Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion, is still looking for his first Martinsville Speedway victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He spoke to reporters after Friday’s first practice session to discuss his chances.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR SEASON HAS GONE SO FAR? “We’ve had a couple of bad races. We had Phoenix, where we ran out of fuel, and Bristol, where we wrecked early. If it weren’t for that, I think we’d be up there near where Greg is at, so I feel like we’ve had good runs. Last week we were coming on strong at the end and finished fifth, so that was OK. I’ll just level with you guys, if we have a good run here on Sunday after that practice, we’re gonna be really, really ecstatic. We were struggling in practice, so we’ve got this next practice to work on the Fastenal Fusion. We’ve got a long ways to go because there are some really fast cars relative to ours. This has been a place we’ve run well at here. I know what it feels like to run well here, we’ve just got to get this thing dialed in. This is a very tough race and it’ll be really tough if we don’t make the car a little faster.”
IS MARTINSVILLE A FRUSTRATING PLACE EVEN IF YOU HAVE SUCCESS? “It’s a really fun race track when your car is fast and when you say fast, I don’t mean you have to be head and shoulders faster than everybody. You just have to be that two-hundredths of a second faster than the guy in front of you, and then it’s fun because you’re the guy rooting and gauging and picking a spot where you’re gonna pass the guy and making his day terrible. On the other hand, if your car is the one that’s a couple-hundredths slower or a tenth slow, it’s a long day. Even when you run well here it’s a hard-fought battle and it’s tough. When you’re hanging on battling with that race car the whole day, it leaves an impression on you. You leave here and you remember the place, so I think that’s why you see more guys frustrated with this race track. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad race track or anything. The fans love that. The more frustrated we get, usually the better off the racing is, so I guess it’s good for the sport, but it is a tough place.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR THE OFF WEEKEND? “I think we’ve had one off weekend the last seven years or something like that, so this will be the second one in eight years. I have no clue what I’m gonna do. I’m specifically not making any plans right now. We don’t have a plan of what we’re gonna do, so we’ll probably just lay low and relax a little bit, but, truly, for me, I feel like I’ve run half as many races as normal by this point in the season. I’m used to running the Nationwide Series so much, so I don’t need a weekend off right now as a driver. I need to keep racing. I’m ready to race. When the race starts on Sunday, that will be only my 26th or 27th lap on a short track because we got in a wreck so early at Bristol, so I feel like I’m ready to go racing. I don’t feel like I need an off weekend right now.”
YOU WORKED WITH MATT PUCCIA DURING YOUR EARLY DAYS IN RACING. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HIM? “I don’t know if you’d call it work. Matt and I were low man on the totem pole at Ken Schrader Racing for one summer. I was mowing the grass and he was cleaning off trucks and ARCA cars and I’d get back to the shop and we’d both got made fun of the whole time. We were like low guys.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED — WHY SHOULD WE THINK MATT COULD LEAD GREG TO A CUP TITLE? “Matt’s a guy, who, like I just said, he started at the bottom of this level of the sport. He’ll do anything in the shop. He’s good with people. He’s a nice guy. He understands this sport from the bottom up and him and Greg seem to get along really well. We look to those guys for inspiration and advice and notes during the weekend. They’ve been fast and you guys know, if Greg Biffle is happy and he’s feeling positive about his crew chief, he’s gonna be fast. So I think there’s a lot of attitude that comes into play over there. Those guys seem to be really happy. Have you guys ever talked to Matt and asked him about when he almost killed me at Ken Schrader’s shop? You should ask him about that and when he tells you his version, I’ll tell you if it’s true or not. I had to go to the hospital and everything. He dropped a truck on me. I was underneath the lift and he let the lift down and it was ugly. It was close. He says he had nothing to do with it, but when I looked up, he was the guy standing next to the lever (laughter). I was like, ‘I’m gonna remember that face.’ And he still haunts me every week now. Ask him. He’ll get red in the face. He’s denied it for 15 years.”
HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO A POINT WHERE YOU LIKE COMING HERE TO MARTINSVILLE? “I like racing here. That’s the problem. Those good runs. When we ran top-five, third I think in ’08. We ran ninth the last race here, which was a gift. We were not a ninth-place car, but the times when the car is good it’s fun. It’s neat when you’re passing people and working people over. We just have such a hard time, myself included, Bob and I both have a hard time getting the car dialed in. I don’t know if it’s the way we practice, but there’s something that we’re missing. And in general our whole team has never been extremely strong here, but we have had those glimpses of speed. Matt also won the race a year ago here, or maybe the last one, he ran really well. It’s not that I don’t like it, I keep expecting to have that real breakthrough run where we go out and lead a bunch of the race and it all clicks.”
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR BRISTOL? “I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what the degrees of banking are right now. I know it’s progressive and therefore what they predicted was the guy on the outside would run the same speed as the guy on the inside, and I guess they got it right. That made it such that it’s really hard to pass, so I don’t know if you just go to one constant angle of banking from bottom to top, if it’ll make it such that the bottom lane is the fastest all the time, and then you’ll have that fight for the bottom lane like you used to. The thing that makes me nervous for Bruton and those guys is to spend all this money to change something and then it may not yield the result that you want. I think that’s the risk they take, but Bruton Smith seems like he doesn’t mind taking risks and going for it. If it works out like most things he does, it’ll probably work, but I give him a ton of credit for saying he’s gonna change this and make an adjustment. That’s huge.”
TEXAS AND KANSAS ARE UP NEXT. WHAT DO YOU THINK? “Those mile-and-a-halves have been great for us from day one. Texas is always fun. It’s just a fun event to go to. It’s been a great race track for us, and Kansas – there’s no bigger race on the schedule for me. To win at Kansas would be as big as winning the Daytona 500, it would be as big as the Brickyard 400 for me. Just living two hours from there and coming up when I was running my dirt car around the Midwest. When they built that track it was such a big thing and it seemed like such an unattainable goal to race there and to win there, so a win there would be huge. Those are gonna be big weeks for our team and big weeks for me.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED — WHAT DOES IT SAY WHEN A BIG DEAL IS BEING MADE OF JIMMIE JOHNSON NOT WINNING IN 11 RACES? “He hasn’t won in 11 races? The poor guy (laughing). That shows you how successful he is and the expectation they have for success, and I think that when Jimmie is upset about not winning in 11 races, he’s truly upset. That’s the way you have to be as a race car driver. You have to wake up and say, ‘Man, we should have won.’ Every race you have to feel like you can win. You have to feel like you deserve to win and Jimmie is that we. We look at them every week. No matter where they’re at in the standings, how fast they are in practice, I think everyone in the garage watches them because, like it or not, which I don’t like it, they are the model team right now in this era of the sport. They’re good.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO RACE HERE AT ITS MOST INTENSE? “This track is really tough. First of all, you have to have that coxswain up on the box, the guy guiding the boat, the guy making the right decisions because this thing changes every five minutes. And then when you start the run you can feel everything here. Those tiny rubble nipples on the tires, it feels like you can feel those the first time you pull out of the pits. As the track rubbers in you can feel every little bump. You touch the curb and you feel the way the car works off of it, and then you add to that all the pressure of guys two-wide, running you down, beating on your rear bumper. Five hundred laps here is just intense. Every time I leave here I’m like, ‘Whew.’ Whether it’s good or bad it’s a race. I don’t know about you guys, but this whole people have been saying, ‘This is exciting. We’re excited to see a short track race.’ They’re pumped about it, so if we can get this car dialed in, like I said at the beginning, if we can have a good run we’re going to have accomplished something big here because this has been a tough one for us.”
DO YOU GET MAD? “Do I get mad? Yeah, are you kidding me? I think every driver here gets mad at some point. You can get mad at anything here. You can get mad at yourself, at other drivers, at pit crew members because you get blocked in on pit road. I mean, you get mad if you start thinking about the guy who designed the curbing, you get mad at him. It’s a very frustrating place, but I think, for me, when I’ve had a good run here, it’s a very satisfying thing. That third-place run was huge. That was big for us.”
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, continues to lead the point standings as he holds a seven-point lead over second-place Kevin Harvick. Biffle answered questions from the media Friday between practices.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “First practice, I’m really happy with the car. We’re decent on the lap tracker, which is inspiring to say the least. Granted, it’s just the first practice, but I don’t really like this schedule as much as the happy hour practice on Saturday when the track is a little bit more closer to what the race is gonna be like, so we have to do all of our race setup and qualifying setup on Friday when the track is a little greener and has a little more grip and that isn’t conducive to what we’re gonna be racing on Sunday. For right now, I’m running pretty good and pretty happy. My qualifying run, I made a little mistake and here if you make a tick of a mistake you go from 10th to 21st, so I think we’re gonna be decent in qualifying and so far I’m happy with how the car is running.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT IT’S LIKE FROM AN INTENSITY STANDPOINT AT THIS TRACK? “It’s a little bit hard to get your rhythm, but once you get going it kind of falls into place. What happens though is it’s easy to get off. If you get off a little bit, it’s so hard to get going again and get back online and hit your braking points and do those kind of things, so it is kind of a challenging track being the slowest race track we go to as far as cornering speeds and braking and accelerating. You have to be very precise even though we’re going slow. You can get your feathers ruffled pretty easily at this race track.”
WHAT IS MISSING AS FAR AS GETTING TO VICTORY LANE? “That’s what we’ve been working on every week. We’ve been sitting down in the meetings back at the shop and saying at California how can we be better. We were looking at the photos and studying our cars and we see some things we need to work on. We think some of our strong suits for mile-and-a-half race tracks, so Texas coming up after the break coming up will be a place we’re looking forward to. Restrictor plate at Talladega, a couple wins at Kansas, so those are some good tracks for us coming up and we actually ran good here in the fall. We came back from three laps down to finish 11th and had a pretty competitive car. We’re just off a little bit. I think the wins will come if we keep running consistent and up front like we have been. We’re just working hard at it.”
WHAT ARE YOUR OFF WEEKEND PLANS AND WOULD YOU RATHER BE RACING AS THE POINTS LEADER? “I’m hoping I’m still the points leader when we leave here because I’ve got a vacation planned. I’m going to the Bahamas, some place close, and maybe get to fish for a couple days and spend a little R&R – a chance to get away. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t really gotten away some place quiet and turn the phone off and spend three or four days doing that and then come home and have Easter and hopefully charge the batteries up and be ready to go. I don’t mean charge the batteries. I’m ready to go every week, but I personally would rather go straight to Texas, but I’m looking forward to drinking a drink on the beach and celebrating.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TEXAS? “I like that track. It has its unique challenges. It’s not like any other mile-and-a-half we go to. It’s fast and the tires fall off. Handling is a premium. The backstretch flattens out really fast. I like that you can run the top, the bottom and the middle of the race track. There’s just so many opportunities at Texas. I really like that track.”
GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED — CARL SAID MATT PUCCIA ALMOST KILLED HIM ONCE. HAVE YOU HEARD THAT STORY? “I think there’s two sides to that story. I don’t know exactly what happened, all the details, but I hear them throwing daggers at each other once in a while. They have a lot of fun with it, but, at the same time, I don’t know all the details. Somebody was letting the car down and somebody was underneath it. I don’t know all the details, but that’s never good. I haven’t decided who is right. I think both of them are telling a little bit of a fib on the whole deal. I don’t think either one of them is right and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”
WHAT IS THE MOST UNIQUE TROPHY YOU HAVE AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK THAT IS AWARDED HERE? “I’ve cleared out a spot for the grandfather clock coming up for this weekend. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do or not, but I have a spot all picked out for it, so I’m ready to take it home. Probably one of the most unique trophies is my Daytona trophy. It plugs in and lights up and it’s pretty neat. It has all of the grandstands, so that’s probably one of the most unique trophies I have.”
IS THE SECRET TO SUCCESS HERE SO SUBTLE THAT DRIVER’S WHO ARE GOOD CAN’T RELATE IT TO OTHERS? “A little of both, I think. Racing is so unique. There’s not any one thing you can do or say or change and fix it, but I know what they’re referring to and talking about because the last few times here I kind of got it a little bit. I ran second here for quite some time in the fall and my brakes started giving up on me a little bit. That’s part of what they talk about. They brake a little bit easier getting into the corner and that’s something I’m still working on as far as being a little easier on the brake and trying to roll the momentum in the corner. I got the axle, the back of the car wheel-hopping, and got in the fence, but came from three laps down and finished 11th, so really pretty respectable. But we’re getting closer and closer on this thing and it is starting to get to be more fun when you do get it and you do run good. It starts to be more fun, so I think we’re in that transition period.”
WHY IS IT SO DIFFERENT? “I think if you really overlaid the tracks, I think this track is much narrower from backstretch to frontstretch and much longer and a lot tighter corner. It drives like it has no banking, so it is a lot different. A track may have the same banking, but the way the corner entry is, it’s a little bit wider – corner entry and then you get in the gas a little bit different – so with the corner being so sharp and a curb and the fast way around it being right around the bottom most of the time, it does make it different even though it’s the same size. That makes it a lot different. I grew up racing a fairly flat mile-and-a-half race track and it’s nothing like this. It’s kind of different.