Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards was made available to the media at Richmond International Raceway:
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How important are the Chase bonus points you earned in April at Richmond International Raceway?
“I’m very familiar with how important each point is, so we definitely want to win this race, get some points, but really we just – we talked about it a lot this week. This place is so much fun with the tire and this downforce package and the surface. Even out there in practice right now, you’re just sliding all over place sideways searching for grip. It’s a really, really fun race track, so had a blast here in the spring. It was exactly the kind of race and the kind of – the cars drove the way that I really enjoy, so I’m looking forward to this race. Should be fun.”
How much pressure does the Chase create?
“One of the neatest things about the sport and the thing that shocked me the most I guess once I got into the Cup Series is just how much pressure there always is for everybody – for everybody on the team. As a driver, the first time I was involved in a Chase battle was 2005 trying to make the Chase here and that race I can still remember very specific details about that race. It seems like it took about a year. It was a huge amount of pressure just to make it in. Now with the Chase format that we have, we’ve got this race for a lot of guys is huge pressure. Then three races from now, all of us are going to feel it. Then three races from that. There are a lot of very important parts, very important races that are coming up and that’s – it’s really fun. It’s neat. Sometimes when I feel all that pressure, I think, ‘Man, there’s really nothing else in my life that makes me feel this way.’ It’s pretty cool to have the opportunity to have something that you care about that much, so we enjoy it. We’re looking forward to it and hopefully we can use it to our advantage.”
Would you have any reservations about making your April race-winning move at Richmond if you had to do it again?
“I can still feel Coach (Joe) Gibbs’ (team owner) presence here from last time I was sitting here after the race. Kyle (Busch) and I talked. We actually talked about it last night – Denny (Hamlin) was nice enough to give me a ride here and we joked around about it a little bit, but I think right now both of us having wins I think we all know that right now this is an opportunity for us to go race, have as much fun as we can, race each other as hard as we possibly can, so I don’t know. I know if I were put in the position and the roles were reversed, I know exactly what to expect tomorrow night, but I plan on racing as hard as I can for the victory.”
What have you learned from past Chases that you will apply this year?
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to be in some really good Chase battles and I think everyone has learned a lot. I think everyone – I guess they’re thinking, strategies have evolved, everyone is prepared. When we start at Chicago, everyone is going to get every single position, every point, really lunge for those wins. I guess the most notable thing I’ve learned is how easy it is to falter – how easy it is to make a mistake and fall out – so you can’t relax for a minute. You have to go 100 percent.”
Is there a book yet on how to manage the early Chase rounds?
“You have to do – there are a bunch of things you have to do right, but the thing with a three-round Chase or a three-race round is that one mistake, one problem, one penalty, it can really set you back. It’s very easy to screw it up I guess, so I don’t know that there’s a book on how to do – exactly how to do it – other than don’t make mistakes. Don’t put yourself in a hole. I think that’s the key, especially these early rounds. It’s very easy to fall out. We saw some really good cars out after the first round last year.”
Is it tough knowing you can be knocked out in one race?
“You have to be prepared. I mean, it’s interesting. NASCAR has taken – they’ve found a way to take a very long season full of very long races and then condense it down into a real sprint. It is – it goes by in a flash those three race rounds. We found ourselves last year at Phoenix and we were one lap from going back green and having a chance to try to put ourselves in that final round at Homestead. The rain came and we were done. I could go back even in that race and the two races before that and I can find a couple points that we should have gotten and it would have gave us a chance to race for the championship. It’s just so easy to give it away, but that’s what makes it fun. You’ve got to really be perfect and everybody else is trying hard.”
How much better is NASCAR with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the track each week?
“I’ve got to say that I am really impressed with how Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) has handled this whole thing. I don’t think anybody in this sport loves auto racing more than Dale Jr. For him to step out and do the right thing regardless of what people might think, that takes a lot of strength and the other thing I’ve been really impressed with is just how involved he is, even being out of it. He’s let people see what’s going on. He’s come to the track. I got the chance to see him at Watkins Glen. He’s still really involved. I feel like Dale Jr. will be in our sport – hopefully he’s back in a car as soon as he wants to – I feel like he’s going to be a big part of our sport for a long time. I haven’t talked to him about it personally, but I just get that feeling.”
Do you think penalties could impact the Chase?
“Yeah, I had to sit for 15 minutes there. I know for me personally I haven’t talked to many people about it in depth, but seeing the 31 car’s (Ryan Newman) penalty and realizing, whoa, that could affect literally your entire season a penalty like that. I think that got my attention. We’re pushing everything. Everybody pushed every little thing as far as we can down to pit road speeds. We talked about it this week about trying hard to get more time on pit road and trying to – but, man, NASCAR’s doing a really thorough job right now of making sure you don’t step out of the box and so you’ve got to really be careful.”
Is this a race you use to prepare for the Chase or do you go for the win and bonus points?
“It’s a really good question. We’re going to go out – there’s a couple things I still want to try. From the driver’s seat, just a couple little things – kind of some housekeeping stuff – and I’m going to push it a little bit tomorrow night. We’re going to just go out there, push hard, try to get every little bit and talked about the penalties and stuff. This race tomorrow night is one – it’s really the last time we can afford to have any mistakes, so just going to try to play loose a little bit and go for it and hopefully gets us a win. But this is the last one without all the pressure, so we’re going to have some fun.”
Do you need to be aware of those trying to make the Chase?
“I know how important this race is. I just got through saying how much we’re going to have some fun and we don’t have a lot of pressure, but for some guys this is their whole season, everything they’ve worked for, so I’ll definitely be conscience of that. You don’t want to mess up anybody’s season. By the end, it will be kind of fun to watch that during the race – watch what people do and how hard they go and that will be entertaining, but, yeah, we definitely don’t mess them up. Those guys are racing for everything.”