Edwards says he feels fortunate to have advanced to a job with Roush Racing.
Whenever Carl Edwards landed a ride with Roush Racing prior to the 2003 season, he had limited experience racing on asphalt. He adapted quickly, however, by winning three races and finishing eighth in points as the top rookie in the series. Edwards spoke with Stock Car Racing prior to the end of the Craftsman Truck Series season.
SCR: Let's start with the serious stuff, like the back flips you do after winning a race. How did that come about?
EDWARDS: I saw Tyler Walker do that after he won a World Of Outlaws race somewhere. I could do a back flip off a diving board or whatever and so I thought, man, that would be cool to do if you won a race, to stand up on the car and do a back flip off it, and I started doing it. I won that first race at Kentucky--our team won that first race at Kentucky--and I got out of the truck and thought, well, why not? So that's how it started.
Date of birth: August 15, 1979
Birthplace: Columbia, Missouri
Hometown: Columbia, Missouri
Residence: Mooresville, North Carolina
Racing Involvement: Driver for Roush Racing in the Craftsman Truck Series over the past two seasons, garnering three wins each season; ran USAC Silver Crown cars in 2000; was dirt track champion near his hometown of Columbia, Missouri.
SCR: Your dad, of course, if very familiar to racers in the Midwest, where he's won a bunch of races. Talk about him.
EDWARDS: My dad has raced a bunch of different kinds of cars. I would say the thing he's most proud of is running the USAC Midget races. He never won a USAC Midget feature, but he ran real well in them. The thing I remember the most about Dad's racing is going to local tracks around home and racing Modifieds. He raced 4-cylinder Modifieds and IMCA type Modifieds. He's a really good racer. He's just never had the money to compete and have the best equipment. He's won a ton of races and I think he's the smartest racer I know. Very intelligent.
SCR: How old is he?
EDWARDS: We just talked yesterday. Fifty-five, maybe.
SCR: So he's still competes?
EDWARDS: He ran a couple of races this year for a guy named Ron Dye that I drove for a little bit when I was back in Missouri. He ran some Modified races.
A finish of seventh in Darlington's fall race was one of several strong runs by Edwards a
SCR: Sounds like you had a typical son-of-a-racer upbringing and spent a lot of time at the track growing up.
EDWARDS: When I was real young my mom went to every race and drug my brother and I along. We sat at the bottom of the grandstands and played with cars in the dirt while Dad was racing the whole time. As I got a little bit older, I started going with Dad into the pits and helping out a little bit. I just remember being at the races in Pevley, Missouri, and being at the fence and watching Dad hot-lap it. I remember the day real well because I could see his hands real well in the car. The sun was still out and the track was pretty dry. I remember watching him and hearing the car. I thought, man, I could do that. So I started bugging Dad, you know, like every racer who has bugged his parents. I wouldn't quit talking about it so finally they got me a little 4-cylinder car. For a few years Dad and I went with two cars on one trailer, and we both went racing.
SCR: How old were you?
EDWARDS: I would say I was 13 or 14 when I really decided that's what I wanted to do.
SCR: Had you raced go-karts or anything?
EDWARDS: We didn't really have the money to go race go-karts or anything, or Dad didn't have time. For whatever reason, I always wanted to, but never did. We had a couple of dirt bikes that my dad got at an auction when I was real young and I rode those every day it seemed like, but never in any competition. The first time I ever raced was in a regular race car at a local track when I was 15.
SCR: The 4-cylinder?
EDWARDS: Dad owns a Volkswagen garage so it was extremely economical to run. It had a dune buggy frame with a body on it that looked kind of like a Dirt Modified. We ran Volkswagen engines and Midget tires.
SCR: So you cut your racing teeth on dirt?
EDWARDS: Yeah, they're awesome. They're fast little cars. The first time I ever drove on pavement was in 2001 and I only drove a couple of times. I never raced a pavement stock car but maybe a couple of times before I got in a Cup car. I was in the trucks, but that's it.
SCR: So, basically, the seven races you ran in the Truck Series in 2002 was your first significant pavement experience?
EDWARDS: I ran some USAC Silver Crown races and I ran a few Baby Grand stock car races. But, really, I don't have very much pavement experience.
SCR: Obviously the dirt experience paid off.
EDWARDS: I guess so. I really like dirt racing a lot. I really like the pavement tracks that drive more like a dirt track, where you can run a little bit higher line and stuff like that. Those are more fun for me.
SCR: So the dirt background gives you more car control, greater set-up ability, etc. Tell me the advantages.
EDWARDS: I think so. The biggest thing I think dirt racing helps with is looking for the most traction on the race track. You have to move around to find the line. I would say the thing that really turned my career around and made me really a better race car driver is probably that USAC Silver Crown car, just because it has so much power. And you're driving the thing the whole way around the race track. I think that's when I started focusing in and became a better race car driver.
SCR: In 2001, 2002, along that time?
EDWARDS: That would have been 2001 because we won a track championship in 2000 at our dirt track in the Modifieds, and I got my engine claimed. I swore I was never going back there, so we parked the Modified and sold everything and bought this USAC Silver Crown car. It was a huge stretch for my family. We essentially put everything we had into that car and drug it to Phoenix, Arizona, and I ran my first pavement race ever in a Silver Crown car there. It was pretty wild. It was a lot different from what I was used to. We ran pretty well there and ran another race in Irwindale (California) and I started getting hired by people. That's when things really started taking off. I'm telling you, that race at Phoenix I borrowed a pick-up truck from my buddy and we had an open trailer that didn't have any fenders, so we welded fenders on it. We loaded everything we could on it and I drove it by myself out to Phoenix. The fenders fell off in New Mexico somewhere. I pulled into Phoenix International Raceway and I had never seen this place before. I'll never forget Robin Braig, who is the president of Daytona International Speedway now and was the president of Phoenix Raceway then, greeting me on pit road when everybody was pulling their trailers in. They just thought it was great. Here's this kid, you know, who didn't know what he was doing. I pulled in with everything I owned loaded on that trailer--tarps, cover, and all that stuff. It was pretty funny.
SCR: Then you moved east, right after that?
EDWARDS: Yeah, Mike Mittler gave me the opportunity to run his Craftsman Truck. After Larry Gunselman went to another team. I ran seven races for him. Jack (Roush) called me up right before we went to Daytona in 2003 and I moved to North Carolina.
SCR: At one point you ran an ad in a trade publication looking for a ride. Talk about that.
EDWARDS: It was Speed Sport News. Dad has always had a subscription to that and it was always around. Right when I was really, really racing and wanting to get rides, and I was asking everybody I knew and everybody at the race track if I could drive their race cars, I noticed that they had a section in the classifieds, rides wanted. If they hadn't have had that, I never would have thought of it. But I sent in my picture and paid my 25 or 30 bucks a month and kept an ad in there. My thinking being that the first obstacle for a racer looking for a ride is to let everyone know he's looking for a ride. I got a lot of flak for it. A lot of people laughed at me. But when it came down to it, people always knew exactly what I wanted, and it was only a matter of time before somebody had a seat. Everybody knew, though, that's what I wanted to do.
(above & right) Edwards has made his mark in the Craftsman Truck Series, including a win i
SCR: But you got on Roush's radar while driving Mike Mittler's truck, basically?
SCR: I read somewhere that over the last 10 years you've got two NASCAR sanctioned track championships, two rookie of the year honors, 56 feature wins, dirt and pavement, all across the country. Tell us about the championships, where they were, that sort of thing.
EDWARDS: That was at Capital Speedway in Holt Summit, Missouri. That was the closest race track to my home growing up. My dad raced there in the '80s. That was the local dirt track. It was really neat when I started racing there in '97. I ran for the first time in a Modified there. Then in '98 we ran for rookie of the year in the two-barreled division with an old car, and we got it. We bought a newer car from one of the A class competitors, a four-barrel class. We won 11 features in '99 with that and won the championship (in a two-barrel class). Then we built a good motor over the winter, had a good engine built, and went out in 2000, in our first year running the four-barrel class, and won the championship and rookie of the year the same year. That was pretty neat because it was just me and my buddies. We were all about 21 years old and we won a lot of races.
SCR: Is Capital Speedway still open?
EDWARDS: No. It's kind of a sad story. I was just home a couple of weeks ago and they're tearing it down to build some sort of development on it. It's pretty sad. It's really sad for me because that was my life for a few years. That place meant a lot to me. It's sad to see it go.
SCR: What size track was it?
EDWARDS: It was a big 3/8s. It wasn't real high-banked. You could run all the way at the top or all the way at the bottom. It was a really great race track. It was about (the size of North Wilkesboro Speedway). Well, a little smaller but close.
SCR: What is the single most memorable season that you've had in racing?
EDWARDS: I would have to say that 2000 season in the Modifieds is the one that I really look back on and think the most about. At this point that was a really fun one because we were competing against a lot of really good racers right then. That track had been around for a long time and there were some real veterans there. We came in and won the championship. We took my parents' two-car garage there at the house and turned that into our race shop. We had a really nice place. We drywalled everything and had nice lights and air conditioning in there. We had an air compressor and painted the walls and we had the neatest operation. We really had it together, and that was a lot of fun.
"I used to sit in my garage at home and work on that dirt car with this as my goal."
SCR: Because of Jeff Burton's departure, you of course moved into the 99 car a little sooner than expected. But are you scheduled to be in that car for the upcoming season?
EDWARDS: Not yet. We're searching for a sponsor. The original plan was to run a partial season in 2005 and then run full-time in 2006. So this really sped things up. I don't think we have the funding in order yet (as of late October) for 2005.
SCR: But that's what they're working for, a full 2005 season?
EDWARDS: That would be great.
SCR: Is the fall-back plan for you to run Busch?
EDWARDS: I think so. Either Busch or the Trucks plus a partial (Cup) schedule and then full-time next year. Boy I would really like to run full-time (in 2005).
SCR: How close are they to getting sponsorship to run a full 2005 schedule?
EDWARDS: I don't know exactly. That's what Jack and I going to talk about here in a minute.
SCR: Stepping from a Truck in to the Cup car, what was that like? Compare the two.
EDWARDS: It's just like any step. Any time you step up from series to series, it seems like you double the competition level, or even more. It might be a little higher ratio. The Cup cars are a little harder to drive and the competition is just unimaginable. Those guys are so good.
SCR: What's the biggest adjustment, the hardware or the competition?
EDWARDS: The competition. I mean, a race car is generally a race car. But those race car drivers are far from ordinary--they're very good.
SCR: Every lap is pretty intense.
EDWARDS: Yeah. And every mistake is amplified, you know what I mean? A perfect lap is not going to be much better than everyone else, but a bad one is really worse than most of them. So it's like you really have to be right there the whole time.
SCR: Which is more fun?
EDWARDS: That's a good question. The Cup cars are a lot more fun when you're running well. I don't know, though. It's different at different tracks. I've had a blast in the Cup cars at some of these tracks, but I really like running the Trucks at certain tracks as well. I would say on the smaller tracks the Trucks are a little more fun; on the bigger tracks I really like the cars.
SCR: Didn't I see you mixing it up a little (at Martinsville) with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday? What was that about?
EDWARDS: My car was really good right then and I passed him, and I think he was the next car to get lapped, so he spun me out.
SCR: Time for a caution?
EDWARDS: Yeah. That was really the start of a bad day for us. To be honest with you, I don't think that was right. I don't think it's right for a guy to spin somebody out. We're working pretty hard, and I hope that he comes over and apologizes to me. I would hate to have that go on, you know?
SCR: Now that you have a couple of seasons with Roush Racing under your belt, what impresses you most about the organization?
EDWARDS: Just the way they share information from team to team and from series to series. We benefit in the Truck Series from the Cup information and their engineers and stuff. It seems seamless how they can move people around within the organization. That's the biggest thing to me. And Jack's dedication to racing. He's a racer. That's pretty neat. I didn't know what to expect when I came to work here but Jack's an amazing guy. He'll jump in there. He came to a test with us one time and the first thing he does is he comes in and walks over to the car and starts taking the carburetor apart and changing stuff around in the carburetor. I thought that was pretty neat.
SCR: You anticipated my next question, which is how involved is he day to day? It sounds like he's heavily involved.
EDWARDS: It doesn't appear that there's anything he can't do on a race team. I've never seen him drive a race car, but he can do everything. I imagine he could probably drive them too.
SCR: Does he meet regularly with drivers? How much interaction is there?
EDWARDS: He's always available. He makes sure everyone has all of his phone numbers. Every time I've needed to sit down and talk with him he's just been great. I have no complaints.
SCR: Of course we're here at North Wilkesboro Speedway for a Roush Gong Show, a driver tryout, and you're an evaluator. What kind of rapport do you have with these drivers, 26 of them, local guys, who are trying out? Three years or so ago, that was Carl Edwards.
EDWARDS: Yeah, it's pretty amazing. It makes me feel very fortunate to have gotten this chance. There are so many race car drivers who are so good all across the country. There's some serious alignment of the stars to get me to this point. It makes me feel real fortunate. It's neat to see these guys. It's inspiring. It reminds me of that time in my career a few years ago when I was going at it 100 percent. Hopefully I'm helping them a little bit, but they're helping me a lot.
SCR: Let's back up a little bit. What was it like getting that call from Roush Racing? Who called you?
EDWARDS: Geoff Smith, the president of Roush Racing, called me. It's pretty amazing. I had never had trouble sleeping my whole life until they called me and told me, hey, here's the deal. I think it was on a Friday and they asked me if I wanted to do this. I said, well, sure. They said they were almost sure it's going to happen and that they would send me the contract on Monday, that they would fax it on Monday morning. Actually they faxed the contract and said to get it back to them on Monday morning and they would send a plane ticket or whatever. I didn't sleep from that point until they told me that we were going to do it. I was just so nervous. I just laid there in bed and it was pointless. I couldn't stand it.
SCR: You've obviously made the most of the situation, with six wins in two years in Trucks.
EDWARDS: Yeah. We're doing pretty well. To be honest with you, that kind of surprises me. It says a lot about the team to take a guy with my limited pavement experience and to run well. I know these kids here, whoever gets the opportunity to run in these trucks, will be getting a great opportunity. They're going to do really well.
SCR: Your success says a lot about Carl Edwards and his driving ability, too, does it not?
EDWARDS: Well, I don't know. Like I said, I'm a very fortunate guy.
SCR: What one driver in the Roush organization has been the biggest help to you? Does any particular driver stand out?
EDWARDS: Mark Martin, probably. And Jeff Burton really helped me a lot last year. I think that's because they're older guys and they don't mind giving me advice. It's pretty neat. Mark Martin has been a lot of help, but all of them have. Greg Biffle is awesome. Kurt Busch is great. Matt Kenseth is hilarious. We have fun. But I have to say that Mark Martin makes it a point to sit me down and tell me what I'm doing wrong and stuff like that, and that helps a lot.
SCR: What one competitor has been the toughest you've faced on the track, whether it's Cup, Trucks, or whatever?
EDWARDS: Good question. (Long silence.) To be honest with you, you can't really pick one guy. On a given day, some guys are just amazing. If I went down the list I could point out several, especially in the Truck Series because I've had more chances to race against those guys. Some days, certain guys definitely race harder than everyone else. I would have to say, though, in the Truck Series one of the hardest racers out there is Shane Hmiel. He's a hard racer. In the Cup Series, although I haven't had as much experience there, I would have to say Tony Stewart is probably the hardest racer over there. He races really hard.
SCR: How much of a step was it for you to move from USAC and the local tracks to the Truck Series?
EDWARDS: Oh, that was huge. It was really tough for me. The longer races, the radial tires, the heavy vehicles--that was pretty tough. I would say the toughest thing for me, though, was the short track races in those things because a lot of the guys in the upper levels, especially in the Truck Series right now, a lot of them came from short-track Late Model racing. Going to places like Memphis or Richmond or Martinsville, which is a real finesse deal where you race right around the bottom, those are tough for me. That's the hardest part, the hardest adjustment to make. That plus the longer races.
SCR: What advice would you give to the local racers out there? A lot of our readers are local guys battling every week and looking for a break like you were doing just a few years ago. What would you tell those guys?
EDWARDS: I would tell them to find a series you can race in that's economical, that fits your budget. I was a dirt racer because it's close enough to home and I could race and afford to have a competitive car. When we decided to make the step up, the Silver Crown series was the step that was most logical to me because it cost the least to run on it per race. You didn't do pit stops. You only have to buy three tires a week. So I would say to try to run a series where you can have a competitive vehicle, race the longest races you can find, at as many different tracks as you can afford to race at, and soak up as much as you can, learn as much as you can about it, and just try to make the best of every race. That's what it is in the trucks or a Cup car or whatever, at the end of the day as a driver you can't afford to make any mistakes. You have to make the most out of whatever you have. Other than that, go race anything you can as much as you can. Focus in on it, pay attention, and take it seriously because you can get better at it if you try. I just feel extremely fortunate. Every race I go to in this deal, I'm living a dream. I used to sit in my garage at home and work on that dirt car with this as my goal. I mean, I broke down one time in my garage I was so upset because I thought, man, this thing is never going to work out. I guess the message would be that it's definitely worth it for some kid out there working on his Street Stock or whatever. If you can do it, just keep doing it, and it'll work out.