Tag:Carl Edwards
Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:16 pm

Carl Edwards believes teamwork has limits

By Pete Pistone

Carl Edwards brings the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lead into Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway but thinks there is a line between teammates helping each other on the race track or in the title fight:


“I think there are limitations.  If people are bringing out cautions on purpose, stuff like that.  I think NASCAR is very, very aware of that possibility and I think they’re watching it very closely.  I don’t know what they would do, but that possibility is there and it’s real.  We haven’t asked any of our teammates or entered into any of those discussions, but if you can affect the outcome of a race or a championship by doing that, there are gonna be people who try it and people who do it.  I just hope that NASCAR keeps that out of it because once you start going down that road, I think it becomes very difficult to run your race.  I hope that doesn’t become a part of it.”

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 11:54 am

Video: Carl Edwards kicks field goal with Miami

Posted by Pete Pistone

Take heart Dolphins fans - you may have a new kicker to call on later this season. Carl Edwards stopped by Sun Life Stadium earlier this week and tried his hand - well foot - at field goal kicking and did so successfully:

Posted on: October 9, 2011 6:36 pm

Kahne, Keselowski, Edwards post Kansas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, it was a good race.  We had a good Red Bull car, came in third that first stop and the jack broke, so we had to get a new jack and came out dead last and just kind of battled our way back up through there the rest of the race and made the right adjustments.  At times we were really loose and then a little bit too tight.  We were pretty good there at the end.  We got on the right, we took four tires, started 12th, got to second there, and then on that restart Brad gave me a nice push -- coming on the restart Brad gave me a good push, and I had a shot at Jimmie, I just couldn't really get to him.  I thought maybe getting to 3 I would go high, and he kind of entered into the middle and then just creeped his way to the top and just really didn't have a shot there at him.

But I think we had a good Red Bull car.  The guys did a nice job today.

THE MODERATOR:  Brad, we'll start with you again.  Talk about your third-place finish today.  You also are now fourth in points, 11 points behind leader Carl Edwards.  Talk about the Chase thus far.

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Sure.  Another solid day for us thus far.  Makes you kick yourself that last week at Dover we had troubles we did because we've had top 5 cars each and every week, we're executing very well as a group and as a team.  Just the things that we can control we're doing very well.  So I'm proud of everything and proud of our efforts.

We were about a third- or fifth-place car today and brought home a third, so proud of that effort.  Kasey looked really good there at the end, and I told Roger Penske to check the 22 car from yesterday because I'm pretty sure Jimmie stole the car and put new decals on it because he was gone.  He was fast.

Just proud of the effort and proud that we were able to get a solid run out of it again.  Just wish I could have beaten Jimmie, but he just had a little more in the tank than we did, and we gave it our best effort.

THE MODERATOR:  Carl, talk about being the new points leader, one point over Kevin Harvick.  How do you feel heading into Charlotte next week?

CARL EDWARDS:  I feel grateful.  That was very, very bad at the beginning of that race, and I cannot thank my guys enough for sticking with it and working hard the whole day.  I cannot believe we finished fifth.  It feels like a win.  That's the best we've done with the worst -- the most we've done with a car that wasn't capable of winning ever, so I'm really proud of my guys who made good adjustments.  Just I cannot believe from the way the day started, to finish like that is spectacular. 

Q.  Carl, what was the trouble with the car?  I mean, you're running 20th most of the race, and what adjustments did you take particularly late in the race to allow you to surge up?

CARL EDWARDS:  Well, there's two things that happened.  We had the wrong front suspension settings in the car.  Bob and I together in practice, we prepared the wrong setup, and they dropped the green and I realized we were in deep trouble.  So Bob made adjustments to the setup, made some bigger adjustments than we would normally make, and then we were very fortunate with the late race caution and being able to get two tires and have a shot to run up there through the traffic.  We were very, very fortunate, and I'm extremely grateful.  I do not deserve to be sitting up here.  We should have finished 15th or 20th, so it all worked out in our favor. 

Q.  Carl, last week the momentum swing was a little bit self-inflicted, not so much the car, but just purely looking at the car, can you remember in your career a change in momentum so fast for you?

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, that was pretty bad.  I thought we were going to run a lot better.  But it's not the car.  I mean, we made the decisions to put the setup in it that we did.  Matt was very fast, Greg was fast.  It's our fault as a group.  It's just that usually for us when we make those bad decisions we can't recover like we did today.  That's what I'm really grateful for.  That was amazing. 

Q.  For any or all of you, before Landon Cassill's spin it looked like it was going to be another fuel race.  I was wondering how you guys felt when there was an opportunity for a win in Kasey's situation, or to move up in points, does that put you in a new gear or something when that spin came out and gave you a chance to go for the win?

CARL EDWARDS:  Was there a fuel mileage issue?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I think everyone was good on fuel at that point, at least as far as I know.

KASEY KAHNE:  We were probably the worst on fuel as far as mileage goes, and we were even all right today.  So I think everybody else -- I would imagine everybody was if we were good.

CARL EDWARDS:  We probably would have run out of fuel just the way ours was going.

KASEY KAHNE:  Carl probably would have ran out first and I would have ran out second.  Brad probably would have won. 

Q.  Two questions for Kasey:  First of all, you guys seem to be running better and building consistency as your time with this team gets closer to the end.  Is there anything bittersweet about that?

KASEY KAHNE:  The biggest thing to me would be to leave on a good note.  There's a lot of people there working really hard and unsure about maybe their future and where they're going to work next year, and they're still putting everything they have into our race cars each week.  That's pretty awesome on their part.  Kenny Francis is doing -- just always is looking, him and Keith Rodman, they're always looking to make the car just a little bit better, how can I do this, how can I do that, so we're always working together trying to do that.  I'm fortunate to go with him next year, so we're working on things for next year as well as just trying to finish strong this year.

Q.  To follow that up, you've been through so much change over the last 13 months or so.  Do you ever wonder what you might be capable of in a situation that's stable for a couple years with the same people around you like you're going to be going into?

KASEY KAHNE:  I don't know.  I feel like at times when things are going smoothly and we're making the right decisions as a -- communicating the right way between our group, we're capable of winning races.  Hopefully we have more of that as the future goes on.  I think I've learned a lot over the years, so hopefully next year and the next few years after that we'll be in a better spot than I've been. 

Q.  Brad, you seem to own this track.  You won yesterday and you won in June, third today.  Are you going to be sorry to see them tear this track up?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I think everybody is going to be.  I talked to some of the guys from the track last night, and sometimes they have to tear them up because of the weather.  All these tracks in the Midwest, whether it's Michigan, Kentucky or Kansas that go through all that frost cycling or whatever they call it, I'm sure there's some technical term for it, I don't know, but they all go through that with the winters and the springs and so forth where they frost and dethaw and frost and dethaw and it just kills this track.  There's big potholes that I guess they're having trouble keeping down, and nobody wants to see us have another incident like we did at Daytona.

You know, it is tough.  It's unfortunate when tracks have to do that.  I hope that the technology is developed, or maybe it does exist, to build tracks that can hold up a little bit longer so we can use these tracks further and further and further because I think we see better racing as the tracks get older, and I think this track in particular has become very racy.  I think there's as much side-by-side racing as you're going to see in this style of race car here at Kansas.  I think it's bittersweet not just for me but for everyone in the sport.

Hopefully when they do go through that process they'll be able to get the track to cure very quickly to where it opens up and we can run those multiple lanes and put on a great show. 

Q.  What is it you like about this place?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  You know, I think it's like anywhere else.  You go to tracks, and some tracks you just pick them up real quick and you get a feel for them, and some tracks you get a good car and you learn and define what you need to run well there, and I've been very fortunate over the last few years to have very good cars here and picked up on this place. 

Q.  For Carl, you talked about knowing you had the wrong setup.  What was the moment early in the race? Was there one moment when you knew this thing is not set up right?

CARL EDWARDS:  I had a hint of it the first corner, drove down in the first corner, and I was like, Man, this is not good.  I thought, well, maybe it'll be better next lap, and then it wasn't.  I'd say the second lap I realized that we were in a little bit of trouble.  That's the worst the car has felt in a race for a long time. 

Q.  Do you need a little luck to win the Chase, and do you think that maybe -- if you somehow pull this out you'll look back on today and think, Wow, we got really lucky today, that was the key moment in us winning a championship?

CARL EDWARDS:  I feel like we've had two weeks with very lucky breaks, this week and last week, to be able to come back from a bad position on the racetrack.  But there is still so much racing left.  It feels -- we've run four races, it feels like we've run 400.  There's a lot that can happen in the next six races.  You know, I have a feeling there will be more moments that define this championship.  All the way up until the last lap at Homestead I think you have to be on your game. 

Q.  Carl, when you were back a lap down, did you start scoreboard watching at all to see where the guys in the Chase were, and then at the end can you talk about how important was it just to get by Harvick considering that was the guy you were tied with at the beginning of the day?

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, they need to put that scoreboard somewhere where it's easier to see.  It's so hard. You're about to run into a fence trying to look at that thing off of turn 2.  So I watched as best I could.

Yeah, you can't really focus too much on that.  You've got to run your own race as painful as it is.  But that last pass of Kevin, that meant a lot.  We both knew it, too.  We both knew since we were tied whoever finished first would be ahead one point.  That was good that we were able to do that.  It'll be nice this week for the guys and everybody at the shop to be leading the points, even though it doesn't mean much.  We just talked about Brad being 11 points back.  That can change in a heartbeat. 

Q.  The prevailing logic going into the Chase is that you're a newcomer, you would undoubtedly botch things, that the pressure would get to you down the stretch, but yet the kind of stunt that Carl pulled today, throughout the Chase, you've managed usually to be at your best near the end and to get yourself to the highest position and put yourself in position to be up front.  Is this more because you've got nothing to lose, because you and Paul think clearly?  You certainly -- it doesn't appear as though the pressure has had any effect on your performance or lack of experience.

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what the question is there.

Q.  What is the reason why -- why, is it because you don't have anything to lose?  Is it because you think clearly?  What is the reason you've been able to do so well near the end of the races?

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I was just going to take that whole thing as a compliment.

You know, there's a lot of different reasons, and I think it all comes back to just having a good team.  Good teams have good cars; they're best at their end and fastest at their end.  They use good pit strategy and stay strong through adversity, and I feel like I just have a really good team, and I guess it's hard to define what makes a good team and a bad team do those things.

You know, last year we weren't a good team.  We were always our worst at the end, and that's not what it takes.  And I don't know why that was, but that's just the way it kind of works out sometimes.  This year it seems like as a group we're just clicking.  It really hurts after last week because I felt like this is the only week we've had that was a bad finish, and something happened that was outside of their control.

Sometimes that's the way it goes, and we're doing a good job of maximizing our day and taking care of everything that's in our control, and I'm really proud of our team for doing that.

Q.  For both Brad and Carl, I know you guys don't count him out, but there was a lot of talk about Jimmie Johnson two races ago being 10th in points.  He wins today on the mile and a half track, there's more mile and a halfs coming up.  He was so dominant today.  Can you both of you guys talk about does it just sort of reaffirm that this guy is going to be there all the way to the end going for a sixth title?

CARL EDWARDS:  I think he should just pack it up.  It's over.  He's too far back.  (Laughter.)

KASEY KAHNE:  I don't know.  He's going to be tough, I think.

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, certainly he's going to be tough.  The real question is we've got two big wild card races with Phoenix and Talladega, and I don't think you can rule anyone in or out until those two races are over and we get to Homestead. 

Q.  For Carl, considering how bad you guys were at the start of the race and the fact that you came back, do you have any concerns going into Charlotte next week, another intermediate track, and if so, did you learn something in those closing laps that will help you next Saturday?

CARL EDWARDS:  That's the first thing Bob and I talked about when he got over the car is making sure we did not make the same type of mistake at Charlotte.  That place has been a little bit difficult for us.  We've been very hit and miss there, but I do feel like our run in the All-Star Race and the 600 earlier this year will be something we can build on.  We've got a baseline strategy with the setup, and we'll go use that, and hopefully it'll work out better than today's setup.

Q.  Will you be testing with Hendrick during the fuel injection test, and if so, will Kenny Francis be your crew chief for that test?

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, I'm driving the 5 at the fuel injection test on Monday after Charlotte but it's with the 5 team.  It's with the team that I have now.

Q.  You touched on this a little bit, but even though you guys struggled, what do you think it says about your team as a whole that you were able to come back from a 15th or 20th place car and finish in the top 5?

CARL EDWARDS:  Well, first we're lucky because we had to have luck go our way.  We had two cautions that were timed perfectly, so that was a big deal.  But we've messed up enough in the past that I'm pretty proud of our ability to just kind of take our bad days and just keep plugging along.  You know, we've messed up some races and some points races in the past, and I believe we've learned from that.  So it's kind of a little test when you go through something like this to see if somebody melts down or if you can kind of keep going through it, and I'm glad it worked out today, but there was a lot of luck involved, as well.

Q.  Just put us in your seat for that last green-white checkered.  What did you see with Jimmie?  Did you really think you could get him?

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, I thought if I could get a good restart I'd have a shot because my tires were a little fresher than his.  Jimmie was the car to beat all day that I could tell, so I knew he was going to be fast once we got going, and he actually just jumped -- like he took off before I expected him to, so I just was thinking it was going to be a little bit later, and when he took off I kind of jumped it and hit the throttle maybe a little too aggressively, spun the tires and then got them back and was accelerating, and Brad had a good start behind me and was pushing me at the same time because we weren't to the line yet, so he pushed me, and it ended up working out all right as far as being in the second place, but I didn't have a shot at all when I got to turn 1.  He had a car length on me.  So at that point I just tried to build a couple corners, and I got to him getting to 3 on the final corner, and that's when he just kind of went across and I just never really got it to turn.


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Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 8:51 pm

New Phoenix a concern for some Chase drivers

By Pete Pistone

(A brand new Phoenix International Raceway will have a significant impact on the Chase for the Sprint Cup)

Many point to Talladega as the “wild card” race of the Chase each year, the stop that because of the unpredictable nature of restrictor plate racing has the most potential to shake up the standings. 

But there may be a new variable in the 2011 championship picture when the second to last race of the schedule rolls around at Phoenix International Raceway.

A massive restructuring, repaving and reconfiguration has transformed the one-mile track literally into a brand new facility.

A wider front stretch, graduated banking through the corners and a new look to the track’s signature dogleg on the backstretch in addition to a brand new asphalt racing surface await teams when they show up for the penultimate race of the Chase.

It may still say Phoenix International Raceway on the sign out front of the place but this is definitely not the same track that’s hosted NASCAR’s top series since 1988. 

“I think it is a really unique layout,” said Jeff Burton, one of more than thirty drivers who took part in a two-day test session at PIR this week. “The exit of turn two is very unique; very different; the back straightaway has a lot of banking and it’s like falling into a hole; it’s pretty cool and it is neat to do something different here.” 

The uniqueness of PIR and its near triangular layout has differentiated the track from others on the circuit over the years. This multi-million dollar makeover seems to have been successful in keeping the desert speedway’s personality intact – and then some. 

"It adds a new element and is a bit different racing than we've seen in the past," said Kyle Busch. "It seems like there's more room to race off of turn two. Maybe that means more area to pass over there." 

But after spending nearly two full days making laps around the new PIR, some are concerned about what kind of racing will take place when the series returns for the November 13 Kobalt Tools 500. 

The rule of thumb when most tracks are repaved is that more often than not one groove racing is the result in the early going. Until seasoning, weathering and more racing rubber can be laid down, freshly paved speedways don’t usually produce side-by-side action. 

Jeff Gordon has competed on dozens of repaved tracks over the course of his career and expects Phoenix to follow the same pattern he’s experienced in most cases. 

But he stresses the two days spent in Phoenix this week were under testing conditions and not in full fledged racing mentality

“When we come here to these tests, we're all trying to learn things, get laps, do our own thing,” Gordon said. “We're not racing. We're not getting side by side with other cars.

“So naturally you're just going to see one groove built in there. It is a very narrow groove right now. I hopped outside of it on more than one occasion today, and it was exciting to say the least.” 

Track management as well as NASCAR officials point out the new design was created with the hope of improving competition. While early on there may be some growing pains, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton believes the track will provide drivers the opportunity to race and not just follow. 

“There was a lot of effort put into the engineering, the variable banking here,” Pemberton said.  “So over time the grooves should widen out and there will be more lanes to race with.  That's what all the simulation work has shown.  We believe that that will be true moving forward.” 

However how fast that happens is very much a moving target. After this week’s test session, only a few days of cars from the track’s driving school turning laps will take place until the NASCAR circus comes back to town the third week of November. 

Some see the lack of laps being run at the track before the November race creating a potential problem on the horizon.

“I don’t know what it’s going to do for the racing yet,” said David Reutimann. “There hasn’t been enough rubber or laps put on the racetrack to really know what it’s going to be, but right now it’s not very good. Not very good at all, but it’s a new racetrack and we’re hoping once it get some rubber on it and we all get to work on our cars a bit it’ll continue to get better.” 

Carl Edwards is among those who predict the new layout will definitely cause issues 

“There are some opportunities here for some problems that we haven’t seen at this race track,” said Edwards. “Double-file restarts with 20 to go here, second race from the end of the Chase, there’s no telling what is going to happen. That’s not necessarily good for the racers. It’s good for the fans. But it’s going to be a little stressful.” 

And to make that stress level even higher is the matter of the championship, which will very much be on the line five weeks from now. 

The potential of having a significantly large number of drivers still in the title hunt on the Phoenix weekend is a very good possibility given the competitive nature of how this year’s playoffs have begun. 

Now thrown into the mix is the unknown of racing at what is for all intents and purposes a new track. 

"As far as the Chase guys go and determining a championship – I guess we'll find out when we get here,” said Reutimann, who is not in this year’s playoff race hut still looking to end his year with a series of good finishes as well as a win.  “We all have to race on the same race track, and no one has an advantage or disadvantage on a new race track.” 

Edwards has a bit more of a pessimistic outlook and is very much concerned how the curveball of the new Phoenix will impact his quest for a first Sprint Cup title. 

In Edwards’ mind, the mysterious nature of not knowing what to expect makes the Phoenix stop perhaps the most important in determining the championship picture. 

“Whenever you introduce something new like this new surface and new track layout, there are going to be guys that figure it out quickly and there are going to be guys that struggle, and it’s not necessarily the guys you would expect,” Edwards said.

“This race, I think we’re all going to come here with a little bit of nervousness, a little trepidation of do we have the right setup? As a driver, I have to ask myself if I am driving the right way around this racetrack. The way the surface is, it’s unforgiving so there could be some accidents and some things happen that we don’t usually see.”

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 8:33 pm

Harvick, Johnson and Edwards post Dover comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KEVIN HARVICK: No, not at all. Obviously we circled this one as a place to come to, to overcome some things, and the guys did a good job today. We were just so loose on two tires, which is kind of backwards from what it should be, but we had to put two tires on there at the end to protect the track position side of it. So all in all it was okay.              

Q. How have you circled Kansas, because that's not a place you've had a lot of success, either?            

KEVIN HARVICK: You must look at a different stat sheet than I do. We have run really well there the last few times and I think we should be fine.          

Q. Looking for your first win, I guess is what I'm saying.          

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, if you're looking for wins; you know, right now we are looking for a championship so whatever we have got to do to fight through that is what we'll do. Obviously you need to run good at all of them. You can run bad at any of them to tell you the truth but Kansas has been a place where we have been pretty solid.              

Q. Coming into Dover it's usually pretty hot out there, how did it feel with the weather, and the rain through the cautions probably didn't help too much, but as far as temperature goes inside.            

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, inside the car, obviously cool days are great for us. But I think I would rather have had a hotter day than today, just because I felt like our car was better in practice when temperatures were warmer. It seemed like the groove that I was running in practice really wasn't there for us today because our car was too loose.

So, you know, it was good for inside the car but not great for the handling conditions of our Rheem Chevrolet.              

Q. I think 11 points changes during the first 26 races; why does it seem like more this year than maybe in the past?            

KEVIN HARVICK: I think the competition level is so even. I don't think you're going to see anybody come in here and dominate like you have before, as far as just taking off and running away. You're going to be consistent and solid and it's just a matter of keeping yourself in it until you get to the last couple of races and if you can keep yourself in contention, hopefully you've eliminated most of the other guys in the Chase.             

Q. The new points system this year, do you think that plays a factor in how you look at the competition, seeing, wow, they are only two back or five back or the Top-5 or ten back or something like?            

KEVIN HARVICK: It's definitely easier to add up.            

I think the points system definitely has changed the complexion of having a bad day. I think when you have a bad day, it hurts you worse than it had in the past. Maybe it just seems that way, but it also seems like if you can win some races, you can make up ground fairly quick and get up front and get the bonus points and the things you need to do.             

A lot of those guys that were pretty far back, that everybody thought were pretty far back had a pretty great day today and won't seem that far back anymore. You just have to take it one week at a time and I would much rather be sitting on top of the points three weeks in than sitting 12th. So we'll just keep at it.             

KERRY THARP: Only 15 points separate the top eight; 15 points separate the top eight drivers.              

Q. Did anything surprise you from the way this race went, the other competitors, Jimmie being strong, Carl being up there; did anything surprise you today?           

KEVIN HARVICK: You look at this racetrack, obviously the 48 has had a lot of success here and the 18 has had success and the 99 has had success. So it's been a good racetrack for those guys, and obviously not a super strong racetrack for us. But we felt like we had been solid over the last couple of years not to win the race but solid enough to get decent finishes and get out of here.            

KERRY THARP: Thank you so much and congratulations on taking over the points lead and we'll see you at Kansas. Thank you.             

Our race runner-up is Jimmie Johnson, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series defending champion and Jimmie comes back with a strong second-place finish here today. And talk about that, Jimmie. You certainly had a car that could -- you had a race-winning car and certainly you were strong and a tired day and certainly one of those tracks you feel like you needed to excel at that.             

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Obviously a great day for us, to lead that many laps and to have great stops on pit road across the board, very, very strong effort. Wish that we could be one spot better but I just did not get two good restarts at the end of that thing and cost myself.
So all in all, though, exactly what we needed. We needed to run in the top three here at one of our better racetracks, and mission accomplished.             

KERRY THARP: After today you are in fifth place, just 15 points out of the lead. So you made up a lot of ground today here at Dover.            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Are we out of it? Last week I was considered done.             

KERRY THARP: Jimmie, you are never out of it.             

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just making sure, Kerry.            

Q. Coming here to Dover for a third race in the Chase, do you think that plays into the factor of how the Chase shakes out; when you won your past championships and prior years past, it was the second race; do you think it makes a difference or it benefitted you more that it's the third race in the Chase?            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think it really matters to be honest with you. When I looked at the schedule, with Atlanta not being in the Chase, that's been a tough track for us to consistently run well at and Chicago has been a more consistent track. My focus was more on the Chicago Atlanta switch. Didn't really matter to know. I was happy to that I was in the Chase; that Dover was in the Chase.             

KERRY THARP: We are joined by Carl Edwards. Carl is tied with Kevin Harvick for the number of points, but Kevin would get the higher seed due to the tie-breaker rules.          

But great showing out there today, Carl. You come in third place, you were up front most of the day. You had that speeding penalty on pit road, you came back, your car was extremely fast. Really put on a great show, you and Jimmie did, and Kurt, as well. Toward the end of that race. Congratulations.

CARL EDWARDS: It was a great day, other than that feeling I had when I ruined it there on pit road. That's about as small as you can feel in a race car.             

We talked about it before the race. We looked at the pit road speeding lines and that last line, Bob and I actually discussed the last section. It's 25 feet, eight inches long, and we talked about that run and how I was not going to speed through it, and I just blasted right through it.            

We were very, very fortunate. As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I'm really, really grateful for the gift that was given to us with that caution and the ability to come back up there.             

And the other thing that was really important to me was my guys sticking behind me, because they had every right to be really, really upset with me. So ended up being a good finish. I had a good time racing there with Jimmie the last couple of laps. That was fun.              

Q. You mentioned the last two restarts, and Kurt looked like in a pro-stock the way he took off; was that a case of him being so much better or you not hitting your mark right?            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I did a really good job, up until those last two. I have to say, when you're the leader, you have a small advantage, because you go when you want. I blew it by spinning the tires. Kurt got a good launch, and we were door to door going into one, and he was able to get by on the outside.            

And then the next one, I was going to try to do that same thing back to him, and I was just trying to time it when he was going to accelerate. And I didn't time it right. And I had too big of a gap, and fell in behind him going into turn one.        

I put it on me, because the starts I had earlier in the day, regardless of the lane, leading or not -- yard guys, I cleared them typically going into one so, it's on me.            

Q. The two of you have had really very similar seasons, both of you have won one time and won once, and both of you could have run a number of other races. The regular season is sort of graded on a curve for the Chase, but the Chase is just a system that rewards consistency. Have either of you ever had seasons when you have actually been more consistent?            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Is that a brain teaser? You're making me think, man.         

CARL EDWARDS: I don't know either.           

Q. Tony Stewart complains that we don't make him think and now you complain that we do.           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughing).             

Q. Are the two of you proud of your damn consistency?            

CARL EDWARDS: I'm really proud of my consistency (laughing). It feels good that runs a team on average as well as we have this year and to have an opportunity to win races. It's a little frustrating that we have not won more of them. I know Kenny Bruce had some advice for me the other day and I've been trying to think about that, trying to win more so we can get more points. But it has been a good season.           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think that the year that we raced Jeff for the championship, I know in the Chase, at least, we won a lot of races. I feel like that was maybe my most consistent year. I don't know how the regular season was.             

But you know, victory lane, there's nothing like it. I wish that -- especially in the first 26, the consistency wasn't there, but we went to victory lane more; would have been a better regular season for me.              

Q. We have seen in the first three races, a pattern of you being up there, contending for top-five finishes in Chicago, you run out of gas the final lap. You go to New Hampshire, you were on track for a top-ten finish and you struggle with Kyle Busch's contact in the final laps, and then here, it looked like you led the most laps, you're in contention to win, and then you end up finishing second. Do you feel like you've left a lot of points on the table the first three races and do you look back and say, oh, that's going to hurt me down the road? Or are you confident with the speed you've shown in the first three races and you're saying, okay, I feel like I'm in good position for the final seven.            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I look at it and say we left points on the table. New Hampshire, for sure -- all three of them, absolutely, without a doubt. Not getting the restart I needed today at the end, that's on me and no one else.           

Definitely. This Chase is so tough to know what it's going to take, and I just -- we look at the 14 car, and what he did in the first two races and then the struggles they had today. I think it speaks to how tough these ten races are going to be and how you think somebody is on fire and the fire can go out.             

So we'll just keep fighting hard. I hate leaving points on the table, and we have these first three.             

Q. You both talked about essentially mistakes that you made today that prevented you from winning. How do you get over that? How long does that take? What's that process in moving forward?            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: If I was Carl, I wouldn't get over that mistake.             

CARL EDWARDS: (Laughing ).             

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I maybe wouldn't show up next week.             

CARL EDWARDS: But you're not me.          

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. No           

CARL EDWARDS: It is tough. It's frustrating. I think if I were Jimmie, I would be so frustrated I gave up that win. He had otherwise a perfect day. It would probably bother me all week if I were Jimmie. 

JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughing). Not sure we answered your question.             

Q. Inaudible         

CARL EDWARDS: I go shooting. That helps. (Laughing).            

No, it is tough. Someone wrote a long time ago -- I don't remember which book it was but my buddy, Carl Frederickson, had this book at his house that said, racing is not -- you don't succeed by being the guy that does everything perfect; you succeed by being the guy that minimizes mistakes. Everyone is going to make mistakes and they are very difficult to get over.           

Today I think both of us were fortunate. We finished up front didn't cost ourselves a ton of points but we are race car drivers and we are going to think about what we did wrong and try not to do it again.           

Seems like as soon as you have everything figured out you start forgetting things that you knew a long time ago and start making mistakes over again. It's very difficult.             

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely, giving up a win by not getting a good restart; I'll think about it tonight. And certainly disappointed in the fact that I didn't take advantage of the opportunity I had up front.           

But finishing second, big picture wise, we'll take it. It's not the end of the world, but the mistake's on me.            

Q. The way you were dominating the first half of the race, without that mistake, you win this thing going away? Is that how you'll remember this tonight or tomorrow when you go shooting?            

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it's really easy to say, if we would not have made that mistake we would have won. I definitely took myself out of position to fight for the win by doing that. So that's something that painful, and I'm going to think about it. I'm going to think about it all the way home. I'm going to lay in bed. My wife's going to yell at me and tell me to get over it. That's just how it goes. That's how racing is.           

But to me, the neatest part was that Bob and my guys made sure that they told me that they were behind me and they weren't -- they were excited to go to Kansas. That really felt good. But you do feel kind of like you're on an island sometimes when you make those kind of mistakes. You feel like, man, I have all of these people behind me, all of these folks working so hard and that's a tough thing to swallow but that's part of the sport.              
Q. (No mic)           

CARL EDWARDS: That's the first time I've been caught speeding on pit road all year? Well, I've done it like 15 times in the Nationwide Series. That's a tough one.          

Q. Did you say that maybe you had something on one of your tires on that restart? And also, can were you concerned at all just restarting against Kurt Busch and knowing if you had contact, then, oh my gosh, this could lead to other stuff?            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, it didn't cross my mind at all. It was just another guy to race, another car to worry about fighting for the win with. I didn't think twice about Kurt being out there.           

We raced hard and clean and did what we both needed to on the track, so that's a good thing. Coming around to get the green, there's a lot of rubber chunks laying around and I picked up a piece of rubber and I could feel it on the tire kind of thumping as I was coming around. It could have been on the rear. I think it might have, but I didn't want to climb out of the race car saying, I had stuff on my tires and that's what messed it up. I should have done a better job of cleaning my tires and worked harder to get it off. Whatever it is, it's still on me.             

But I did feel like I had a little pick-up there right before I went to the gas are for the start itself.             

Q. How glad are you guys that it wasn't a mileage race today?            

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Very glad. Very happy that it wasn't. Racing, worrying about that stuff, it has not been our strong suit but it's an area we are working hard to get better in and happy to know it didn't come down to that.             

CARL EDWARDS: We get pretty good fuel mileage with our Ford and we work on it hard. So to me fuel mileage races I kind of look at as an opportunity. But I'm sure as soon as I say that, I'll get bit by one and it will get me.          

I was glad we raced to the finish today. I thought that was a lot of fun.

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Posted on: September 17, 2011 7:03 pm

Carl Edwards lauds NASCAR's credibility

By Pete Pistone

JOLIET, Ill. - Carl Edwards commended NASCAR for not throwing an unnecessary caution during Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway which featured 131 laps of green flag racing to end the event.

Despite Brad Keselowski dominating the race and driving to an over eight second victory over Edwards, the Roush Fenway Racing driver was pleased the sanctioning body didn't throw what some fans deem as "phantom cautions" to bunch up the field.

"I think too often NASCAR is quick to throw cautions," Edwards said. "I think they showed me and everybody that if there is nothing out there and no reason to throw a caution then they won’t. I think that is good. I think it lends a lot of credibility to the series and they showed today that they don’t mind that a guy is out there with a seven or eight second lead. They will let the race run its course. I think that is a big statement for them to make before the Chase starts. I think it is good."

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 6:07 pm

NASCAR hopes Chicago Chase opener succeeds

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Will starting the Chase in Chicago bring NASCAR the exposure and attention it hopes?)

CHICAGO – For the first time in its eight-year history the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup opens in Chicago. 

Now the question is will anyone notice? 

The 12 drivers battling in this year’s championship season gathered in downtown Chicago Thursday afternoon on the eve of the Chase opening weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Sunday’s Geico 400 at the track located about 60 miles southwest of Lake Michigan in Joliet, Illinois, is the 11th appearance by NASCAR’s top series but the first as the opening round of the Chase. 

NASCAR had hopes to breath some life into its playoffs by kicking off the run at the country’s number three market but in the process put itself against some pretty stiff competition for attention. 

The Chicago sports landscape is always a busy one with the Cubs, White Sox, Bull, Blackhawks and Bears to go along with a healthy collegiate scene as well as a rabid high school arena. 

But in addition to going head-to-head with all that, particularly the Bears who after only a 1-0 start to the season have already dominated Chicago sports media 24/7, the PGA tour is also in town this weekend with the BMW Classic at Cog Hill Country Club in Lemont, only a three wood from the backstretch at Chicagoland Speedway. 

It’s a crowded picture to be sure and one that is going to make it difficult for NASCAR to break through – even with the championship season about to begin.

But track management believes it can make a difference and create an event that will keep the Windy City as the Chase opener for years to come. 

"We need to demonstrate that this market embraces NASCAR and Sprint Cup racing," newly appointed Chicagoland President Scott Paddock said. "We don't have the rich history of a Daytona or a Talladega or a lot of these other race markets, but we saw in years past that there's an avid NASCAR fan base in this town." 

Last year’s race held during the track’s until this season traditional July weekend drew a poor crowd nearly 20,000 short of capacity. The good news is ticket sales for Sunday’s race are pacing well ahead of that mark and there’s a good chance the Geico 400 will be as sell out. 

That according to Paddock will go a long way into establishing the race as a must see event for local sports fans. 

“You don’t see many empty seats at a Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Hawks or Sox game on a regular basis,” Paddock said. “That’s a Chicago tradition in this town in terms of local team support and what we’re striving for at Chicagoland Speedway.” 

NASCAR is on board and plans to open next year’s Chase back at Chicagoland hoping to generate more publicity and exposure for the sport as the event becomes entrenched on the local calendar. 

“At the end of the day, we think Chicagoland Speedway being the first race of the chase is a tremendous opportunity for the sport and the fans in the Midwest,” Said NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O’Donnell said. “It’s a fast track that’ll give us more diversity in the Chase. We’re excited about working with the staff at Chicagoland.” 

For the most part the drivers see the benefit of beginning the Chase in a city the size of Chicago and putting the NASCAR product in front of as many people as possible. 

“It’s a world class city and I believe we’re a world class sport,” said Carl Edwards. “We should absolutely look for ways to make more people aware of NASCAR racing and what better time to do that when the championship is on the line? I think kicking off the Chase here is very cool.”

Four-time champion Jeff Gordon agrees the opportunities to bring more attention to NASCAR competing in a city like Chicago was worth the effort to change the Chase schedule around

“I’m excited about starting the Chase in Chicago this year,” Gordon said. “This week, the Chase drivers are spread out all around the country going to different places to promote the Chase before we end up in Chicago for additional media opportunities.

“There are a lot of race fans in this area of the country and we need to take every opportunity we can to bring NASCAR to more fans and grow as much as we can.”

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Posted on: September 14, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: September 14, 2011 5:39 pm

Chase for the Cup predictions

Should Jimmie Johnson start making room for a sixth championship trophy? (US Presswire)

CBSSports.com NASCAR reporter Pete Pistone and NASCAR producer Brian De Los Santos take their best guess as to how the final Chase standings will shake out.

Pete Pistone
After a regular season that produced 15 different winners including five drivers taking their first-career Sprint Cup Series checkered flags, NASCAR is ready for the 2011 edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

This year's 12-driver field accounted for 21 wins in the season's first 26 races and includes five former series champions.

Jimmie Johnson is set to take aim at an unprecedented sixth straight championship, but in a season that has produced as much unpredictability as this one has, the Hendrick Motorsports driver could be ripe for finally being unseated. Johnson only has one win to his credit entering the playoff run, the fewest of any of his previous seven Chase appearances, providing some of his competitors with a glimmer of hope the dominance may be fading.

It starts at Chicagoland Speedway and wraps up with Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, so let the Chase begin:

1. Jimmie Johnson: It's good to be the king, and for anyone else to ascend to the throne they have to rise up and take the crown. There hasn't been a driver able to do that in the last five seasons and it won't happen this year either. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus know how to play the Chase game better than anyone. They put together a solid if not dominating regular season that may have been down on victories from previous years, but was not short on the key factor in winning NASCAR titles -- consistency. His feud with Kurt Busch may make this one a little more interesting, but at the end of the 10-week Chase, the story will be a six-pack for Johnson.

2. Jeff Gordon: The resurgence of Gordon this season has been one of the year's pleasant surprises. While great attention was given to team owner Rick Hendrick's decision to pair Steve Letarte with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the organization's massive realignment at the end of last season, Gordon and new head wrench Alan Gustafson have been remarkable. After winning the second race of the year at Phoenix, Gordon did cool off during the middle stretch of the schedule. After dropping as far back as 17th in the standings, he roared back and may have the most momentum of any driver heading into the Chase.

3. Kevin Harvick: He came down to the wire last season and just short of ending Johnson's title run. So Harvick feels there's some unfinished business to take care of in 2011. He was very strong in the opening segment of the season, rattling off three wins in short order by pouncing on late opportunities. But there were some stumbles in the regular season and Harvick endured a summer of some discontent especially with his pit crew's performance. Things seem to have been righted and the No. 29 team is a cohesive bunch once again. RCR having only one car in the Chase may also prove to be beneficial to Harvick's effort with the organizations complete resources at his disposal.

4. Kyle Busch: The No. 1 seed in the Chase by virtue of his four wins and place in the point standings, Busch has his best shot ever to win a Sprint Cup championship. His biggest hurdle will again be himself and overcoming the emotion that still gets the best of him at times. However, while there have been outbursts in his Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series efforts, Busch has been relatively quiet in that department on the Cup side. The nagging issues of Joe Gibbs Racing's engine department are another challenge Busch will need to conquer, but there's no reason to believe he won't be right in the thick of the championship hunt.

5. Carl Edwards: The preseason pick by many (including me) to win the title, Edwards has had a strange year that was overshadowed by his contract situation with Roush Fenway Racing and his future career plans. Now that he has settled into a long-term deal at RFR, Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne have no outside distractions and obstacles to get in the way of a full assault on the crown. Edwards has been very good in the weeks leading up to the Chase including a solid second-place outing at the regular-season finale in Richmond and will look to ride that momentum to a hot start in the playoffs.

6. Matt Kenseth: The quintessential sleeper is back in the Chase and has put together a typically consistent year to punch his ticket to the playoffs. Kenseth's 14 top-10 finishes, seven top 5's and two victories were one of his strongest regular-season performances in recent years. He'll have to get past a few tracks inside the Chase -- such as Martinsville -- that have been challenges during his Cup career to make a serious charge for a second title.

7. Kurt Busch: Busch was the only driver to stay inside the top 10 of the point standings all through the regular season. But the bad news is he fell from the lead to eighth place after enduring a summer stretch filled with struggles, bad luck and high emotion that helped rekindle a feud with Jimmie Johnson. Busch ended the regular campaign with a pair of good runs in Atlanta and Richmond but the question of his ability to keep emotions in check while also dealing with the Johnson rivalry put the Penske Racing driver's championship hopes seriously in doubt.

8. Brad Keselowski: The other Penske driver comes into his first Chase as a bona fide underdog but one many feel can pull off the impossible and make a serious challenge for the title. Keselowski's performance since early June has been nothing short of spectacular and there may not be another team in the garage area that has as much confidence or believes in its driver more than the Blue Deuce bunch. Keselowski won over a lot of fans in the last three months and is looking to prove a lot of his previous detractors wrong.

9. Tony Stewart: Not the season Stewart had hoped for by any means, but the two-time champion was still good enough when it counted to make it back to the Chase. Things appeared to be headed back in the right direction as the regular season came to a close, but Stewart's team doesn't have the look of a championship contender and won't be a serious challenger unless it can eliminate the roller coaster ride results that have dominated the 2011 season.

10. Denny Hamlin: He pushed Johnson to the brink of the championship last season but has suffered through a disappointing follow-up season punctuated by engine problems and other issues that forced Hamlin to use a wild card spot to make it back to the Chase. The switch to TRD engines should be a plus for Hamlin, but a return to the form he displayed last year-- a combo platter of consistency and winning -- in short order is imperative for the JGR No. 11 team to have any shot at somehow challenging for the title.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt's somewhat surprising start to the year began to fade away as the season wore on and by the end of the regular campaign he was barely hanging on to a spot in the Chase. He made it after a very nervous night in Richmond and perhaps the fresh start will be what the Hendrick Motorsports driver needs. Crew chief Steve Letarte promised to change his conservative approach of just trying to make the Chase to a winning formula once the playoffs began so it will be interesting to see if there is any difference in the team's strategy over the next 10 races. Of any one of the dozen Chasers, Earnhardt needs to get off to a good start and not dig himself into a hole.

12. Ryan Newman: The other half of the Stewart-Haas Racing duo made the Chase for the fourth time in his career and put together a nice and consistent regular season. However despite his one win and 13 top 10 finishes, Newman had only a pair of consecutive top fives in the season's first 26 races. He's not particularly strong on 1.5-mile tracks, and with the likes of Chicagoland, Kansas, Charlotte, Texas and Homestead on the Chase schedule, it doesn't bode well for the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet.

Brian De Los Santos
Ho hum, I'm picking Jimmie Johnson to win it all. I gave up picking against Johnson a couple of years ago. It's a lesson in futility.

What GOOD reason is there to pick against him? If you're counting on the law of averages, that law clearly doesn't apply to the 48 team.

Except for Chicagoland, the Chase tracks are the same as they ever were. The same tracks he has shown time and time again the ability to dominate. And, quite frankly, he's not too shabby at Chicagoland, with seven top 10s in nine visits.

It's inevitable that he's going to fall short one of these years (isn't it?). He's not going to win titles until the day he retires (will he?). It's just not possible (is it?). But with five straight titles and another strong regular season in the books, I don't see how I can predict that Johnson's rein is over.

1. Jimmie Johnson: What indication has the 48 team given that they won't be competitive during the Chase? Sure he has just one win, but he did finish second in the final regular-season points. As we've learned over the past five years, Johnson and the 48 team are built for the Chase. The only thing I could see spoiling the party is if Kurt Busch makes it his purpose to keep Johnson from capturing a sixth straight title by any means necessary. However, Busch did say they've worked it out and will cool the antics during the Chase. I'm not quite buying it.

2. Jeff Gordon: In terms of wins, he's already having his best season since winning six times in 2007. The 24 team appears to be on top of their game heading into the Chase, with three consecutive top fives and six finishes of sixth or better in the past seven races.

3. Carl Edwards: He looks primed for a run at the title. With 10 races to go, he already has third most top fives (12) for a season in his career. He takes three straight top 10s and two consecutive top fives into the Chase.

4. Matt Kenseth: It's so easy to undervalue Kenseth. You'd hardly know that he won twice and finished sixth in the final regular-season standings. He's not flashy. He doesn't have a personality that screams for attention. His strength is consistency. The two tracks he won at were Dover and Texas, both of which will be revisited down the stretch.

5. Brad Keselowski: He has come a long way. He was 25th in the standings at the end of May, and over the course of the second half of the season he staged a furious rally, just missing out on finishing the regular season in the top 10. He was especially hot over the past two months, pulling out two wins, four top fives and six top 10s the past seven races. I don't think it was a fluke and expect him to remain competitive throughout the final 10 races.

6. Kyle Busch: This isn't the first time Busch has been a regular-season wonder boy, but for all his talent, he's never been able to carry it out through the Chase, with his best points finish (5th) coming in 2007. This very well could be the year he puts it together, but I just have this feeling that at the first sign of trouble the downward spiral will begin.

7. Kevin Harvick: I don't know what to make of Harvick. He's tied for the season lead with four wins, including a dominant effort in the regular-season finale at Richmond, but his 13 top 10s ranks seventh. For much of the summer the 29 car was a non-factor. In fact, Richmond was the first race he had even led a lap in since Daytona at the beginning of July, a span of nine races. The win was one of only two top five finishes Harvick had in the last 13 races.

8. Kurt Busch: It has been a wildly inconsistent season for the No. 2 team and Busch has flown off the handle a number of times. Like his brother Kyle, the question is whether he can keep his cool in times of distress. He has run well the past couple of weeks with back-to-back top fives, but that comes off the heels of three straight finish of 17th or worse.

9. Ryan Newman: Did you know Newman has the fifth-most top fives (8) this season? That's more than Harvick, Kenseth or Kurt Busch. He's also one of only two Chase drivers -- Edwards is the other -- without a DNF. Still, his avg. finish of 13.1 is just eighth best.

10. Tony Stewart: I thought this season might be somewhat of a struggle for the 14 team, and despite the Chase berth, it has been. He's without a win and has just three top fives (his career low is nine) and 11 top 10s (his career low is 16). If there's any good news, it's that he does have three top 10s in the past four races. Maybe the team is putting things together at the right time.

11. Denny Hamlin: Prior to the season, if there was one driver people thought might unseat Johnson as champion this season, it was Hamlin. But he hasn't come close to living up to expectations, needing a wild-card to make the Chase. There's been signs of life in recent weeks with three consecutive top 10s for the first time this season.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: He hung on to a Chase berth by the skin of his teeth. The first half of the season saw Earnhardt in position to challenge for the points lead with seven top 10 finishes. But over the past 13 races he has managed just two top 10s. Maybe the team was just trying to play it safe to ensure a Chase berth, but even if they were holding back a bit, I don't see him as a championship contender.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com