Carl Edwards scores 5th win of season

Carl Edwards, drivers of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, took his fifth and final lead of the afternoon with 18 laps remaining and held off a charge by points leader Kyle Busch to win the 3M Performance presented by Bondo 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. Edwards was joined in the top five by Roush Fenway Racing teammates David Ragan (third), Greg Biffle (fourth) and Matt Kenseth (fifth). Ragan is now tied for 13th place, just 26 points out of the top 12, with three races remaining before the Chase.

Carl Edwards’ victory at Michigan  is the 12th of his career and fifth of the season. He also won at California, Las Vegas, Texas and Pocono. Edwards’ wins at California and Las Vegas marked the second time in his career that he posted back-to-back victories. Edwards is second in the Sprint Cup series in victories with five. This is Edwards’ second career Cup win at Michigan. He also won at MIS in June 2006, and now has eight top-10 finishes in nine career starts at the track.

Edwards now has 14 top-10 finishes in his last 17 starts. His 17 top-10s overall lead the series. Edwards also won Saturday’s Nationwide race at Michigan. Owner Jack Roush now has 11 all-time Cup wins at Michigan, tying him with the Wood Brothers (who won 11 races between 1969-91, including eight with David Pearson from ’72-’78). Roush has won at least one Cup race at Michigan in each of the last seven years (2002-08). Edwards’ victory at Dover last year was the 100th all-time for Roush Fenway Racing.Ford now has won 588 races all-time in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. Ford now has won 31 times in 79 races at Michigan, more than any other manufacturer.  Today’s win is Fusion’s fifth of the season and 19th all-time since its debut in 2006. Fusion’s first-ever NSC victory was by Matt Kenseth in February 2006 at California Speedway.

CARL EDWARDS press conference

JACK ROUSH – owner, No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion – ON HIS 20 NASCAR WINS (ACROSS ALL THREE SERIES) AT MICHIGAN. “I can’t believe my good fortune. I’ve been in the presence of really fast company, starting with Mark Martin here in 1988. We didn’t win in ’88 but we were in contention from the very beginning, and of course he put his mark on our program and on our cars and our strategy and on our thinking. Doug Yates and the guys did a really good job on the mileage. It didn’t turn out to be a mileage race. I think everybody was looking forward to when we would actually race for it, other than watch people drop off through fuel problems. But, it was great to watch all the cars as the crew chiefs and pit crews worked themselves through the day. I don’t think anybody had a real bad pit stop. Certainly, there wasn’t a penalty for speeding of for losing a tire, and on a race like this that runs so many green-flag laps, that’s something that’s hard to recover from. I know the 48 had a problem where they had to make an extra pit stop and that ruined their day. But, everybody did a super job, and as the crew chiefs and the drivers and the engineers commiserated on all the programs, made their adjustments toward the end of the day, they were able to salvage the situation so that everybody was in the top 10. And, certainly, except for Kyle Busch finishing up there, we had a chance to have two or three winners – actually, four winners – out of the top five.”

BOB OSBORNE – crew chief, No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion – TELL US ABOUT THE RACE. “I had a lot of fun, how about that? It was a challenge all day, actually. We didn’t qualify very well, and obviously starting 27th makes it a little tense early in the race, but Carl did a great job with the car coming through the field, and then back and forth with the balance of the race car, trying to keep up with the race track, and with the competitors, whether we take two tires or four tires. Actually got behind a little bit after a two-tire cycle, back to four tires, and we were pretty loose there and the 18 was able to stretch a pretty big lead. So, having the ability to pit again and work on the car was a relief, and Carl did a great job from there on out.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion (finished 1st) – “Bob just did a great job. Everyone, the crew, did an unbelievable job, and the greatest part is that we didn’t give up more bonus points to Kyle. He’s just so strong – every time I win and he finishes second, that’s really a 20-point spread for us. So, that’s what we just have to keep doing, is go out here and try to win the next three events and go into this Chase on even ground. But the guys are doing great. Bob made great adjustments, and that was the key to the race.”

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT DURING THAT LAST CAUTION? “Chicago, when we had our trouble and it came down to, I believe, Kyle and Jimmie, and Jimmie lost it on the re-start because – Kyle’s good on re-starts, that’s just a fact – so I just didn’t want to have to go through that pain, so I just did everything I could to have the best re-start I could, and it worked out great.”

ROUSH FENWAY DOES SO WELL AT MICHIGAN. WHAT DOES THIS WIN MEAN FOR YOU? “It means a lot to me. Four years ago today I ran my first Cup race for Jack Roush and he took a giant gamble on me, I felt like at the time, to put me in that car. Jack won the race that day, I believe Greg won it, and we finished 10th and all five of the cars were in the top 10, and to be a part of that again today, for Ford Motor Company, for Roush and for all the guys, it’s an honor.”

YOU ALSO WON AT POCONO, AND THEN ON TO CALIFORNIA IN TWO WEEKS. THOSE ARE GREAT PLACES FOR YOU. AND, KYLE BUSCH SAID YOU’VE BEEN THERE ALL YEAR AND ARE THE GUY TO BEAT. “We’re getting to the point – I feel, personally – that we can win at any race track we go to. And our pit crew has stepped up their game. That was our weakness for a long time, and the guys have repeatedly week after week have worked harder and become better, so, yeah, I feel very confident at all the race tracks we go to, but, yeah, last year we won at Bristol. I feel great about California. All of the chase tracks I feel we can compete to win at. So, I feel good. It should be a lot of fun. Somebody said, ‘Oh, it’s coming down to you and Kyle.’ I said, ‘I hope it’s just me and Kyle.’ It would be nice to just have to beat one other guy. I have a feeling that this chase is going to be spectacularly competitive.”

IN ADDITION TO THE POINTS, DOES IT HELP YOUR OUTLOOK TO BEAT KYLE BUSCH AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON? “My psyche and mentality is pretty much fixed on I’m the greatest race-car driver that ever lived, know what I’m saying? What it helps with – if you don’t think that, that’s what David Pearson told me that if you don’t believe that, you don’t belong in a race car. What it helps with is points. I’m sure Kyle feels the same way. It’s just that when we beat him, it’s a 20-point spread. And it goes the other way. I finished second to him a few times this year, and that’s frustrating.”

OSBORNE, continued – SAME QUESTION. “Actually, I don’t think I’m the best crew chief out here. Yes, it is great for confidence level, whatever you want to say, for our whole program. Carl mentioned it already – we’ve gone head-to-head there against the 18 a few times early in the season and came up short, finishing second. So, it was good to go again head-to-head to the 18 and finish first for the first time in a while, I think. The pit crew, like we talked about, has had a lot of pressure on them to improve. They stepped up today. They weren’t perfect, but they didn’t get beat off pit road and in my eyes that’s a great day.”

EDWARDS, continued – WERE YOU BORN THIS CONFIDENT IN YOURSELF? MOST PEOPLE HAVE THINGS IN THE BACK OF THEIR MIND THAT HURTS THEM SOMETIMES… “Yeah, everyone does. Deep down you really have to believe in yourself, and I think everyone who performs at a high level in every sport does. I was watching the Olympics and it struck me – you see individuals that achieve so well and they achieve such great things, and there’s all the other folks who don’t. And just having the guts to go out there and jump in the water and swim or go run 100 meters in front of the whole world and compete, you know you have the chance to lose, but you just have to do the very best you can. That’s all you can do.”

ROUSH, continued – WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THE TUESDAY MEETING TO BE LIKE? “We have very few words over the thing. We make the team that fared the best – on a good week like this that won, they get their chance last. By that time we’re out of time. So we don’t spend much time dwelling on things gone right, but we do take things apart and for the missed opportunities or missteps we agonize over it and we commit not to have those things re-occur.”

EDWARDS, continued – ON HOW GOOD THE CAR WAS. “Bob did a great job. The car has to be able to do it. We had at times in the race that car wouldn’t, and it’s very frustrating, but Bob stayed on top of it, and as a driver you can only do as much as a car will do, and Bob just gave me a great car.”

ROUSH, continued – “There’s a lot of credit for a track like this that needs to go to Doug Yates and the engine guys. They did a great job with the engine. Truth of fact, our engine architecture was defined in ’93 when Bill France said he was going to make the engines be constant and wasn’t going to have all this development work and all these hand-made parts. All the manufacturers and engines have all been revised at least once – we’re looking at out first revision of the architecture of the engine that will happen in 2009. Right now we’re still running stuff that is fundamentally the same as a production, which nobody else is, and for those guys to be able to prepare the engine and develop it and keep it competitive through the all things that have been developed by all the other manfacturers, it’s just a real incredible feat.”

FOUR YEARS AGO IN DAYTONA, CARL WON THE TRUCK RACE. YOU SAID HE WAS YOUR NEXT SUPERSTAR. WHEN YOU PUT HIM IN THE 99 CAR FOUR YEARS AGO HERE, IT WAS NOT A POPULAR DECISION. LOOKING BACK, HOW REWARDING IS THIS FOR YOU? “It’s great. I feel a little lonely in the decisions I have to make on many subjects at many different times. But, Carl demonstrated to me – and as David Ragan does and as Matt Kenseth did before him, and Greg Biffle did – that he’s going to be as good in this business as anybody I’ve ever known. And he’s going to stay there for a long time. So, I was right on recognizing he had potential – and very quickly after he won his first race at Charlotte, I told him, ‘I’ll stay in the business as long as you drive these cars,’ and I hope that I’ve got job security for a long time now on account of that.”

COULD YOU COMMENT ON DAVID RAGAN’S RUN TODAY? “I was anxious to see, I was hoping he’d close the gap and actually move into the 12th position – I understand he’s tied for 13th and not far away. But, the fate of David as it relates to the chase will be based on whether he’s involved in a wreck at a bad time or whether we break a part, which winds up being my fault, and whether the other people that are in the top four or the back four positions in the top 12 have better luck than he does in terms of how well things develop on the race track. But, David is doing everything that he can. I know yesterday he had a wreck in the Nationwide race, where he let it get away from him. And I said, ‘Okay, Daid. You can wreck once in a while. You’ve had your wreck for a while now. Let’s focus on making sure we stay on the black stuff today.’ But he’s matured more than I could’ve imagined this year for his age. He’s 21 or 22 years old and it’s amazing. When Carl came onto the scene I think he was already 26, and Mark Martin was 28, Jeff Burton was 28, Greg Biffle was 28, so David Ragan is way ahead of everybody that’s currently driving for us in terms of what he’s doing at his age, because the other guys weren’t involved with us at that time. We’re learning from David, and when we get it figured out we’ll be able to do for him what he needs to have done, same as we tried to do for everybody else.”

EDWARDS, continued – KNOWING ROUGH FENWAY’S HISTORY AT MICHIGAN, HOW EXCITING IS IT TO BE AT THIS TRACK? “It’s great for me, just for the reasons we talked about. It’s the site of my first race in Cup, and we run so well here that it’s just fun. We usually get a chance to go visit the folks at Ford, go to Jack’s museum in Livonia. There’s always fun stuff going on around the race, and it’s enjoyable.”

ROUSH, continued – ON HIS SUCCESS AT MICHIGAN. “It’s great for me. This is an occasion where we have two suites – actually one inside the track and one outside – that we celebrate with our customers and employees. We’ve got about 3,000 employees in the area that work on prototype cars for all the manufacturers, and we have a great time with that. And of course this is my private playground. I told somebody this is my playground and they misunderstood what I meant; as an avocation, I’m an aviator, and I come out here and this is my aeromatics box. I come out here and test and I do loops and I do rolls and just kick up my heels and have a great time. It’s really home for me. It’s a chance to play in front of the home crowd. It means a lot to Ford Motor Company. It means a lot to me.”

WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE CHASE? “I’m guardedly optimistic that we’ll be able to put four cars in the chase – that won’t be the same as when we put five in, but Carl, based on the way that the structure of the chase is, will be in better shape than any of the other guys can be, based on the number of points he’s got from the wins he’s had. And, Carl certainly is a strong favorite within my group of prospects of being able to close the deal, and I don’t think we can win the next four times, so I don’t think we’ll quite be able to establish parity with the bonus points that Kyle’s going to have, but if we could get close and then we can beat him on the race track consistently through the chase more than he beats us I think it could be just fine. I’m counting on that. But I’m hoping that Matt Kenseth makes it in, that Greg Biffle holds his seat, and that, not wishing the 99 any bad luck, but that they’ll have their chance to do well in there as well.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion (finished 3rd) – “We had a good AAA Ford. It was good on the long runs. You know, the race just worked out in our favor. We had a few long runs. Our car had good forward bite all day. The 99 and 18 were probably the fastest of the field, but we made an adjustment, it seemed, every stop, and kept getting a little better. If it would’ve been a 500-mile race I would’ve had something for ’em.” WHAT WERE YOU THINKING OUT THERE AT THE END? “Don’t mess up, you’ve got to get a good points day. It’s always fun to try to win the thing – you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position and take yourself out of a good top-five finish and then finish 15th with it. We could just all we can do, and our car was fast and had good speed, the pit stops were awesome from our AAA crew, and just a good solid day. It’s fun to be here at Michigan.”

DAVID RAGAN press conference

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion (finished 3rd) – “Just a solid day from the get-go. We had good speed, our pit crew did an amazing job all race long, and that’s what it takes. These 400-mile races, you’ve got to be pretty good when they drop the green flag – a 5- or 600-mile race you have a few more opportunities to work on it. But, we just had good speed all day, good track position, and came up a little short. Carl certainly had the best car, the 18 was pretty stout at times, depending on who was out front. It was good to be able to race with them, and I felt like if we had to do it all over again we might take two tires that last stop, make a small adjustment and see what we could’ve done, but nevertheless a strong day for us and we can build on that.” HOW IMPORTANT WAS THIS FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION AND FOR FORD TO DO THIS WELL IN DETROIT? “Very happy to see that Ford in Victory Lane. It would’ve been a long plane ride home if the other manufacturer would’ve got in Victory Lane. But, it’s good to see all the Ford fans and Jack Roush and everybody excited. That was a good weekend for those guys and a good day for everybody, I think. We all were pretty close to the top 10, and I don’t know what it is about this place, but we all seem to run well and have good speed, the cars run good. So, it was a good day for the whole organization.” CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE ONE YEAR AFTER YOUR ROOKIE YEAR? WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE? “We always knew we could run this way if we just went a whole weekend without making many mistakes. We always seem to have fast cars and good speed, but maybe myself or the pit crew or somebody would make a mistake through the weekend and we’d pay for it when the checkered flag fell. So, the bottom line is everything’s easier the second time around. Coming back to Michigan for the second race this year and also for the second time around we know how the track changes. I know how to pass cars a little better, and what we need in our AAA Ford to turn through the middle and have good bite off. So, the bottom line is everything is easier the second time around. Jimmy [Fennig, crew chief] and I understand each other just a little bit more from race to race. We just continue to recognize the things that needed to be changed and work hard to improve on them, and make sure the good things stay the same.” CONSIDERING WHERE YOU WERE IN THE STANDINGS, DID YOU FEEL YOU NEEDED TO GAMBLE AND GO FOR THE WIN TO GET THE MOST POINTS? “It definitely would’ve been great to win, but you don’t want to take an unnecessary risks and take out a top-five finish and finish 20th or something. A win would’ve been great, but the 18 and 99 were just a little better than us, and after we didn’t pit that last run, we were kind of going to be sitting ducks depending on how the cautions worked out, but I just drove as hard as I could and tried not to make any mistakes. And, at this point in the season a third place is great, but a win would’ve been better, but a 20th would’ve been just about devastating for us, trying to make the chase.” ON HIS TOP-THREE FINISH. “Just coming up here in a Roush Fenway Ford gives us a little extra benefit out of that. I think the past races for Roush Fenway have been pretty good and pretty consistent, so being I was in the 6 car, being as I was in the Ford owned by Jack Roush, that just helps me out a lot here at Michigan. And Jimmy Fennig knows how to make the calls and we’ve got good fuel mileage, and we ran well here in the spring, so it’s just one of those days where we kind of controlled on own destiny. We just didn’t need to go out and make any mistakes.” WERE YOU BEING TOLD BY YOUR CREW WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO OTHER DRIVERS WHO ARE TRYING TO GET IN THE CHASE? “Not specifically. Jimmy would make mention that ‘we’re going to have a good points day if you just don’t screw up. We’re going to have a good points day if you just maintain.’ No, not specifically, he wasn’t telling me the car numbers of guys who were having trouble, but you can see when some of the guys are a lap down or when you’re passing them, things like that, you can use your own good judgment and tell who’s struggling. But, specifically, he wouldn’t tell me anything.” ON ROUSH FENWAY’S SUCCESS AT MICHIGAN. “I think we’ve got a good engine department with Roush Yates racing engines. That’s something that’s important. Jack is very particular on fuel mileage at all these big tracks. We probably put a little more effort into this race than some of the others. Maybe we take a few more chances and really get pumped up a little bit more being that there’s such a presence of Ford Racing people here, and a lot of Jack’s employees and family’s up here. So, we don’t anything out of the box; we just always are making sure that we cross our T’s and dot our I’s when we come up to Michigan because it is an important race for our team owner, and it’s fun to see him happy when we leave here, Michigan.”

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (finished 4th) – “It wasn’t a bad run. Actually, it probably should’ve been a little better than that. We had a tough time getting the balance right ever since we showed up here. Maybe something funny about this car, but we were way too tight when we showed up and then way too loose, and then swapped back and forth in the race. Just couldn’t get it right, and we should be able to run with our teammates. We’re working really hard at it. Carl was just a little better than we were, and David right there at the end on old tires was a little faster than us, so we’ll just work on it and get a little better.”

CLOSE AGAIN. IS IT FRUSTRATING? “Yeah, it is. We were on one side of it, then the other, then the other and just kept chipping away at it.”

ON THE TOP-FIVE FINISH. “We had a great car. The 3M Ford Fusion just ran really good. The pit stops were phenomenal. But, I couldn’t get a hold of the race track like I needed to. Ever since we showed up here this weekend, the car hasn’t been exactly right – way, way too tight and then the very last practice too loose. So, we sort of jumped the fence there and never did get it balanced right.”

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (finished 5th) – “It was a struggle, to say the least. We were way off. We were really good here in the spring and probably had a car fast enough to win the race, but we were just really off today. All my teammates ran good. We got better at the end, these guys did a great job  on pit road and great adjustments, we just struggled all day.”

BUT YOU FINISHED FIFTH… “Really, hard work from my guys. They made good adjustments and got it better at the end. We had some really good green-flag transitions on our pit stops on pit road and we gained a bunch of spots during those green-flag stops. Track position is real important. If we would’ve been 15th or 16th on the last re-start, we probably would’ve finished somewhere back in there. They got me the track position and that helped get a decent finish out of the day.”

ON THE POINTS RACE. “I haven’t really thought about it at all, to tell you the truth. I’m more than a little frustrated with the way we ran there. This is probably one of our best tracks. Like I said, we ran good enough to win in the spring, and Carl and all of those guys used the stuff we had in the spring and then went out and beat us with it. We did a little bit different stuff because we just couldn’t get the handle on it all weekend. We got here and right off the truck we weren’t right, and just could never hit it, so even though we finished fifth, that’s a bright spot, but disappointed with how we performed.”

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion (finished 43rd) – “It’s just really disappointing for us. The water temp, everything was pretty good there. We just got unlucky.”

YESTERDAY YOU TALKED ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY OF DRIVING THE CAR OF TOMORROW. CAN YOU EXPAND ON THAT? “Well, it’s just experience. It’s just hard. That’s what’s bad about this deal here. I was looking forward to getting a lot of laps under our belt here and getting comfortable, and making sure everything was together underneath me, and we were going to have a great day. It just didn’t work out.”

ON HIS DAY UP TO THAT POINT. “I could move around. I wasn’t tight at all, which is really good for us. I felt like it was coming to me there. But, I was just riding around there, being good and just trying to get to the first pit stop and get a good feel on the car, but was just unlucky.”