Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards was made available to the media at California’s Auto Club Speedway:
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 Subway Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your outlook at Fontana this weekend?
“I think all of the drivers – I’m pretty sure I can speak for all of them — we’ve been looking forward to this race track. The tires fall off a bunch here with multiple grooves. The new package should provide some good racing. You saw it last week that we were able to pass cars, we were able to get close, tires meant something and that’s what’s fun. This place should be a pretty good race.”
How would you race this week on the final lap if you are in the same situation as last week at Phoenix?
“Well, I think every situation is different. This is a faster race track and I think you give a little more space and you’re a little more careful of the faster and faster we go just because of the obvious risk. But, this place, I’ve seen some pretty good finishes here. I mean, when the tires get worn out, people are really battling it can be really close so who knows.”
Who do you think has got the best handle on the new aero package so far this year?
“I don’t know. These tracks have been so different – the first races that we’ve run so far – they’ve all been so different that I don’t know if you can say, ‘Hey, these guys have it figured out.’ I don’t know. I just don’t have a feel for it yet. I thought we actually surprised ourselves a little bit how well we ran last week at Phoenix. That was good. This weekend will be a completely different animal than anything we’ve run yet. I just don’t know yet. I don’t have a feel for it yet.”
Do you try to drive in between the seams here and what does it feel like in the car when you hit one of them?
“You could write a book about a lap at this place. There’s so much happenings out there. The where you place your tires, how you enter the corner, what the guy in front of you is doing. All of those things add up to a lot different balance. Turns one and two as many times as I’ve been here I still don’t feel like I have it figured out. There’s spots that I like to run, there’s things I like to do but there’s some spots out there and it’s like man, I can’t quite figure out what is happening. When you hit this point in the race track and the car moves and I can’t repeat it all of the time so you never really know what you’re going to get. I think that’s good. It’s a little bit unpredictable, it’s definitely tough and to me that’s part of the fun.”
Has your opinion changed at all in liking the low downforce package?
“You guys know how I feel about that whole subject but I’m really happy that NASCAR has made the steps they have. You’re seeing the results on the race track. It is more fun to drive. This package is just simply more fun. The driver has more of an influence. The tires fall off a little more. There’s more passing. I watched guys last week really driving the race cars. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. was I mean just loose steering and it looked like he was running on dirt out there the whole time. That’s fun. Me, personally, I like that type of racing. So, yeah, that’s good.”
What do you expect in qualifying not knowing the challenges and changing conditions here?
“I’ve got all sorts of challenges qualifying to be honest with you. I thought that was a pretty good lap and I was like 26th on the board or something. I’ve got to do a better job qualifying. The places — I used to have figured out and I felt like I was really good qualifying here. It’s everybody has become so good at running the different grooves and figuring out where all of the speed is it’s really tough. I think that you’re going to have to – the guy that qualifies well his car is going to have to be very good but he’s also going to have to do a perfect job at making speed at all points on this race track. A two-mile race track is sometimes for me it’s hard to figure out exactly where you’re losing speed, so hopefully I can figure it out between now and the third lap I run out there I guess. But, it is tough. This place is tough.”
How do the track conditions change throughout the day?
“I wish I knew how it was going to change. That’s part of the puzzle. We just kind of decide on what we’re going to do and we hope the track doesn’t change a lot but it does change with temperature here. That’s one of the neat things about this track is as the sun goes down it gets shallower, the track picks up grip. So, you know, if it was fast on top it might not be fast. There might be enough grip on the bottom to run the bottom. There’s nothing guys in a race car than driving down – first of all the Toyota ‘Speed Trap’ is distracting. It’s neat, but I wish they did something so we couldn’t watch it because every time I come down I’m like, ‘Oh what do I got? What do I got?’ But, then you’ve got to decide. You go into that corner and you’re like, ‘Do I run by the fence? Do I want to go to the bottom?’ I don’t know about the other drivers but it’s a tough decision.”
Do you think teams will have any issues with tires this weekend?
“I’m not concerned about it. We haven’t had any tire trouble yet. We’ve really tried to manage what we’re doing with the tires. The fact that that’s out there though does create another variable. It is hard to – guys are pushing the limit or doing things with their tires I assume that maybe are causing a little bit of trouble but it’s just another variable. When you get to work on it and to quote Greg Biffle, ‘The cars used to be child proof and now you can mess it up.’ While nobody wants to see any tire problems, it does make for a more dynamic race. But, we haven’t had any trouble. I say that and I’ll probably have trouble, but we’ve been okay.”
How early does your team monitor the point’s situation to get in the Chase?
“I don’t know where we’re at in points so we’re not monitoring yet. We want to get a win, maybe two wins, and then I’ll feel comfortable. When we’re locked in that’s when you’re comfortable. In this sport so many things can happen. I think until you’re locked into that thing it’s something you think about definitely for me.”
Are drivers excited to come to this track with the new aero package?
“I think people were excited about Atlanta but nobody really knew what to expect but this one I get a sense that everyone is really amped up about it and I think the reason is that you can really drive here. Just watch the in-car cameras. Watch what’s going on. Guys have got their heads laid against the left side headrest, they’re focused and they’re just correcting the car the whole way around the corner. I mean, you get to work here. You get to actually use the skills that you have as a race car driver. And it’s a big, long flat corner so if you do – I got sideways out there in practice and you can catch it. You can slide the thing sideways, catch it and get going again. That’s why we all started driving race cars because cars are fun to drive like that.”
Did practice indicate this will be exciting racing on Sunday?
“Yeah, if you look – this race track just provides great racing even with the other package which I think was definitely less racy than this one, it still provided great racing. After practice all indications are that you’re going to be able to really race. You’ll be able to dig deep and make something happen. Make adjustments throughout the race and make your car faster and hopefully go out and beat a guy because you worked harder.”
How difficult are the cars to setup?
“Yeah, I don’t have mine close yet so pretty difficult. This track is – your car can drive terribly and then you can move around a little bit and it drives pretty well. So then you’ve got to decide, ‘Well, is that where I want to race or do I want to race over here where it’s terrible? Should we work on it?’ It’s tough. It is hard to decide exactly what you want. The fun is that you can actually change it. You can do things. If the car isn’t working well in one spot you move somewhere else and try something else. You’re not locked into a tiny little box where everybody has to run in the exact same spot. It’s fun.”