October 10, 2016 By Sandi Argo
When NASCAR driver Carl Edwards came to Frisco last Wednesday he probably figured that it would be “just another press conference”. With the Chase race cranking up to the second “tier”, Edwards took time for a press conference to promote the upcoming race at Texas Motor Speedway in November. Always pleasant and engaging, the driver of the #19 car didn’t let the media down!
Edwards’ humor came shining through from the start, when he opened the conference by asking if we wanted to talk about the Vice-Presidential Debate. In what was probably a good move, most of the members of media politely refrained. From the look on Carl’s face, he was glad. The race(s) that we were wanting to discuss had nothing to do with politics, but rather, the challenges he and his team face in advancing to the next round of the Chase, and the ultimate goal of racing for a championship at Homestead.
2016 has been a very productive year for Edwards, with an impressive 6 poles and 2 wins for the regular season, with 16 top 10 finishes (and 7 top 5). Although Edwards is happy with how the regular season went, he is far from ready for the season to be done and knows what they need to focus on to get to the end as a contender. “We’ve got to have some good runs at Charlotte coming up here, and at Kansas because at Talladega anything can happen” Edwards said, adding “You don’t want to be forced into a situation where you have to win at Talladega, so we have to have some good runs in the next two weeks.”
Then of course, a stop at Texas in the not so distant future for the second of three races in the round of 8, where a win by a driver in the Chase gets a pass to race for a championship. First the team will have to get through the field of 12. “Right now NASCAR is as competitive as it’s ever been.” What starts as a field of 16 competing for the title has been reduced to 12. A win by Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte yesterday tightened the lid on the pressure felt by the other 11 drivers. The only way to guarantee you will advance to the next round is to win.
Edwards knows the 19 team will have to be at the top of their game to compete against teams like the 78, driven by Martin Truex Jr. Truex has been a very tough competitor, winning 2 of the races in the first round, although his race at Charlotte was disappointing with a rough day and a 13th place finish. Edwards says of Truex “Joe Gibbs Racing is fast, and Martin Truex is really fast, if we didn’t have the same equipment as Martin Truex then we’d be really concerned, but having him out there doing what he’s doing is motivating us!” With Edwards finishing 12th at Charlotte, one might think the competition is pretty even between the two. “We have great engines, great cars and great drivers, and I have great teammates so hopefully we can put something together” Edwards said.
Edwards is always a tough competitor at TMS. With 3 wins here in his career, 4 more top 5 finishes, 5 others in the top 10 (and lets not forget the 2 poles won and the numerous starts at the 2nd or 3rd spot) drivers know they can never count him out. This Chase, like many before, is looming in his mind. Edwards said “I’ve been close to the Championship three times (2005, 2008 and 2011) and each time it was more important and more special. I want to win this championship more than anything! This is what I get up every morning to do and hopefully we can get it done”.
Meeting Edwards, and getting to have a one on one conversation with him was a real treat for us. Having been raised in Missouri, Edwards says he really enjoys coming to Texas because it reminds him of where he grew up. “It’s the people here” he says “They are always friendly and welcome us each time we come here”. I reminded him of the time he and I met, briefly, last year at the November race. I’m pretty sure he didn’t remember me…I was one of thousands lined up by the drivers introduction stage… Edwards stepped down from the stage and immediately walked up to TMS staff and thanked them for their hospitality, the only driver that we saw to do so. I shared with him how that impressed me, especially considering that I am/was a Jeff Gordon fan (and now a Truex fan). If you know anything about NASCAR, you know how loyal we are to our drivers. Since the retirement of the true #24 (Gordon) I have had to find someone else to rally for. Edwards will always be a favorite for me, a true class act.