally, I've had very stressful times in my life and they were more around the time of when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life because racing wasn't seeming to work out. That was real stress for me.

Now, I look at this, what I'm doing now, is great competition and I feel like I'm able to focus on a much smaller, you know, I guess figuratively, it's like a narrower focus. All I have to do is do the best I can in one series of race cars, the NEXTEL Cup cars, to make it into the Chase. So relative to all of the stresses I've had, this is not a huge one, but it is kind of – it does weigh on my mind. You know, I do think about it a lot.

In other words, if I understand what you're saying is, this is nothing compared to the possibility that you may have ended up being a schoolteacher?

CARL EDWARDS: Absolutely; which being a schoolteacher wouldn't be the end of the world. I mean, I really had this dream that this is what I wanted it do, and honestly what I'm doing now is I'm sitting here in my second year of NEXTEL Cup competition, second full year, and I'm trying to do the best I can to prepare myself for my career and to be the best driver I can be for a long time to come. You know, if we have some bad luck this year, and I don't make the Chase, I guarantee it will even out. I am getting better. It's not like for me this is life and death. It is what it is. I'm going to do the best I can.

Do you believe that NASCAR champions have common traits and abilities, and if so, could you identify a few?

CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I don't know enough NASCAR champions personally honestly to say. I know that some of them are a lot different from one another, from the outside appears that way. I don't know about common traits.

What traits do you believe that you have that helps you excel as a NASCAR driver?

CARL EDWARDS: Well, I think one of the biggest things is that you have to be able to be extremely objective and realistic about, you know, what is making you perform well or not making you perform well. That's something my dad talked to me a lot about as a kid. He said whatever you can to make something you can do to be better or something you can do to change to make that car go faster, you just have to recognize what it is and do it. I notice that a lot of the good race car drivers I know are able to do that. They can look inside themselves and say, look, make I'm doing something wrong here and fix it.

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