With a win to his credit two weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards said today that he comes to Martinsville Speedway more confident than ever before.
“This is the most fun I’ve had coming to Martinsville for a while,” he said. “We’ve basically got no pressure. We got to try a bunch of stuff in practice… and our Fastenal Ford was pretty good. We laid down what I thought was a pretty good lap in qualifying trim, but it didn’t seem very good. So we’re going to swing for the fence in qualifying and hopefully have a good, solid lap to get us through that first round.”
Despite a mediocre track record at the Virginia oval, the Roush Fenway Racing driver said he enters the weekend with confidence.
“I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to Martinsville, but it doesn’t seem to work out,” he said. “But I feel like we have an opportunity to try some things because of our position in the points (and) already having a win. Jimmy (Fennig) and the guys are making bigger adjustments than we normally make. If we get to practice tomorrow -- if the weather holds off -- the reason I’m optimistic is because we can try all those things and (maybe) find something. If we were a little more nervous, we would be more reluctant to take big swings at it. We’re not worried about wasting time. We’re not worried about making mistakes. We’re just going to go out and be extremely aggressive. That’s a fun way to be able to come to a race at Martinsville.”
While Roush Fenway Racing has never prospered at Martinsville Speedway, Edwards said the organization got an eye-opener last season when Matt Kenseth contended for the win.
“At first, it was a little embarrassing for our whole company.” He admitted. “It’s like, ‘Man, we need to do a better job. All of us do.’ But then (Robbie) Reiser and I talked about it, and it was the best thing that could happen for us. It reminds us that we can do it.
“I can’t speak for Matt, but listening to him talk, I don’t think he thought he was very good at Martinsville. That’s how I felt for a long time, but seeing him do (what he did) made me realize that maybe I am able to do it.
“Maybe I just need to communicate better. Maybe we need to work with the engineers better. Maybe I need to pay more attention to the other cars. It’s a pretty good motivator, and we talked about it a lot at the shop. It shows us that it can be done, that we can go do it.”
Edwards also admitted studying tape of rivals Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, hoping to gain an edge that could carry him to Victory Lane Sunday.
“I don’t want to say specifics, but those guys are very good here. I’ve talked to Jimmie a little bit about it and he just says, ‘You’ll figure it out.’ He’s really nice about it and then changes the subject. Those guys are spectacular here. They’ve very good. In my first few years, I would get out of the car and go watch Jeff Gordon. The way he drives around here is just so smooth and precise. They’re able to do things that I’m not able to do, so I’ve just got to keep working on it.”
Edwards added that he is anxious to secure a second win as soon as possible, since he believes more than 16 drivers will visit Victory Lane in the first 26 races.
“It feels that way,” he said. “It feels like there are more competitive cars. The disparity throughout the field is smaller between the cars, so it’s not just the win that has us feeling like we can be aggressive. It’s our points position.
“If we were 20th in points right now, we would feel a lot different,” he said. “If we were to have trouble the next couple weeks and fall in points, we would go back to racing more conservatively, so that we didn’t fall any farther. I feel like if we can go another month or month-and-a-half and we’re still leading the points or close, we’ll be locked in. The easiest way, though, is to just go win another race.
“We’re going to go for it and try to get that win while we have the points to lose.”
Edwards also expressed happiness with NASCAR’s new Chase system, saying, “I was one of the biggest skeptics of the point system and the changes to the car and all of that stuff, but it’s really proven to be better. I hope it continues for the rest of the season.
“It’s easy for me to say that with the position we’re in. We’re leading the points with a win and our season is going as planned. But it appears to be pretty entertaining (and) I hope the fans are enjoying it.”