Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, enters the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 60 points behind new leader Denny Hamlin. In 12 NSCS starts at NHMS, Edwards has achieved two top-five and two top-10 finishes. Edwards’ best finish at Loudon is second place, captured in July of 2006. In 26 starts this season, Edwards has accumulated six top-five and 14 top-10 finishes, as well as two poles. Edwards talked with members of the media about this upcoming race, the Chase and the Race of Champions.
THERE IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU OVER THE NEXT 10 RACES ISN’T THERE? “Yeah, there is a great opportunity for us. This first practice was great. I believe we were the fastest in first practice. We had a little trouble with timing and scoring, so I am not certain of that. I think that qualifying is going to be very important here. We focused on it today. Track position is going to be important. It is very difficult to pass. The way we have run the last couple of weeks I feel very confident for our chances to get a good start to the Chase here at Loudon.” LOOKING AT THE 10 TRACKS, IS TALLADEGA THE ONE YOU FEAR THE MOST BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY? “I think everyone fears Talladega the most, you know what I mean? It is because of the uncertainty and because anything can happen. That can go two ways though. You can also look at that place as an opportunity. If you play it smart and maybe have a little bit of luck you can gain ground on people there. It could go either way. For that reason, Talladega is kind of a wash. It makes you nervous, but you never know. The one that worries me a little bit is this one because we’ve had an up and down record. Charlotte worries me the most. For some reason, we have run very well on the mile-and-a-half’s but with that one, the way the tire works with the race track, we’ve had days we were just terrible. That is the one that, performance wise, I am most worried about.” ARE THERE ANY DISADVANTAGES TO HAVING TEAMMATES IN THE CHASE AND IS THIS THE MOST OPEN COMPETITION FOR THE CHASE YOU’VE SEEN? “The disadvantage, the only one, to having teammates in the Chase is if you start to get competitive too much with your teammates. You are all competing for the same thing. At the beginning of this, all of us want to get a jump on the other one. As long as we can keep that healthy competition, then it is good. I think the advantage is that we’ve struggled for so long that we’ve kind of built a better bond as teammates in the shop and on the race track. I think that all three of us being out there gives us a chance to work together all weekend from start to finish. I think that is good.”
YOU MENTIONED HOW HARD IT IS TO PASS HERE BUT IN JUNE WE SAY GUYS RUN FULL LAPS SIDE BY SIDE. HOW DO YOU RECONCILE THOSE TWO FACTS? “Well, that is just it. You run full laps side by side because you can’t complete the pass. It looks good, but boy it is hard to pass. So let’s say you were out there running around and I was two-tenths of a second faster, which is pretty good, and I caught you. I could pull next to you and then you can make it really hard on me to get by. From a distance that looks like a good race, but what we are doing right then is slowing ourselves down and I would be negating my two-tenths that I had on you and maybe the guy in front of you. That is the struggle we have out there. It looks good, but man it is tough to actually make ground up through the field.” SOME OF THE CHASE GUYS ARE ADAMENTLY OPPOSED TO SEPARATE POINT SYSTEM FOR CHASE GUYS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE POINTS SYSTEM? “Everything that you do there will be an unintended consequence or the potential for one. So if we have our own point system separate from the other guys, then that give you the opportunity to have someone really benefit and not someone else, based on chance. If I run 12th at this race and 11 guys in front of me are Chase guys, then yeah I am the 12th slowest Chase guy. If I run 43rd and everyone else runs one to 11, then I don’t know if I really deserve to be counted as right behind that 11th place guy. You have a chance to have a guy that runs a way better average year finish behind a guy because of the way it shook out statistically. I think the way it is is fine as long as we are all competing under the same rules it will be good. The Chase by itself automatically gives the opportunity for someone to win that maybe was not the strongest team that year. I think once you add more it is going farther down that slope.” IF SOMEBODY LEADS 150 LAPS HERE SUNDAY AND WINS THE RACE BY THREE SECONDS, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CHASE? IS IT A DOWNER GOING FORWARD EMOTIONALLY OR MENTALLY? “If it happened here it would be frustrating. I sure would like to lead by that much and win, that would be good. I think that everyone knows that the meat of the Chase is mile-and-a-half tracks like Dover and California. We know that if someone goes to the first mile-and-a-half track and does that, then that is a little scary. Here the only thing that is really going to relate to is turns three and four at Phoenix. You definitely want to get a good start, but I don’t think anyone can set the tone of the Chase here, just because it is kind of a unique track.” EVERYONE IS GUNNING FOR JIMMIE. WHY COULD YOU BE THAT GUY TO KNOCK HIM OFF THIS YEAR? “I think that we have proven over the last 10 weeks that we can score more points than anyone in the series, and that is what it is going to take. Jimmie did a good job last week of explaining that you have to have something to hang your hat on going into this thing. You either have to have wins or you have to have been very consistent. You have to have some sort of thing to build your team around. That is what we are building our hopes on, the fact that we have shown over an extended period that we can score better average finishes than everyone else. Now we just have to go do that. That is what I am counting on, the ability to go do that.” DO YOU TAKE THE FIRST THREE OR SO CHASE RACES AND TAKE THEM MORE CAUTIOSLY TO YOU DON’T GET BEHIND? IS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU GO AFTER IT? “That is a tough call to make. I have thought that way and then I started thinking that maybe it is better to go out here and try to gain something the first few races and take advantage of everyone being cautious. The bottom line is you don’t want to be behind after these first few races. I think you have to drive aggressively and take chances up to the point where you are wrecking or doing something really silly like running out of fuel. If you don’t then someone else is and they will be the guy leading after three races. It is a really fine balance between not wanting to go easy but also you can’t really screw up. I still haven’t decided how I am going to do it.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROC IN GERMANY NEXT MONTH? “It is going to be fun. We are going to Dueseldorf with Travis Pastrana. I got to talk to him for the first time about it live last night on ESPN. I was a little shocked that his excitement level was that unlike other forms of motorsports they let you into the wall one time on each run at the Race of Champions. I was like ‘Travis, that is not how we need to approach this.’ He is a very fun guy and he is a living legend and it will be fun to go race alongside of him and represent the United States. He is an extremely accomplished Rally racer and I think I will learn some things. Really it is just really fun. You guys should go over there if anyone wants to go cover it. It is a neat event. Sebastian Loeb, Michael Schumacker and a bunch of guys will be there. We had a good time the last time I was there and it is just different cars and a different environment. It is in the soccer stadium which I think has a retractable roof and I think it is the biggest one in the world. It will be fun. It is an honor to go do it and hopefully we can go win.” HOW DOES IT WORK EXACTLY? “The Race of Champions itself is an individual event and then they have the countries compete against one another in a points elimination thing. We will be racing for America and then racing for ourselves.” IN THIS SEASON OF ‘BOYS HAVE AT IT’, IF SOMEBODY THAT IS NOT A CHASE CONTENDER GETS A PAYBACK ON A CHASE CONTENDER, HOW SHOULD NASCAR VIEW THAT AND SHOULD NASCAR TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION IF THERE IS TO BE ANY KIND OF PENALTY THAT IT IS A CHASE GUY AND IT COULD IMPACT A CHAMPIONSHIP? “I think that you just have to look at every situation and I think NASCAR does a pretty good job of that. I don’t see that really happening. I think we’ve all shown that we race pretty well together and even when we do have issues, we have been able to kind of compartmentalize those or keep them isolated to one track or something. That has been pretty good. I don’t really see that happening. I think that it will be fine.” IF IT DOES HAPPEN, SHOULD IT BE A CONSIDERATION THAT A CHASE GUY IS INVOLVED? “I just can’t see somebody really doing that, you know what I mean? But you never know. I mean heck, I guess we will just see what happens and deal with it if it happens. I don’t think it will though.”
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, enters the first Chase race of 2010 in 11th position and starts at a track where he has earned five top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes in his career. Kenseth has yet to win a race at NHMS, but does own a runner-up finish that came in 2004 and has led 88 laps here in his career. Kenseth talked about NHMS and the Chase.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY’S RACE? “Well I will probably have a little better idea after tomorrow’s practice. I thought we had a pretty good day today in our race trim. We seem to be a little faster than we have been in here. Our car seems a little better than it was last time. It was more like what we had last weekend. I feel good about it. We are all in the same spot right now. We have to see how qualifying goes and go from there.” IS THERE A TRACK IN THE CHASE THAT PARTICULARLY CONCERNS YOU? “All of them really. We haven’t had particularly great results here at this track lately. This one is probably front of my mind right now. I think you have to perform well every week and certainly Talladega is probably the biggest wild card race, but this one is on the front of my mind right now. Hopefully we can get through here with a decent finish and then we will have confidence going into Dover, more than the rest of the race tracks. You still have to get it done every week.” YOU HAVE A NEW CHASIS FOR THIS RACE, IS THAT NORMAL AND DID YOU ALWAYS DO THAT IN YOUR OTHER TIMES HERE FOR THE CHASE? “No, I am not worried about it. I don’t recall if we ever had a brand new car here before or not. Since Jimmy has been here he has tried to build the cars the way he wanted to do it and make them better. Last week was our first week with one of those new cars. It seemed to be better, even though we didn’t get the finish we were hoping for. We performed at times in Richmond much better than we have actually since they went to the COT car. There is one time we drove up into the top-five which is better than we have been. We feel they are better cars and we have four of them built that we will rotate throughout the Chase to use the final 10 weeks. We feel like they are a lot better than what we had a couple months ago and we are trying to bring our best stuff.” WERE THESE CARS MADE JUST FOR THE CHASE? “It is just the timing of it with Jimmy coming on kind of late. I think that if he would have been there in November, I don’t know. We probably still would have had newer cars about this time of year because you are always trying to evolve and make things better. We have made small changes and we think we have made things better to get our better stuff when it counts.” WHY ARE YOU NOT WORRIED ABOUT IT? “If you look at our last season and a half it isn’t like we have won a race and have a few cars that we really run exceptional with. If that was the case, which we used to have some cars like that back in the day that we were real comfortable with and real fast, if we had cars like that we would maybe rethink that a little bit. We really don’t have even one cars that we like really a lot better than others. Jimmy has worked really hard on these new cars the last couple of months. Getting them in the wind tunnel and making them lighter and stronger. We really feel like even though they haven’t been on the race track , these are the best pieces we have in our shop.”
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO HAVING TEAMMATES IN THE CHASE FIELD AND ARE THERE ANY DISADVANTAGES? AND IS THIS THE MOST COMPETIVE CHASE FIELD? “For me, having three teammates, I don’t think it really matters whether they are in the Chase or not. I think that we work together exactly the same. Being a teammate isn’t really necessarily about Sunday. It is about the rest of the week. It is about today and comparing information and comparing our cars. Talking about how we approach the track and how changes felt. Working together and when we get belted in on Sunday, it is every man for himself. It is one against 42 at that point. Certainly you realize who your teammates are out there and you try not to do something dumb around them, but you race them how you race everybody else. You try to beat those guys. You are racing those guys for position and points. We share the same amount of information and put in the same effort to helping whether we are all in the Chase or just one of us. As far as the Chase field, that is hard to say. I think we will have a better idea in a few weeks. It is a talented field with a lot of great teams. Each year with the rule changes I think the field keeps getting more competitive and closer to the same speed each season.” IF SOMEONE WINS AND DOMINATES THE DAY SUNDAY, DOES IT THROW THE REST OF YOU INTO PANIC THAT SOMEONE IS DOMINANT THE FIRST TIME OUT OF THE CHUTE? “No. Ten races is a lot of racing. The championship isn’t going to be won or lost here at New Hampshire. If your performance is good enough to be a legitimate contender throughout 10 weeks then one race isn’t going to make or break you. I don’t think anybody want to be behind. All 12 guys want to be leading the points when they leave here obviously, but I don’t think one race is enough to panic.” THIS IS YOUR THIRD CREW CHIEF, IS IT A GOOD THING THAT MAYBE YOU ARE HITTING YOUR STRIDE WITH JIMMY GOING INTO THE CHASE? HAS IT GELLED AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR YOU GUYS? “I hope so. I have known Jimmy for a long time and we have always gotten along well. We worked together in the Nationwide series and I used to follow him around when he was Mark’s (Martin) crew chief. I used to follow him around and bug him and ask Jimmy a million questions. We have known each other for a long time and we get along fine. I think our chemistry is fine. Jimmy is one of those guys that never rests. He is always trying to figure out how to make the cars faster and better. That is one of the things I really like about him. It is never good enough. He is always trying to make the stuff faster.”
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, are in the seventh position in the new Chase standings heading into the first Chase race of 2010 this weekend. The No. 16 is 50 points behind leader Denny Hamlin and have a 10-point lead over positions eight through 12. Biffle’s first Cup Series start came at New Hampshire in 2002 when he drove the No. 55 car owned by Andy Petree. Biffle took time to talk to media members Friday about his car this weekend and his Chase prospects.
YOU GOT OUT OF THE CHUTE REALLY QUICK HERE A FEW YEARS AGO AND WON THE FIRST TWO RACES IN THE CHASE. CAN YOU DO THAT AGAIN? “I think we are capable of doing it again. We came of the truck pretty decent and kept picking up speed. We switched over the qualifying trim and the car was real good. We got some ideas going back to race trim what we will try a little different for tomorrow. I think we have as good a chance as anybody to win here Sunday.” YOU HAVE THREE ROUSH CARS IN THE CHASE AND THEN DAVID RAGAN. DOES HE BECOME THE TEST BED ESSENTIALLY FOR THE COMPANY DURING THESE FINAL 10 AND WHAT YOU GET OUT OF HIM; CAN IT BE AS RELIABLE AS WHAT YOU GET FROM MATT AND CARL? “David’s performance has picked up tremendously since we changed this front suspension. Maybe if there are engine things or stuff like that they they might try. The other thing we have are the four RPM cars. We’ve got those guys over there that can be trying things. They are the same cars and same engines, same everything. We are looking at those guys to help us a little bit. I think it is kind of a collective effort between the whole organization, both RPM and our side.” IS DOVER ONE OF THE TRACKS THAT COULD SURPRISE FOLKS AS FAR AS MINDING YOUR P’S AND Q’S AND SECONDLY, AT KANSAS, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR INTERMEDIATE TRACK STUFF? “I feel really strong about our mile-and-a-half program. We were really good at Michigan, Pocono and Kansas. We were good in Indy and Chicago. All those places we were super fast and it felt like the cars were driving well. Dover is one of my favorite places to go. I have a couple wins there and a bunch of top-fives. I am looking forward to going back there. This weekend, so far so good. The car is pretty decent. I think we ended up in the top-10 in practice there. Hopefully grab a top-10 qualifying spot. I think we have the same opportunity as all these guys here this weekend.” WITH STRONG TEAM TIES TO BOSTON, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE FUN STUFF YOU HAVE DONE HERE, DRIVING THE DUCK, WORKING A DUNKIN DONUTS DRIVE THROUGH? “Yeah, I have had a lot of fun so far. They told us we were going on a duck tour and I was thinking I have seen a lot of ducks in my life. I wasn’t sure what we would be looking at. Come to find out it is a vehicle that takes you around Boston. Then the vehicle goes in the water as well. I learned a lot. I found out what a duck tour was and I recommend it highly for people that get an opportunity. It handled great, but not very fast so don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere. This morning, if any of you stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts I was working the drive thru. I stopped to get some coffee and I got behind there and packaged up some donuts and made some coffee. Being partners with Fenway sports group based in this area allowed us to have a lot of fun in the area. I got some free coffee out of the deal which is what I was mainly interested in. It was a lot of fun.”
DOES THIS CHASE SET ITSELF UP TO BE DIFFERENT IN THAT NOBODY COMES IN WITH ANY TRUE MOMENTUM AND COULD THIS BE THE CHASE THAT 11 PEOPLE LOSE? “Yeah, it really does. A lot of people have asked me who my pick is or who the favorite is besides me. You have to put all the names in a basket and draw one out because it is a lottery draw at this point to me. I couldn’t pick one guy over the other for who I think is going to win this thing. It is as close as I have ever seen it competition wise. You look at the speed charts on the weekend and where everybody is running, it is going to be like that for 10 weeks. I think it is going to be the guy that has the least amount of mistakes or the least amount of damage. Damage control on the race track will be a big part. The guy that salvages a 13th place finish somewhere where things are going bad, versus finishing 23rd or worse is what is going to be the guy that wins it. The guy that can minimize the down side versus winning four or five of these things.” SIMPLE THINGS LIKE A LUG NUT AT TEXAS, WHICH COST YOU A CHAMPIONSHIP. COULD IT COME DOWN TO SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “Yeah, definitely. It could come down to a pit stop. In Atlanta we got a lug nut behind the wheel and we went from running fifth to the back of the pack and then got in an accident. Any of those things can happen. Texas in 2005 I had a loose wheel and lost a lap when I came in and there were no more cautions. There can be heart break as well. That is the damage I talked about on the downside. The guy that minimizes that, a guy that gets a flat, comes in, gets a lucky dog and finishes 13th. That is the kind of championship caliber drive it is going to take.” SOME OF THE DRIVERS HAVE SAID THAT YOU CAN’T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP HERE AND YOU CAN’T LOSE IT HERE. IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THAT THEORY, WHEN DOES THIS CHASE REALLY START IN YOUR MIND? “I think that we all have our own opinion about it. My opinion is that you can lose the championship here. This race. If you do something boneheaded and back into a fence and finish 38th or 40th then you have a ways to go. I think that come Homestead, you lose it by 35, 40 or 50 points, you could say ‘Well, I made a mistake at Loudon and that was the race that cost it.’ We tend to look at the later races. For instance, the 39 not getting in to the Chase because he didn’t run well enough at Richmond. What about in the middle of the season when he did whatever? That one race cost him a chance to be in the Chase. You can pick any one of these 10 and say that it was the reason why you didn’t win the championship. It can’t be won here either. I won the first two in 2008 and I finished third in points. It can’t be won here, but you can certainly lose it.”