Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards was made available to the media at Bristol Motor Speedway:
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How much do you enjoy racing at Bristol?
“I always love to come to Bristol, it’s a fun race track. The track is a lot different right now though. There’s a lot that’s going to happen here in the next practice, qualifying and then the race. I don’t know if anyone really knows where the groove is going to be so during practice we kind of moved around a lot and tried some different things. Hopefully, we’ve got a really good Stanley Toyota. I guess it remains to be seen how the weather will hold out the rest of the day so we’re trying to decide now what we’re going to do for the second practice, but having fun.”
Do you believe you will know how the track will react until 100 laps or so into the race Saturday night?
“I don’t know. The Cup cars, Dave (Rogers, crew chief) told me, we were talking about this and he said, ‘I don’t think you 40 guys are just going to stay in line.’ He thinks we’ll all start moving around and figuring things out and it’s apparent pretty quickly that once somebody finds a fast line then everybody fights for that, but with what they’ve done to the race track, it feels like it even changed throughout this practice session. I believe that we won’t know until some portion of the race or into the race what line is going to be the winning line.”
How do you feel about Dover adding SAFER barrier and your thoughts on the top line of this race track?
“I tried to go run up top and I decided I would let the other guys do that because it just didn’t have that grip and the bottom right now has so much grip. It seemed a little dicey up there. As far as SAFER barrier at Dover, that’s great, I appreciate that. I don’t think that stuff is cheap, but it is different I can tell you that I hit the wall twice at Indianapolis, the first hit right into the SAFER barrier and I thought, ‘that wasn’t that bad.’ Then I slapped it again on the concrete after that and that one felt like a very sharp impact. That’s the first time I hit a concrete wall in a while and even though it wasn’t that big of a hit, it means a lot to have that SAFER barrier there.”
Are you worried the bottom groove will turn this back into the ‘bump and run’ Bristol?
“I’m excited about the prospect of having not only multiple lines, but having the line be on the bottom is a lot of fun. The first times I drove at Bristol and for a big part of it, those first years were really fun and it’s fun because on the bottom if a guy slips up it gives you a little window to get under him, but at the top if everybody is following one another, they slip up and you can’t really go between them and the wall and you can’t make anything happen. Multiple lines and having the bottom I think is going to make for a much more dynamic race and a lot more fun for the drivers and hopefully the fans enjoy it.
Are you surprised at the speed difference from the top groove to the bottom groove?
“Going back to what Dave (Rogers, crew chief) said, let’s say the bottom is fast, somebody or some group of people are going to try something else and if it does come in, who knows. I just don’t know if the bottom is fast because of the way they ground it or if it’s fast because of what they’ve put on it. I don’t know if the top has more speed left. It seems like a lot of times the top comes in late in practice so I think the second practice will give you a glimpse if the top gets faster and the margin between the top and the bottom close. I think it will be a true two groove race.”
How much are you looking forward to the lower downforce package at Michigan?
“You guys know which direction I like to go on the downforce and I think that the less we have the better. Michigan is a tough place because even though we’re reducing downforce, there is still a lot of it, but it’s a very high speed track so any aero changes, they are magnified there. Hopefully the track has aged some there, it’s a little hotter the second time back and there’s a little more rubber down and hopefully it provides a really good race. I hope it’s a good test of that package. You test it at a new repave like Kentucky and you test it at a really, really fast single groove track right now like Michigan and it’s really hard to gauge where it’s at, but I really applaud NASCAR trying and going that direction. I think what you’ve seen this year with all the great racing and the passing and all that is due in large part to the reduced downforce. If we can keep going that way it’s going to be good.”
Is it difficult to come to Bristol with the continued changes to the racing surface?
“It makes it more interesting. The problem solving of this sport and what we do, that’s really a lot of the fun. If they put jumps and fiery rings out there, it would be a blast to try to navigate it. For me, I enjoy it. Part of the excitement of this job and this sport is going to a new place or running a different package or a track that makes a change. I think it’s good, it mixes it up and that’s what this is about is being able to problem solve and I think it’s good.”
Do you feel your team has made good progress toward the Chase and does it make you more comfortable knowing you may not get mixed up in the aggression the next four weeks?
“It is great to have that win and to be in the Chase, we have such a great team right now and really what we’re doing is two things, we’re preparing for the Chase and we’re having some fun. It’s cool to come to Bristol and know that we can just go race for the trophy and really we can be more aggressive. There are going to be guys in the next few weeks that are racing really hard for a position to compete for the championship and everybody will be aware of that, but for us guys that have wins we just get to go just try everything and that’s a fun way to go race. I’d have to say the difference between the spring race and this one or the first race and this race is just a lot less pressure. We can come here and have a good time and it’s a great way to come to Bristol.”
Do the track changes adjust which lane is preferred for restarts?
“It’s going to be very different. As the race goes on, people will be watching very closely which lane is the preferred lane and it will probably be the bottom. It’s hard to say. This track is crazy and there’s so many things that can happen.”
Are you in favor of the tracks altering the surface to make the racing better?
“At the end of the day, we race cars on surfaces and if there’s a way to modify the surface to make the racing – I use the word dynamic because I like the race to be a little bit unpredictable and you want there to be different lines and you want guys to approach it different ways. I think anything you can do to either the surface or the cars to make it tougher or more interesting I think is great. If you remember when they put that patch at Pocono that was really interesting. They patched up this portion of the track and all of the sudden everyone figured out there was more grip there so it became like a dirt track with a cushion for part of the race track. You could dive up there and hit that grip and do different things and I really think that’s part of the sport is looking for the best line and trying to make your car work.”