Edwards talks about getting back to victory lane

Carl Edwards snapped a 70-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winless streak last Sunday when he took the checkered flag and drove into victory lane following the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. On Wednesday, Edwards participated in the weekly NASCAR teleconference to discuss his win and look ahead to the remainder of the 2013 season. Below, is the transcript from that teleconference:

WHAT DID IT MEAN TO WIN SO EARLY IN 2013? “For us, it was a great win for a number of reasons. Not winning a race for 70 races is really frustrating. Even though it was a 70-race drought, we did have an awesome 2011 season with nine second-place finishes or something, so it wasn’t 70 races of frustration, but 2012 was a long time. It was a full season of pretty lackluster performance for us, so it felt good just to get that turned around and have a real solid day. I believe the ingredients we have right now, the pit stops are fast, Jimmy Fennig’s experience, the cars seem to be running really well, the engines are fast. I think all of those things are good for this season. I think we have a lot of great things to look forward to, but a win right off the bat is really, really good for us.”

WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK DID JIMMY AND JACK GIVE YOU WHEN YOU ASKED ABOUT WHAT THEY NEEDED FROM YOU? “Jimmy specifically told me before the season started that he wants me to make sure that I understand the changes they have planned for practice, that I make sure to be there and be available to the engineers after practice, and that I’m actually sitting there engaged with them so we don’t miss something. I thought that was pretty cool for him to just lay it out there. He didn’t say, ‘How did you do it last year?’ He said, ‘This is exactly what I want. This is how I’m gonna do it,’ and I think that leadership and knowing what he wants is something that’s gonna pay off a lot.”

IT SOUNDS LIKE HE ALMOST HAS A LESSON PLAN. “Yeah, he doesn’t present it that way, though, which I think is really interesting. I think it’s good. He doesn’t come to me and say, ‘This is the best way to do it.’ He just says, ‘This is how I’d like to do it. This is what I want to do. This is how I do it. Can you do that?’ And I think it’s all been really good. As we run some more of these races, I think, like anything, we’ll change things, but I was really, really pleased at Phoenix with how we worked together, how he managed the information exchange throughout the weekend, and how he managed the time, so I think it’s gonna be very good.”

DID YOU THINK OF GETTING IN THE MIDDLE OF COACH HAITH AND COACH ANDERSON LAST NIGHT? “I was on Eli Gold’s show and I didn’t get there until after that happened, but I thought it was really cool that we were able to beat them as badly as we did, especially after all that was said and done. I thought it was really cool. I think everybody there was really excited.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE IT MAKES WHEN YOU HAVE A CREW CHIEF AND TEAM THAT PAYS SUCH ATTENTION TO DETAIL? “Without talking too much about the things our guys do to the cars, I’ll tell you a story. The first time I sat down with Jimmy Fennig, when Jack told us we were gonna work together next year, it was before the Homestead race last season. Matt Kenseth was the driver of Jimmy’s race car at that time. I went into his office at the shop, which is right next to the surface plate where they do the final scaling and everything of the race cars. We talked a little bit about the upcoming season and we talked about each other’s families, and then we kind of talked about our way of doing things and looking at racing. And I said, ‘Hey, let’s go look at the race car.’ We walked out there and I started to look around at the race car that he was preparing for Matt Kenseth to go to Homestead and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s really neat.’ And I started to look under the hood a little bit and poke around and he said, ‘OK, OK, that’s enough.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Well, we’re still racing against you this weekend. This isn’t your race car.’ I was like, ‘Seriously?’ He said, ‘Yeah, let’s go look at something else.’ So he’s really serious about making sure his cars are the best they can be, that everything on the car is the best it can be and all of the guys on the team are that way. It’s been really interesting to see what each individual is working on on the race car.”

IT LOOKED LIKE BRAD SHOVED YOU TO THE LEAD ON THE LAST RESTART. DO YOU FEEL THE THIRD-PLACE DRIVER HAS MORE OF AN ADVANTAGE THAN THE SECOND-PLACE GUY, AND COULD THAT HINDER THE LEADER WHENEVER THEY’RE TRYING TO BE THE ONE TO PACE THE FIELD? “Anytime you have restart there’s so much chaos and so many things that can happen that you’re at the mercy of a lot of circumstances. All I can say is that I’m glad Brad was behind me and not behind Jimmie because I think if Brad would have had that kind of restart behind Jimmie and pushed him out front, then it would have been a lot tougher race for me. Anytime you have a restart it looks really simple, but there are a lot of little games that go on and a lot can happen shifting through the gears. If you just slip the tires for half-a-second, you can lose a lot of acceleration and guys around you can take advantage of that, so I was a little nervous about that restart.”

ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES OR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOB OSBORNE AND JIMMY FENNIG? “Every person is different. I am very, very grateful to Bob for everything that he’s done and everything that he still does for our team. We won 18 or 19 races together, the All-Star Race, so he’s the man. I guess the biggest thing I appreciate about Bob is that when he wasn’t able to crew chief anymore, there was absolutely no ego involved. He stepped aside and Chad Norris came in, and then Bob moved to a different position in the company and right now he works hand-in-hand with each crew chief. He’s developing things for the future of the team and he may arguably have a bigger influence on our success than maybe he did even on the pit box some days, so I guess, like I said in the media center after the race, I don’t feel like I lost Bob, I feel like I gained Jimmy Fennig and Bob still works on our team, so it’s a pretty cool situation for me.”

WERE ANY OF THE CARS YOU WRECKED AT DAYTONA RUN AT PHOENIX LAST WEEKEND? “They’re different cars, but what happens with the way they build the cars is it just set everyone back trying to repair all of that crash damage and build race cars in that short amount of time. With the new car and the new Ford Fusion there are different parts than we had before, so, really, the guys in the fab shop, they didn’t have to sacrifice anything for Phoenix, but they just had to sacrifice a lot of their time, energy and money to keep cars coming to Daytona so that we’d have something competitive.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO VEGAS? “I know this is probably wrong to admit, but I didn’t really have Phoenix marked on the calendar as the one that we were gonna go win the first race. I was looking at Vegas as the race that would be the really good one, so I’m really excited about Vegas. After seeing my pit crew perform at Phoenix, I’m going to Vegas to win this thing this weekend. We tested very well at Charlotte. We’ll know tomorrow where we stack up and if it’s anything like Charlotte, I think we’re gonna be real tough at Vegas. I think we’re gonna be good, so I have a real high expectation there. I hope we can meet it.”

WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH IN TOMORROW’S TEST? “Tomorrow’s test I’m hoping to do a couple of things. I’m hoping to find a balance of the race car by itself. I think that will be key because qualifying will be so important as we saw at Phoenix. I would also like to run around some other cars and see how the car handles when I’m behind someone and how I can maybe move around and try to make the car work in a passing situation, so that’s what I’d like to do at the test. I’m sure Jimmy has a run-by-run plan and it may not include racing with another car out there, but I would like to try that.”

CAN YOU BREAK DOWN WHAT IS DIFFERENT AS FAR AS PASSING WITH THIS NEW CAR? “It’s a hard one to answer right now. After the Vegas race you are going to have all of the opinions you want on that subject because that’s gonna be the first race where we see huge speeds, huge reliance on downforce, and I think that we’re really gonna know where we stand after that. Whenever this subject has come up with NASCAR, with the media, with my team, I am 100 percent for taking all of the downforce away from the race cars and just racing mechanical grip and if you have maybe a couple of stagger options for the tires to help gauge your balance, and that would be something Goodyear would have to produce, that’s been my take forever just because I really enjoy the mechanical grip aspect of the racing. At all of this testing NASCAR has run cars with tons of downforce then a little bit of downforce and this is the package they came up with, so what our job to do as drivers and teams is to go out and tune these cars the best we can and see how they work. NASCAR told us after Vegas and a couple of these fast races early in the season, we would kind of take a look at where we stand and there still might be more changes coming, so I think it’s a moving target and it will really be up to all of us to decide what we want.”

HOW DO YOU FILTER THROUGH ALL THE OPINIONS THAT ARE SURE TO COME OUT AFTER VEGAS? “It’s very, very difficult. I will say this, that I believe no matter what you’re going to have a million opinions on it, just like a political topic or something. It’s really tough to get everyone to agree on what the right thing is, but, basically, my experience and my upbringing and everything I’ve seen in racing says that if you have cars that have a ton of horsepower and low grip, then you get to see who can set the car up the best and who can drive it the best. That’s what you get. If you have a bunch of cars that have a ton of grip and have a relatively low amount of power in that they’re in the throttle a lot during a lap, and if they’re relying on downforce, then you get all of these unintended consequences of how a car acts when it’s following another car, and how a car acts when a car is next to it, and all of this stuff that is really hard to fix. So if I could wave my magic wand I would say we’d have cars with no downforce and half the grip we have and you’d have cars out there running three-wide, sideways, fighting for track position, spring adjustments during pit stops and all that. That being said, NASCAR wants that same thing it’s just that we haven’t been able to nail down the parameters of the race car that you change to get it. I think they’re on their way to doing that, we just have to keep trying.”

WHAT KIND OF FRUSTRATION DID YOU FEEL DURING THAT 70-RACE WINLESS STREAK? “I think to be successful in anything you have to constantly look at what you’re doing, so that’s always the same. For instance this last weekend, there are things that I did during the race that I could have done better and I always go back whether we win or lose and critique my performance. But, yes, specifically during the 2012 season it was very frustrating and I told you guys often that I was a lot happier when I was winning than when we were not winning or running well, so it is trying when you’re not doing well, when you’re not getting the results you want. It is tough to just keep doing what you know is right, keep working hard and keep moving forward. As we stood in victory lane there the other day, the first person I said thank you to was Jack Roush because he’s the man who has seen the ups-and-downs of business life. And throughout the entire 2012 season he never once wavered. He said, ‘I believe in you. You just keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll build the right team around you. We’ll make this work,’ and hopefully we’re there now. Hopefully, we can go out and run like this on a regular basis, so I guess what I’m saying is I never really doubt myself, but I do look and make sure I’m doing everything I can do to win.”

AFTER SPEEDWEEKS DID YOU THINK THIS WAS GOING TO BE LIKE 2012? “Yeah, I was a little nervous about going to Phoenix and having some sort of trouble because we all are expecting such great things and it was a little bit of a buzz kill to wreck five times and come out of there with a 36th-place finish or whatever it was there. That was really frustrating. My biggest concern was going to Phoenix and having something like that happen and having to climb out of a bigger hole, so this has definitely lifted all of our spirits. It’s something we can go walk into the garage at Vegas and just kind of race a little bit looser and have some fun. I think that’s good for everyone on the team.”

IT SEEMED EARLY IN THE WEEKEND THE FORDS WEREN’T UP TO SPEED. WERE YOU WONDERING IF YOU GUYS WERE AT SOME SORT OF DISADVANTAGE OR DID YOU AS A GROUP MAKE SOME WHOLESALE CHANGES DURING THE WEEKEND TO PICK YOURSELF UP? “What made me nervous a little bit at Phoenix was the fact that the 16 car, Greg, struggled a little bit in practice and then at some points in the race because I know how good they are and how good they’ve been, so that made me a little bit nervous in practice. But then in qualifying Brad qualified pretty well, Ricky qualified pretty well. I think we’re still all kind of feeling things out. I don’t think everyone is running the exact same package yet. I don’t think we’ve seen the full evolution of these car setups with this new car, but during the race I did take note that there were certain cars that were really fast. One of them was the 2 car. I thought they were as strong as anybody in the field and that made me feel good that a Ford was that fast, and then we were out front I felt like we were really strong as well, but I still don’t have a real sense for how the manufacturers stack up, if there is a difference between them. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it yet.”

WILL YOU WORK ON ONE THING AND GREG WORK ON ANOTHER AND RICKY WORK ON SOMETHING ELSE, OR ARE YOU ALL ON YOUR OWN? “If we’re doing it the right way, we’ll each carry a little bit of the load and we’ll each have things that we do so that the other teams don’t have to replicate the same science experiment, so I’m sure we’ll do a lot of team testing, where we each work on something for Roush Fenway Racing, but then we always try to allocate a little time in the test to just try some one-off stuff that we’ve been wanting to do, so we’ll probably do a little bit of both.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO CELEBRATE YOU WIN WITH THE FANS? “It’s really cool when I can make it up into the grandstands, but there was a pretty good wall of people there and I couldn’t get very far up into the grandstands. But a couple of the races that I’ve run up there into the stands it’s been really neat. When I first started doing it they were really shocked. There were people just completely freaked out and then there were people who would be walking up to the grandstands or walking out and they’d just give you a high-five like they’ve known you forever. They’re just like, ‘Good job, man.’ So that’s really cool. That is definitely not my idea. Every time somebody brings that up I want to make it clear that I think if every driver went and did that, they would really enjoy it. I don’t claim any ownership of that celebration. I think it’s something that everybody should go try because it’s really, really cool, especially when you find someone that’s wearing your gear. That’s really cool to be able to celebrate that moment with them.”

ARE YOU WORRIED THAT YOU WON’T NAIL THE BACKFLIP? “Yes, I was actually very worried at Phoenix because I hadn’t done a backflip for a long time. It seems to be easier to do the louder the crowd is, so if I get a good look up in the crowd and they’re cheering really hard, it’s usually pretty simple to do.”

– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR.

Follow Stock Car Spin on Twitter @SCSblog or like Stock Car Spin on Facebook. Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner

Topics: Carl Edwards, NASCAR, Phoenix International Raceway, Roush-Fenway Racing

Want more from Stock Car Spin?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.

TEAMFeed More Stockcar Spin news from the Fansided Network

Hot on the Web From golf.com