Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards was made available to the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 Subway Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is it like to run the name of a fallen military member on your Camry this weekend?
“It’s a true privilege to be able to honor, in my case Captain Jablonsky for giving his life in Vietnam and for the man that he was. It’s neat to walk through the garage – it’s more than neat, it’s humbling to walk through the garage and to think every one of those names on the windshields are the ones that died to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy. I truly believe the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy in this country are what makes it the greatest country on earth. That is a real privilege and I’m honored to be wearing the Subway colors this weekend being that Subway is donating over $100,000 to the USO and 5,000 meals to troops so they’ve really got some skin in the game and they are out there doing something for the men and women that are out there protecting us and it’s the Coke 600, which still to this day it’s a little bit surreal for me to be coming here as the returning or defending champion of the Coke 600, it’s just a cool weekend.”
What would it mean to win the Coca-Cola 600 again this year?
“It’s probably the biggest race that I’ve ever won. There was so much going on last year at that time – we won the race and I was so relieved with everything we’d been through up to that point in the season, there was a lot of pressure, so we won the race and the pressure came off and I was like, ‘Man, it’s great to get that win.’ Still, it’s just one of those wins that over time it’s just grown and when we came here to do the media, I was telling the folks when I was here and I was reading through the run of show, they had me listed as the Coca-Cola 600 champion and I was like, ‘Man, that’s really cool.’ I’m still getting my head around the fact that we won that race. It would be nice to do it again.”
How excited are you about the announcement of the new downforce change for Michigan and Kentucky?
“It’s all right there, the proof is there, all year we’ve had awesome racing and we have close finishes. I mean, yeah things didn’t go exactly as planned at the All-Star event, but that was a new format and a lot of unforeseen things happened, but the racing on the track was good and it’s been good all year. I already sent Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR) a thank you text. I’m so excited about the things that are coming at Kentucky and Michigan. NASCAR is doing that it takes, the teams are doing what it takes to go out and figure out how to make this the best racing it can be. This is going to be a blast. These cars, I’m telling you, when you drive them sideways at 200 mph and you’re closing on people and you’re able to pressure them and race like that, that’s as good as it gets. I’m very excited about Michigan and Kentucky, it’s like Christmas for me.”
How did the photo come about with you and Kyle Busch with the box of chocolate after the Richmond incident?
“Richmond, we pushed it right to the limit, as hard as I could race a teammate and Mars does a really neat thing for the winners of a race. If you win the race, Mars sends you a really neat box of chocolates. So at the shop the next week, Kyle (Busch) and I got together, we had a meeting and it was kind of a tough meeting, but we left on decent enough terms and Randy (Fuller, PR) gave me this box of chocolates and it’s ‘Congratulations on the Toyota Owners 400 win from Mars.’ I don’t know if that might have got sent before they stopped it or what, but I thought it was really cool of them to send that and I saw Kyle across the shop and I thought, ‘Man, I have to ask him to sign it.’ That’s where that picture that we put up on Twitter and all that. I thought it was pretty cool. We somewhat made peace over chocolate so that’s pretty good.”
Are you surprised at how far NASCAR has come in a short period regarding the downforce rules?
“I’m really happy with the way things are going, but I think its NASCAR’s job to run this sport the best that they can and they’ve done a really good job over the last 50 or 60 years. They’ve made this into what it is so a healthy dose of skepticism when a bunch of drivers come and tell you what they want probably serves them well. Right now, literally, I can go to anyone at NASCAR – Mike Helton or Brian (France) or Steve O’Donnell whether it’s through the council, I can go talk to them and there’s a lot of communication back and forth. It doesn’t mean we don’t get just as many penalties or black flags or whatever, the competition is still the competition, but it’s pretty neat right now that everyone wants to make the racing the absolute best it can be and people are listening. That’s all you can hope for.”
What have you heard about how the cars will drive with the new package?
“I haven’t heard other than just some comments, real short comments I saw on exactly what the cars drove like so I will be curious to hear. I’m sure you guys could go to the guys that were at that test and really talk about the real specifics of how the cars drove. I can only imagine that having a smaller spoiler and a narrower spoiler and less of a hole in the air not only makes your car drive better, but it also is going to disturb less air when you have a big pack of cars. At these big tracks, this is a big race car driving through the air at 195 mph and the smaller you can make that hole, the easier it is for people behind you to catch you and that’s what we want to see, we want to see guys who can get together. We’ve seen a lot of that this year and as we go this direction, I really believe and would be surprised if it doesn’t get better.”
Have you heard specifics from the drivers that participated in the test?
“I’d heard though that the corner speeds were quite a bit lower, there was quite a bit more driving involved, it will put it more in the driver’s hands, but I didn’t hear people talking about driving close to one another yet. I don’t know if (Kyle) Larson said anything about that. You kind of don’t really know until you get in a big pack. I know I’ve had more fun racing this year just with the changes we’ve had right now so another big step is going to be great.”
Are there any negatives to this new package?
“There are absolutely no negatives. This sport, to me, and I can speak as a fan – until I got that call from Jack Roush, this was just something I dreamed of doing and watched on television and the things that I grew up watching drivers do with these race cars. Like that picture with cars sideways and hanging it out, stock car racing, NASCAR racing is built on that. I can’t applaud NASCAR enough for going that direction. I don’t see any negatives. I think we’re just going to have better and better racing.”
How close is the relationship between Toyota, TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing?
“I’m about to pinch myself, this is the greatest media availability and everything is going my way so I don’t want to screw this up. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and the team is going great. I just did an event with a couple of you guys up there at TRD this week, got to show off some really neat stuff and its one of the things that I guess I’ve gotten used to it in the last year or year and a half that there is no line between where JGR stops and TRD starts. They are part of our team and it’s really cool to work with a manufacturer with all their resources and all their competitiveness, to have them right there with you. I don’t know, sometimes there’s guys on our truck and I don’t know who works for whom because it’s just one team and I think that’s a big part of our success right now.”
Is it uncommon to have that type of relationship?
“I don’t know that it’s uncommon to try to achieve, I think it’s difficult to achieve it in any setting. You guys work in a business setting and a competitive setting, it’s hard to have two separate businesses really work together and not have egos or competition or grudges and I have not seen any of it. When the TRD guys leave the room, it’s not like everybody says, ‘Oh, now we can talk openly.’ It’s a true team and that’s cool.”
Is it easier for NASCAR to make these changes for exhibition races or in points races?
“I think NASCAR really, we’ve tried a bunch of different aero package and we’ve tried them at points races and we’ve tried them like we did at the All-Star event. I think really this garage is full of people who can make whatever NASCAR brings, we can make it work. I don’t really know if it matters. If they change the rules this afternoon, I have a lot of faith that the guys in the garage could have this, they’d have the cars ready to race this weekend and it would be competitive racing. I think the overall most important thing is that NASCAR has gone down this path and they’ve done a really good job of testing all of these things and having the teams be involved and they’re not scared to do what it takes to make the racing great.”
What advice could you give Chase Elliott?
“I think the thing is that first year I didn’t realize that what I had was so special and I didn’t understand how great it was. I don’t think I could have any advice for Chase (Elliott). He’s got, he seems to be about 10 years ahead of where I was at that point in my career already. I think he’s got it figured out, he seems to be doing a great job. I guess the biggest thing is just to appreciate what you have because when you come in sometimes it’s hard to realize how tough it can be. I think he already knows that.”
Do you feel NASCAR should put some of these rules into place for intermediate tracks in the Chase?
“I don’t know what’s on the table. But I’m all for whatever NASCAR wants to do. Right now, we’re in territory where the racing is good. If they feel like it’s going to be better, then why not, let’s do it. I don’t think anyone would complain. It’s up to NASCAR, but we’ve made it over the hump, we can race now and whatever we do after this is just icing on the cake.”