Carl Edwards scored his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 99 Scots Kellogg's Roush-Fenway Ford met the media afterward with his crew chief Bob Osborne and car owner Jack Roush.
Carl, congratulations. This is your 19th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, your second win here at Las Vegas. Certainly the way you finished last season and the way you've started this season, you are currently third in points, you've got to feel good about how the 99 team is performing.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, we've been performing really well. It's just a joy to drive these racecars right now. I mean, if you look at the way we qualified and the way we ran, the Fords are back, and we're strong. That's due to a lot of work from these two guys next to me and the guys back at the shop, Robbie Reiser, everyone has worked really well together, and it's just great to drive these racecars.
Bob, the crew was certainly very, very good on pit road. Talk about how the team performed.
BOB OSBORNE: Thank you, first of all. I think the team performed well, but I don't believe they performed their best. There's more to come. They did do what they had to do at the right time, which I was very happy with, but I think they're going to get better from here. I believe all the programs probably will, but I know there's more potential in the crew that goes over the wall for me and the crew that works on these racecars for me. So I'm very excited about that.
Bob, were you taking notes there when Tony Stewart and his crew chief Darian Grubb took two tires and just ran away from everybody, and then when everyone had to stop again, was that a signal to you that two tires was going to work at that point?
It definitely didn't hurt the decision-making process to see them run extremely well with two tires. So yeah, I guess I was taking notes. Their car was very good regardless, and I thought our only opportunity was to leapfrog them on the racetrack and hope we were able to hold them off.
Carl, you almost won at Daytona; you obviously had a good car last week; you have a great car here. Could be 3 and 0. Have you started the season more forcefully than this before?
CARL EDWARDS: No, this is the best start to a season that I've ever had. You know, Daytona could have gone any way. There was a lot of luck involved with our good finish at Daytona. But Phoenix, that was a very strong performance from everyone. They had a little bit of bad luck there.
Today I felt like we had a solid top-three car all day. That's three different types of racetracks with success on all three. I'm really excited about this season. This is a great start.
Q. About the racing today, I'm sure it was very exciting for you in the car, but they've rebuilt this whole track, and all the changes made to the car, after two races where you set track records for number of passes, didn't see much passing out there. Is it just the nature of the beast with one-and-a-half-miles or can anything or should anything be done to kind of pump up the action a little bit?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I can tell you from the driver's seat, there are no more exciting racetracks to drive on. This place has a lot of character. You slide the car 200 miles per hour into the corner. There are multiple grooves. And I think that striving to deliver some sort of product that really is impossible to deliver in auto racing, I think that's foolish.
I think we need to be NASCAR. We need to be what we are. Some days we're going to have races that are a little more single file and some days we're not. But the true sport of auto racing is making your car fast, driving it perfectly, making sure the engine makes tons of power, and all those factors I think the fans can appreciate without having to be in a giant pack with restrictor plates and things like that. I think the savvy fans understand what's going on.
Carl, if my stats are correct, the last time you won this early in the season, it was here in 2008. Of course, you went on to finish second that season in the points. What's the difference between 2008 and right now?
CARL EDWARDS: I think we're making it through tech, aren't we? (laughs) That would be a big difference, if we can come out of here with the points lead on Tuesday, or wherever we're at in points now, third. We did not mean to cheat that day. (laughs)
But I guess the biggest difference between then and now from my perspective is I feel like I have a better understanding of how the sport works, and I think that I'm more prepared to use these fast racecars and do a better job to try to win this championship. It's something that Jack and I have talked a lot about over the years. You know, there is definitely a process to becoming the best you can be at this level because all the guys are so savvy. So I feel like I'm in a better position now than I was three years ago to get all the points we can and all the wins we can this year.
What went through your mind when you found out that Tony had the penalty and would be starting from the back? And secondly, was there something wrong with the engine, five to go? You said, "I think I'm hearing something at the top end," or was it just those gremlins that come in your head when it's so close and yet still so far away?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, the second part of the question, we'll find out when we take the engine apart. But I definitely heard a little bit of a different sound at the end of the straightaway.
We're turning these engines really hard, and I was trying to be careful with our engine all day. It very well could be just the five-laps-to-go jitters when you're leading, but we'll find out about that.
And as far as Tony, the first thing that went through my mind, I said it on the radio, I said, "We'll see him here again in a minute," because that car was spectacular. He did a really good job driving it, too. That was really a gift for us for him to have that penalty. And in the end it really put him in a position where he had to take two to get to the lead and had to take four when we took two. So it may have been the difference in the race there.
I don't know exactly what the penalty was for. What was it?
Dragging equipment out of the pit box.
CARL EDWARDS: That's something we actually talked about on the radio. You know, I didn't know exactly what the penalty was, but I knew that and my guys knew that those kind of things can just ruin your day. Even if you don't have the fastest pit stop, we always try to do everything we can not to get any penalties, but it's tough. I felt for him as much as I could as a competitor. But that was pretty nice to start in the lead.
Juan Pablo Montoya said when he first came to NASCAR he could have asked you guys anything and you would have helped him, and now you don't help him as much, and he considers that a compliment. Can you talk about how you've seen, over the last few years, his team and really him as a driver and what he did today?
CARL EDWARDS: He's done a great job. He is a very fierce competitor, and he is fast enough that nobody is going to help him out. He did a really good job today, and he did a good job not only of driving the racecar, but he raced me really clean when we really had to battle for the lead right there after I came out of the pits, and I got by him on the outside. He got really loose but then gave me enough room and corrected his car. I've really enjoyed racing with him lately.
Jack, over the years with your championships, the mile-and-a-half tracks, the two-mile tracks, this has been your bread and butter. You have done it all. Does this build confidence for you, your team, Carl Edwards, everybody else involved, that you're ready to take charge, and this is your season, winning this race?
JACK ROUSH: Well, there were a lot of good cars out there. Tony certainly surprised me a little bit. I didn't realize he was as good as he turned out to be in practice, and, of course, the 42 car [Montoya] was really good. But the thing I worried about was the fact that we had been so good at mile-and-a-half racetracks, we assumed we'd be a factor there, and we'd concentrated in the winter on spending more time on speedway cars than we ever have and trying to test where we could for the short tracks, and I was afraid that the luster would be off for mile-and-a-halfs as we came to Las Vegas, and that's the reason I cautioned Carl. We ran great at Phoenix, but don't assume this necessarily means we can keep what we had going for us last year. But based on the way we qualified, it looks like it's still there.
You look at the way you spend your time as a race team doing your testing, you've got to work with your athletes to get your pit crew right, get your pit stops right, you've got to work with your brakes, you've got to work with your engine, you've got to work with your cooling system and your aero and your kinematic routines, and in today's world your software, your simulations and all your data acquisition or data reduction and analysis things. And, if you have any of those things that let you down, it'll affect you dramatically.
As we've concentrated on the things that we were weak on, it's been my fear that we would miss something that we assumed we were good at, and I feel more confident going back to Atlanta and to the other mile-and-a-half tracks than I did since we didn't have such good qualifying result with four of our Fords being up front.
Jack, can you talk about what Greg Biffle said over the radio, that they were trying to come up with a device that would help you guys with fuel?
JACK ROUSH: I didn't hear what Greg said. We'll have plenty of time to talk about it. He was frustrated with the fact that they apparently didn't get it full of gas. But there's a big challenge for the teams. This new fuel system is really a problem. It doesn't fill consistently from the bottom of the tank – or of the can to the top. We can get the first gallon or two of fuel out of the cans, two gallons in a second, and I'm not sure, but it's probably twice that long to get the last two gallons out.
And so for the gas man, for the crew chief, for the jack man, for everybody who's got to have a finger in this thing there is a learning curve that's not perfect. You need to know what your fuel mileage is before you have a reason to understand what it is. You need to be able to guess correctly about it, and my guess is that we didn't get the 16 car's gas tank full, and either it had something to do with the exchange on the cans or maybe the jack man let the car down too early. But either way we had some kind of a disconnect there that jeopardized Greg's result.
Early in the race, the 99 was obviously a good Ford, but early in the race the 16 looked like it was every bit the measure of it. Greg was really frustrated. But we'll get all that calmed down and we'll look at what happened there and look at the things going right with Carl's program, and we'll try to put it all together.
But as Bob said, it takes us longer to exchange the cans, and we weren't as slick as we should have been with our fueling operation even though we had a good result today.
Are you guys trying to come up with a device that will let you know how much fuel actually gets into the tank, or has this come up with NASCAR at all – just something so you'll know, since there's still this big unknown out there?
JACK ROUSH: I'm sure it's Bob's intention to comply with both the spirit and the written things that are involved the rules, and within the guidelines and within the parameters they've given us we'll work as hard as we can.
Carl, you said you heard the engine have a little different sound. Did it perform as it had been, or was it mostly an audible thing?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it was an audible thing, and I lifted off of the throttle when I heard it, so what I was the last few laps is going down on it to about three quarters of the end of the straightaway and then half throttle so it wouldn't turn that many rpm. I never turned it hard again after I heard that noise. I mean, it could have just been the wind buffeting the car a little differently or something like that, but I wasn't going to take any chances.
Was it with like five or six to go?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, something like that, and I figured that was far enough to go still that we might get another restart, and I was thinking about how to protect that engine the best I could. It's probably fine. I mean, it really is. Nobody had any trouble, right, none of our guys? So it's probably just fine. You guys, man, you're coming around, they're like, six to go, five to go, I mean, it's like the clock is ticking. It's another dimension of time, and it's very slow, so a lot goes through your mind.
But 20 to go... I wish there was a little microphone you could hear what drivers were thinking, because there's so much that goes through your mind. You know, you're thinking, "All right, 20 to go, I'm going to plan on a caution; what am I going to do for the restart?" You have to keep your mind busy because if you just start thinking, "Wow, we're going to win the race," then it all goes to hell. The key is to try to just focus on what you have to do, but I mean, we do this to win. We do this for that victory, and so when it's right there within your grasp, that's the toughest time to stay the course and keep focus.
Bob, the new nose, how did you feel it impacted the racing today, and how was it to try to make adjustments? Was it more difficult or easier than in the past?
BOB OSBORNE: It's hard for me to comment on how it really affected the race without having a back to back from old nose to new nose, so I don't really want to step out on that. But adjustability and how the car reacted on the racetrack seemed to be OK. Carl could probably comment on whether it was more influenced by traffic this year than last year, but the car responded well to changes, I thought.
CARL EDWARDS: I felt like the cars were still very aero dependent. We were still a little tight in the center of the corner. It wasn't like we had a ton more front grip or something. The car drove well like it did at Homestead, but there's still things we can do to make it better.
Bob, you brought a new chassis out this week, performed outstanding in practice, great average speeds. Do you guys have a set plan of what you're doing with these chassis and what races they're going to run, or is it just kind of a week-by-week thing to where you're like, let's just try this? How does that whole process work?
CARL EDWARDS: Bob doesn't just try anything. Bob has a plan for everything.
BOB OSBORNE: I was going to make a joke and say, yeah, just wing it. I have written down on a piece of paper every chassis until the end of the season already.
Until the end of the season, really?
BOB OSBORNE: Yes. That obviously will change if damage happens to the chassis and we have to replace it. But I already have a plan for the entire season.
Carl, in addition to just winning, do you view winning more important for the bonus points when you enter the Chase, or the fact that if you do get a couple of wins here, you can maybe experiment with some things knowing that you'd have that wild card to fall back on?
CARL EDWARDS: I hadn't thought of the bonus points in the Chase, but I did think a lot about the wild card position. A lot of people knock the new points system saying they didn't put enough emphasis on winning. But when you look at it from the wild card perspective, the bonus points in the Chase, those two things alone make winning extremely important right now. So for us, the thing I'm most excited about this win or that makes me most excited about it is that we've got one in the column, in that win column already, and if we do well enough, maybe win one or two more, we'll be in a position to have that wild card no matter what happens at Bristol or Talladega, some of these tracks that we may not be in control of our own destiny, so it's good.