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MONTREAL -- Carl Edwards returns to the site where he pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory last season, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, for Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal. Edwards talks about returning to the track and how different the race could be based on the weather.
Q. YOU ARE BATTING .500 ON ROAD COURSES SO FAR THIS YEAR. YOU WON AT ROAD AMERICA, BUT STRUGGLED AT WATKINS GLEN AND YOU HAVE PICKED UP THE PACE AT MONTREAL OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT WILD WIN IN MONTREAL LAST YEAR?
A. Yeah, I just got off the phone with my crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, about an hour ago and we discussed the race this weekend. The race is going to be different this year. The weather looks like it is going to be very good. I believe it is going to be a different type of race than we have seen. I think that the fastest guys, guys like Jacques Villeneuve and Marcos Ambrose, are going to be very tough this year. If we go back to last season, that race was so exciting for me and my team. It gives me chills just thinking about it. The last corner, the track was drying out and I was doing everything I could to get up to Marcos Ambrose and I just couldn’t get to him. I ducked out in the last corner and made a last ditch effort to rattle him a little bit and he missed the entrance into the turn and I just couldn’t believe we passed him. That victory lap last season and the response I got from the crowd was one of the neatest wins I’ve had in my life. Drew and I talked about how excited we both are to go there. Montreal is an amazing city and a beautiful race track and the fans are just great. It is one that is on my calendar as my favorite places to go. I have some family coming with me and they are excited to see the city. I am really excited about the race.
Q. BASED ON THE SUCCESS OF THE MONTREAL RACE THE LAST FEW YEARS, THE FAN TURNOUT THERE AND THE WAY THEY HAVE SUPPORTED THE NATIONWIDE RACE, DO YOU THINK THAT CANADA DESERVES OR SHOULD HAVE A SPRINT CUP RACE AND WOULD IT WORK?
A. That is a good question. The question of whether a race track deserves a Sprint Cup race, I always say yes. The fan presence is there. The race track and the city are just fun to go to. It is a fun place to stay and a fun track to race on. The problem, and you know this, is the politics and the money and the contracts and all those things. To me, the Canadian fan base reminds me of going to Kentucky or Iowa. Those fan bases love stock car racing and they want to see those races. It is a change of pace for them and they are amped up to see it. There is just so much energy there. It would be a lot of fun to bring Sprint Cup there. I was standing in victory lane last year after winning the race and the crowd was singing in unison. They are singing songs and cheering. I had never seen anything like it. If you had guys up there like Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Richard Petty walking around, the fans would be very excited about that. I don’t think you could build enough seats. If we ever did have an international race date on the schedule, that track could do it.
Q. WHEN YOU FIRST CAME TO MONTREAL IN 2007, THERE WAS A MEDIA DAY AND YOU GOT A MONTREAL CANADIENS HOCKEY SWEATER WITH YOUR NAME ON THE BACK, WHERE DOES SOMETHING LIKE THAT GO? YOU MUST HAVE A TON OF GREAT MEMORABILIA FROM OVER THE YEARS.
A. My mother and my step-father have turned the downstairs game room area of their house into a museum of sorts. It has trophies and helmets and jerseys and old pictures. We get a lot of really amazing things. Jim Kelly from the Buffalo Bills gave me one of his jerseys framed. Stuff like that; I just never imagined I would be presented with it. My mother takes care of all that stuff and I go down there and look around and show people some things. That hockey jersey meant a lot to me. That whole day of being there I learned a lot about Montreal and it was an honor to be there. I don’t know how to explain it, but from the first time I went there, it is just a cool place. My brother and his wife are coming with me this year, and they have never been out of the country together, so I told them that if they could come to one place, then Montreal was that place. I really like the place and it meant a lot to me for people to embrace me there.
Q. YOU GOT BY MARCOS WITH HIS LAST TURN BOBBLE LAST YEAR. MARCOS HAS SOME HISTORY WITH ROBBY GORDON FROM THE ’07 RACE. ROBBY IS COMING BACK FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THEN. DOES THAT ADD TO THE MIX OF WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE LOOKING FOR THIS WEEKEND?
A. I didn’t know Robby was coming. That is another guy we have to beat. If they could renew that rivalry, that would be good for me. Those two guys are going to be so fast. There is something they can do with the brakes that I have not learned yet. They can break 50-feet deeper than I can at every track we go to. We will see what happens, but Robby will be going there for one thing and one thing only, and Marcos too. There is a chance they could have a really great race.
Q. CAN YOU PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE WHAT KYLE BUSCH WAS ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH AT BRISTOL LAST WEEKEND?
A. I am sure that he knew what he could potentially do at the beginning of that Cup race Saturday night. I know I didn’t realize it. I didn’t put it together that he had won the Truck race and the Nationwide race and that he had a fast car for the Cup race. I didn’t think it was possible. It wasn’t one of the things I was thinking about before the race. It wasn’t until after the race when I was in the ESPN booth and they were talking about it that I realized what an accomplishment that was. To me as a driver, that would mean a lot to be able to do that. I can’t speak for Kyle, but I can say that it is safe to say he probably went home and felt really satisfied with his weekend. I won a Nationwide and Cup race on the same weekend twice and that felt really good. How does that work with odds? I think there is a one in five chance of winning each race, so it becomes five times harder to do the third one. It is pretty amazing.
Q. LOOKING AHEAD AT THIS WEEKEND, THIS COULD BE THE BEST FIELD EVER FOR THIS RACE. YOU ARE THE DEFENDING CHAMPION THOUGH, SO DO YOU PREFER TO STAY UNDER THE RADAR OR ARE YOU THINKING ‘HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME’?
A. Well, our team and myself, we beat Villeneuve and Fellows at Road America and that did a lot for my confidence and for our team’s confidence. That race last year, I had spent a lot of time with Marcos Ambrose leading up to that race to prepare for the Daytona prototype race, which I crashed us out of in warm-up, which is also probably my most embarrassing moment at a race track. The point is, I had learned a lot about how good Marcos is by testing with him. He is a spectacular race car driver. Not just good, he is possibly the best road racer in the world. To me, it was surprising that I was able to get him in that last corner. I guarantee you he will not make the same mistake again. I am going to have to figure out some other way to beat him if I am going to do it again this weekend. I am confident at this race track. It is fun to come back as the defending winner because we have done it, and there is a little less pressure and I am ready to have fun with it.
Q. IN THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS IT HAS COME OUT THAT THE INDY CAR RACERS HAVE FORMED A DRIVER ORGANIZATION, DO YOU EVER SEE THAT HAPPENING IN NASCAR AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON IT?
A. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it. I have personally had a very good relationship with NASCAR, even considering how many times I have been reprimanded by them and butted heads with them. I have always had a really good relationship. I feel that for all of the frustration that we have with NASCAR at certain times, that in the end they have done a good job through dictatorship of creating this sport that we have. This is still by far the most successful sanctioning body on planet Earth. I don’t have a big enough complaint right now to say that we have to form some sort of drivers union. I feel we have enough of a voice right now. On the other hand, I don’t know a lot about it. I have only been doing this for six years at this level. I have to talk to other drivers and find out what the benefits and disadvantages are to it.
Q. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT NASCAR IS THE ONE THAT DOESN’T HAVE IT WHEN THE OTHERS DO?
A. It is pretty simple really; NASCAR is the destination of choice for almost every driver in the world. If you don’t like it, there is someone that will be right there on your heels ready to take your place. Maybe that is why they have been able to do their own thing for so long. That is a double edged sword. Because of their success, they can run things the way they want. If you want to enjoy that success, you have to play by their rules. Personally, if I have issues I can go speak with Mike Helton or Brian France, and they are pretty easy to speak with.
Q. THE MONTREAL RACE WILL BE PAIRED WITH MICHIGAN NEXT YEAR ON THE CUP SIDE. HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT WILL IMPACT CUP REGULARS COMING INTO MONTREAL AND DO YOU PREFER AN EASIER FIELD OR A WIN AGAINST THE BEST?
A. That is a good question. I don’t know how the schedule will impact things. How many cup regulars are coming to this race? Myself, Brad Keselowski and who else? I don’t know that that would be any different if we were racing a Cup race this weekend. I think the same guys would still be there. I guess Marcos and Robbie maybe. It might be a different field next year, but being in Michigan it is not that far. I would assume there would be a number of guys that would come. The issue you have this weekend is that it is an off weekend so guys have the option of racing in Montreal or not at all. Maybe being a stand alone has its disadvantages too. It is kind of a hard formula to figure out. I believe that being paired with Michigan next year, I will be there and I think that Brad Keselowski is planning to run the whole season. I am sure that if there are road racers like Robby Gordon or Marcos Ambrose that have a good car they could come race, I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t come race on Saturday afternoon. As for the second part, to me, a win is a win. Ron Fellows was second and he is a guy I have looked up to for a long time. He has run very well in the Cup series and has won on the Nationwide side. There was a lot of pride for me to beat him. I’ve run very well in the Cup series, finished third and second to Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen. I feel pretty confident in my abilities on the road course now. To me, a win is a win and that Road America win meant as much to me as a win at Watkins Glen would have on the Cup side.
Q. JACQUES VILLENEUVE WOULD HAVE FINISHED SECOND TO YOU AT ROAD AMERICA HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR SOME ELECTRICAL ISSUES. DO YOU FEEL HE IS A CONTENDER AND IN THE MIX THIS WEEKEND?
A. I think Villeneuve can be there. He was very fast at Road America. I am sure he has a ton of experience in Montreal. The difference this year will be if it is dry. If it is dry this time, it will be a different race. The thing about Montreal is it is heavy braking and very sharp corners. That is where these road racers, guys like Villeneuve, can really shine. Like I said earlier, these guys can do things on the brakes that are amazing. There is potential to see a real battle between the road racers if it stays dry. This track is nothing like Sonoma, Watkins Glen or Road America. It is literally like, go through all the gears, stop, turn right-left and do it all again.
Q. HAVE YOU NOTICED THE CROWD GETS BEHIND HIM SINCE HE IS THE HOME GUY?
A. I know the track is named after his father, but I also noticed that the crowd seems to cheer for the race and the success of someone, whoever wins. They are less aligned with a driver and more into the event, and seeing a good event. They remind me of new fans, very excited about the sport.