Interview With Carl Edwards, Winner of The Federated Auto Parts 400
Q: Carl was the regular-season points leader, one point ahead of Jimmie Johnson. He comes in at fifth.
CARL EDWARDS: We’re ahead of Jimmie in the points right now?
Q : At the end of the regular season.
CARL EDWARDS: That’s a hell of adeal. Passed Jimmie like he was standing still, didn’t we (smiling)? Hopefully we can keep that up.
Q : Let’s hear from our race winner. Certainly a big win here tonight. Extra bonus points. You got your first win at Richmond. Just talk about that. It’s always good to come into Chicago after a win.
CARL EDWARDS: It will make all the media stuff and dinners a lot of fun this week.
Really, tonight was about three points. That’s what this was about. It was three points for our Chase. I know firsthand, we all know up here, what a point in the Chase is worth. We came here with the mission to get those three points.
The last three weeks have been spectacular. Had a extremely fast racecar at Bristol. Atlanta went well the first half of the race. To come here, have another week where we run up front, win the race, this is great.
I’d say a month or two ago I wasn’t so sure about our chances in the Chase. Jimmy and I, we had a meeting about that and talked about it, it was not looking good. We turned things around. Jack has done a great job with the cars. The pit crew is spectacular.
Excited about going to run these 10 races.
Q : Jack, talk about Carl’s performance. Two cars in the Chase. A solid finish with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
JACK ROUSH: Tonight was a great night for us. In this business you work behind the scenes, hard on the car, hard on the engine. Suffer through the broken parts. Sometimes it seems like there’s no end to it. This is the third new configuration we’ve had and chassis for the cars this year. As late as 10:00 this morning, Carl and I sat in the motorhome and talked about whether or not we thought our car had what it needed to be competitive here.
I came away thinking maybe we needed another car before we went to Loudon. Came back with that kind of result. The car was competitive. Carl did a great job. The pit crew and the four tires at the end made the difference.
Jimmy was the man. No doubt he was going to take four tires.
Q : Jimmy Fennig, a veteran of many of these types of races. Congratulations on getting into the Chase. Maybe about the win here tonight, how you think that will help the team the next 10 races.
JIMMY FENNIG: Well, it was big to get the win tonight because that moment going into the Chase means a lot to everybody, to all the guys at the shop, everybody that’s working hard, it’s a big deal for them that we came out of here with a win.
Hopefully we can turn everything around. Last month we started to turn things around, starting in Watkins Glen. Hopefully we’ll see what we can do in the Chase.
A win here is very special.
Q. Jack, it seems like almost every race this year is won on the final pit stop or on the final restart after the pit stop. You’re an engineering guy. How does that affect your strategy going into the Chase? Do you do things differently than you would have 10 years ago because of the way the races seem to flow now?
JACK ROUSH: You’ve got to make an effort to make sure that you have your best foot forward as it relates to your team, your pit team. We’ve moved people around, not for what their individual skills are, but what their ability was to have good, positive chemistry together. If you have a front tire changer that’s too fast, he intimidates the rear tire changer,that’s not good.
We made a change and put a tire changer on one of our teams that was not as fast, and the overall team picked up its performance. So there’s a human psychology dimension to it that I’m not the master of that the guys work on. That has come to fruition with two of our teams that was a little bit of a problem this year.
The last couple races, the pit stops on the 99 team have been spectacular. They were good at Atlanta for the 16 team until we broke a gun. Yeah, there’s more to the racing, unfortunately, than just making horsepower out of the engine or making a good, reliable car that won’t have its brakes fall off of it. You’ve got to have the athletic performance aspect of it as well.
I think as I look at the engine, as I look at the car, as I look at the racetracks in front of us in the Chase, I think that we’ve got more momentum than we’ve ever had as we look at it going forward.
Q. Throughout the entire season, you’ve talked about having to learn each other. Over the last two, three weeks, you’ve talked about you have learned each other, that you’re so much more beneficial to each other every time you try to race. How important do you think tonight’s victory is to the momentum over the following 10 races?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I think the last three weeks have been really good for our team in that we’ve been able to just take a little bit more risk, try things, make bigger changes than we’ve made.
As far as getting to know Jimmy, it’s really been good for me to have him as a crew chief. He has a lot of experience. He doesn’t pull any punches. He tells me exactly what he needs from me. It’s a really open, simple relationship. We’re going to do whatever we can to win.
I told Jack, I think it was a year ago or so, we talked about having a crew chief that would be somebody that would tell me what he needs out of me, and I will go do that. Jimmy takes control of the whole team in thatmanner. That’s huge.
We’ve had some really good runs. Phoenix was won because of our pit crew, Jimmy’s decision on the box. Throughout the year we struggled, really had some struggles. Even though we did well in points, we were very slow at races. That forced us and Jack to make sure we’re making the right changes when we make changes. It makes me be a little bit more communicative during the race, telling them what I need more. Basically when I tell him how the car is doing, it’s like Bob and I used to be, he tells me, Hey, I’m thinking aboutmaking this adjustment. That’s the one I’m already thinking of. I don’t think we could be much better.
JIMMY FENNIG: No, me and Carl get along good. We both want one thing: the win. Carl sits there and debriefs great now. When he debriefs in the truck with me and the engineers, we’ll go ahead and pick everything apart. Before we make any changes, we’ll talk about it as a team, because this is what it’s about. But we get along great right now.
Q. Carl, in earlier conversation Jeff Gordon was talking about what to expect on that first race going into the race with Keselowski and Busch on his tail. What was your take on the race as far as the complexion of it? Was it pretty much what you anticipated?
CARL EDWARDS: Coming in here I heard some stuff that had gone on. From the driver’s standpoint, you don’t know all the things that happened during the race. I was right behind Jeff when he had some sort of trouble, I don’t know what happened to his car. That was pretty huge. What was that? Did he lose a cylinder?
Q. Loose wheel.
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, I’ve been in the position as a driver of having to make it in. At the end of the race, talking to Truex, realizes he tied in points and made it in, the fact that Newman had it in the bag basically, that didn’t work out. Joey got in. That’s as dramatic as I think it can be.
I look forward going back to watch this race to see how it all played out.
The emotions in the car, I can’t describe how tough that is. I hope they shared some of that with you. It’s spectacular how hard it is as a driver to be in that position.
Q. Carl, throughout the majority of the race, you were around 10th place or so. I was wondering if there was a breaking point where you felt you could advance? Was there something that just kind of clicked or changed? What caused that change in position and maybe made you think that taking the race was within reach?
CARL EDWARDS: That’s a good question. Two things happened. Our car was good on the long run. When the run would start, 30 laps in, that’s when we could pick guys off and pass them. At the end, Jimmy made a couple really good adjustments. That added just that little extra speed forus off the corners and we were able to get up there.
Plus it was a genius call on Jimmy’s part to not pit. We waited. We saw that the 48 was having a little trouble. Then that caution cameout. That’s what ratcheted us up to the front and put us in the lead. A lot of tiny things that put us up to the front. It was a battle all night.
Q. Carl, I want to ask you about the last restart, where you took the lead. Slugger is claiming you jumped that final restart. I wanted to ask you about that.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I can understand why he’d be frustrated about that restart.
What happened on that restart is Paul had two tires. I knew he was going to be at a big advantage with grip – big disadvantage with grip. He took off. I waited until he went to go. As we were going, his car actually touched my door. I think it surprised him a little bit or something. He turned a little bit. I heard his engine speed up. He spun the tires.
At that point, I mean, I really have a choice to either lift off the throttle and wait for him to try to gather it up. I’ve never seen a guy able to gather is up too quickly when they spin that bad, or go and hope NASCAR understands that he spun his tires. In this case they did, they understand he came up and hit me and spun his tires.
The guy in second place in that circumstance is in a tough position. If I had lifted and waited, I think the whole field would have run over us. You just can’t. If he had four tires, it probably would have been different.