The last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September 2013, Carl Edwards was the driver celebrating in victory lane. After taking the Easter weekend off, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Richmond for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400, and Edwards is hoping this visit produces as second-straight win at the track.
Edwards is one of seven drivers who have already visited victory lane in the first eight races of the season. Right now, Kevin Harvick is the only driver with multiple wins, winning early in the season at Phoenix International Raceway and claiming his second of the year in the most recent race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Edwards feels good about his chances this weekend, and on Friday, he talked about the chances of a second-straight, in addition to talking about the new Chase for the Sprint Cup qualifying criteria that places more weight on winning, his Roush Fenway Racing team and qualifying next weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, among other things. Talladega next weekend will be the first restrictor plate race for which the new knockout-style qualifying format will be used. Here’s what Edwards had to say:
TALK ABOUT THIS UPCOMING WEEKEND. “We couldn’t come to a better track as far as I am concerned. We have had great luck here lately and with the pressure off for us, this is really just a fun Saturday night race. This is great. I am proud to have #FordAlwaysRacing on the car. The website, fordalwaysracing.com should have some interesting footage of us wrecking some little Ford cars which was fun. Ambrose is a maniac. Aric isn’t far behind and Ricky Stenhouse is definitely a cheater, as far as go-kart racing goes. We tore some stuff up and had a good time. I don’t know when that video will be up but it was probably pretty expensive considering all the cameras we broke. It is a pretty cool sponsor to have on the car this weekend.”
YOU TOLD THE CREW YOU HAD SOMETHING YOU COULD WORK WITH OUT THERE. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CONDITIONS ARE AND IF IT RAINS WILL IT CHANGE THE WHOLE BALLGAME TOMORROW? “Well, the rain is coming and if it does in fact rain like it looks like it is going to, it will change the track a lot. Then we have two races, the second of which is on different rubber than we will race on Saturday night. I think the first 100 laps of the race are going to be very tough and be a little treacherous and when I told my crew that, I was putting together how things went the whole day and I feel we have a piece that will be good for the second half of the race. This place is so hard to predict what your car will do at the end. It has taken me 10 years to figure out how I want my car in practice so that it is good in the race. I feel pretty good about it.”
DID YOU SEE STEVE O’DONNEL’S COMMENTS FROM IOWA YESTERDAY AND YOUR REACTION TO REDUCED HORSEPOWER COMING AND THAT AERO AND TIRES ARE ALSO ON THE TABLE AT THIS POINT? “I could not be more excited that they are considering the whole package. When I first heard the horsepower change, I thought, ‘Oh man, this is not going to be good’. But to read the comments and see the word aerodynamics in there – you guys know how I feel about that. I have worn them out. They roll their eyes when I start talking about less downforce but I really believe it doesn’t matter if we have 500 horsepower if we don’t have aerodynamic influence it allows Goodyear to build softer tires and make the racing more dynamic. There would be guys with old tires, worn out tires and you could race closer. I feel like if they approach it the way they say they are going to, it is going to be great. Anything that makes it cheaper to run in the series makes it more competitive and if you take the aero part out of it will make better racing and lets Goodyear work on the tires more. As a package, I am really excited about it.”
OU HAVE A WIN BUT OVERALL ROUSH SEEMS TO BE STRUGGLING A BIT THIS YEAR. DO YOU FEEL YOU GUYS ARE MAKING STRIDES IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? HOW MUCH FURTHER DO YOU NEED TO GO? “Well, unlike that guy, I think we have it out of reverse and are in a forward gear now which is important. That is the key. This sport – what happens from my perspective is this sport moves forward so quickly. You have to move forward at that rate or great. At Roush Fenway we picked up our superspeedway program and our short track program but the 1.5 mile program which has been our bread and butter for a long time that has not been very good. We have been working very hard on it. For us to have a legitimate shot at this championship we have to fix that and everyone is working as hard as they can. There is a lot of things on the table and if any of them proved to be helpful it will only be better for us. As a group we are working as hard as we can. I believe we have a really good shot at winning this race here and we are fast at Phoenix and even were fast at Martinsville. We will probably be good at Dover too. We just have to be better at the 1.5 mile tracks.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO TALLADEGA, WHAT WILL THAT BE LIKE WITH QUALIFYING? “If I weren’t in it, I would be tuned in to watch because it will be entertainment. We were talking about it today. The only time we have had to do that at Talladega was last year I believe and we knew it was going to rain qualifying out so everyone was trying to post the fastest time and it was insanity. We ended up on the pole, which was great, but we almost wrecked the race car. Jimmy and I were talking about that and thought we had to do this and that but then he pointed out the fact that we will have three rounds of it. I have a feeling that it might be more dangerous than the race from a tearing the race cars up standpoint. I really don’t know what to expect. I am glad we are in the position we are in with points and we have a win already because it is going to be interesting.”
IF YOU ARE IN THE TOP-10 WITH 10 LAPS TO GO TOMORROW NIGHT, HOW DOES THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A WIN CHANGE HOW YOU MIGHT RUN THOSE LAST 10 LAPS? “It isn’t just the fact that we have a win, I think the big point is that a win will be so important. For us, yeah we have a win so we won’t have a lot to lose. We could lose a bunch of points but if we are in the top-10 with 10 to go, sometimes you can’t do anything. Sometimes you race your guts out and can’t do anything. What will end up happening is you will probably get a caution, especially as you build toward the 26th race, there will be a lot of guys staying out and crazy things on restarts. If we are 10th, that doesn’t mean much to us at this point. We want to go for it to get another win. We will take a bigger risk and I think a lot of people will do that. That is the mindset in the garage and it is getting bigger and bigger. As we get farther along in this – that is why I believe there will be more than 16 winners. There will be 18 or 19 winners because there will always be that group of guys willing to take a chance that on a given day don’t really have a shot to win.”
YOU SAY THIS IS FUN. AS WE GET CLOSER TO THE CHASE AND THERE ARE A BUNCH OF WINNERS, WILL IT BE FUN MAYHEM? “There could be some interesting scenarios where you have three or four guys on the final restart at a place and we all have wins and feel we are in the Chase and it could turn out a lot like Ambrose, Almirola and I in the Ford Flyers in the Ford video I was talking about. I will tell you what is neat and I gotta give Brian France and the guys credit because I was pretty vocal about my concerns with this format, but right now I am having so much fun coming to the race track. This is a fun race. A lot of times we have been so focused on points and qualifying up front and in the past we haven’t had as much fun as I am having right now. That is the long way of answering your question but I think it could get pretty exciting with interesting stuff as we get closer and people have nothing to lose.”