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Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Taurus, will be trying for his third straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Edwards, who is third in the point standings by 77 points to leader Tony Stewart, spoke about the chase before Friday’s practice session.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Taurus – CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE ARE ONLY TWO RACES LEFT? “My whole career, starting at the short tracks, the season was 18 race long or 22 races long. To run a season with 74 races or something between the Busch car and the Cup car seems like a long season, so, to me, it’s one of those where it feels like three or four regular ones, but I can’t believe there are only two left. I don’t know what I’m gonna do in the winter time.”

DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT IF YOU DON’T WIN THIS TITLE THAT IT’S BEEN A GREAT SEASON? “Absolutely. There’s only one way to approach this kind of competition, I think, and that is to just go into it 100 percent and give everything you can and see what comes up. So far, it’s going great. We’ve had a blast. We’ve been winning races, but just because we’re coming down to the last two races we’re not gonna change anything. I’m still going into Phoenix this weekend with the number one goal being to do our very best and have the best race we can have. If we end up winning it or running really well and closing on the points leader, that’s awesome. But as soon as you start thinking about the other variables and you get that feeling like, ‘Hey, I have to win this championship,’ I think that’s not as productive as just going at it with the intent to have fun and do your very best.”

HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE AFTER WINNING TWO STRAIGHT? “Winning two races in a row is unbelievable. At the beginning of the season I didn’t think we’d win two races period, so to win four and two in a row and to be third in points right now is unbelievable and it does help my confidence. A lot of times out here, especially at the beginning of this season I’d be running along and I’d start to feel like we’re a bad run or a bad tire run or people are passing me and I’d say, ‘Man, this is bad.’ I’d almost panic. Now I have a little more of a sense that, ‘Hey, we can do this. We can win these races. If we can do our best, we’ll be fine.’ I’m getting better at not panicking and having a little more confidence in general.”

WHAT IS THE STRATEGY TO CLOSE THE GAP? “As odd as it is to say, the strategy is to almost be a little bit conservative. The only way we’re gonna win this thing, really, is if Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have a little bit of trouble. They have to have a little bit of trouble and we have to run perfectly. If we have any trouble at all. If I run over the curb and spin out. If I bump into somebody and cause a wreck or damage my car, we’re gonna be out of this thing. We don’t have an opportunity to do that, so 95 percent of these last two races are gonna be just getting to the finish, getting the car right and being conservative. That being said, in the last tire run if we’ve got a chance to win, we’re gonna go 100 percent, but we have to be there. That’s the number one thing.”

HOW DO YOU RACE AGAINST JIMMIE AND TONY? “Honestly, I just race them the same way as you race anyone – just try to beat them. That’s all you can do. I definitely would be more careful around those guys. As awesome as it would be to win a championship, the last thing you want to do is win and have some sort of asterisk next to it where you bump into a guy or something. That’s not how you want this thing to go. I wouldn’t want them to race me like that, so I think we did a good job the last few weeks. Everyone in the chase has done a great job. I don’t think there will be any bumping for points.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE HAVING THAT THOUGHT IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD? “I don’t know that it changes anything racing a guy that you’re racing for points. It just makes me a little bit more aware. You want to treat these guys how you want to be treated because it’s just too delicate. One bad day or one bad lap can ruin your whole championship hopes, so I definitely try to race these guys exactly how I’d like them to race me.”

IS THERE A DIFFERENT DYNAMIC WITH YOUR TEAMMATES NOW THAT IT’S CLOSE TO THE END? “No, I don’t think anything has changed between my teammates and I. They’re so awesome. Two of the greatest phone calls I got in the last couple of weeks were from Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth just congratulating me on how well things are going for us. Everyone has good times and everybody has times where they struggle and we’re having an awesome time right now, but Texas could be the last race I win for three years. You never know how this is gonna go, so it’s really awesome. I feel like my teammates have given me a ton of support and nothing has really changed. I think everyone is real excited.”

HOW IS IT TO GET AROUND THIS TRACK? “Bob Osborne and I were just talking about it. It is a tough place, but it’s a lot of fun. Luckily, the good run that we had was the last time we were here. We’ve got those notes and I think we have a pretty good strategy. It’s gonna take track position and we’re gonna have to qualify well. It is a little bit hard to pass. Late in a run it’s not that bad, but it’s a short race. It’s relatively short and the track is relatively small, so it’s gonna take a perfect race car. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t bump into people. Things like that can’t happen.”

HOW MUCH HAS HAVING MARK AS A TEAMMATE HELPED? “Having Mark as a teammate has helped me a ton. From my first couple of weeks at Roush in the Truck Series until Texas the guy is just a class act. He’s one of those guys that he treats everyone just like they treat him. If you treat him fairly and you race Mark in a respectful manner, he will return the favor more than enough. He’s a great guy.”

THIS TRACK DOESN’T RELY ON AERO AS MUCH. WHAT WILL SEPARATE THE TOP GUYS HERE? “That’s right. In this sport there are tracks where the car and the engine and the aerodynamic package can carry a team a lot farther than the driver can. I’m definitely aware of that, but at the same time I really enjoy short track racing. I haven’t won a short-track race in the Cup Series yet. We won a few in the Busch and Truck Series though, and it’s just tougher to come to these places. It will take not only a great race car, but you have to drive the car very well to run well at these short tracks. The car can’t make up for as much of it. The shorter the track gets, the more the driver plays into the equation.”

WHO HAS THE EDGE AMONG THE TOP THREE? “Honestly, Tony Stewart probably has the advantage. He ran his first race here, I think, in 1993 in a Silver Crown car and I had never raced a car in 1993, so he’s got an advantage but races can go any way. We were faster than him in the spring. It’s probably just because we had our car set up better, but I would say Tony probably has the advantage coming into Phoenix. That’s just the way it is.”

ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE HERE AT THIS POINT OF YOUR CAREER? “Absolutely. I never thought I’d really get paid to drive a race car. Everything past some go hiring me to drive his dirt late model is above my expectations. To be standing here talking to you guys and be coming up with a way to win this championship is definitely a dream come true.”

SO WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS NOW? “Honestly, I feel like if we do our jobs correctly we can win this race this weekend. We had arguably the fastest car on the race track at the end of the last race. Kurt Busch may have been a tick faster, but if we can just repeat our performance that we had in the spring and not get the flat tire, I think we’ll be all right. If that happens and then we can do it again at Homestead, we can be fighting for this championship. But like I’ve said 100 times, it’s gonna take perfection and it might actually take a little bit of bad luck on the other guys’ part because they deserve and probably will run just as well as us at these places.”

THOUGHTS ON HOMESTEAD. “Homestead is great. We just tested there the other day. I think it’s a fun track and it definitely plays to our strong point. We have great race cars and a great aerodynamic package and I love those mile and a half race tracks. That’s a great place to finish up and it won’t be over until it’s over.”

IF YOU’RE 30 POINTS OUT OR SO WILL YOUR STRATEGY CHANGE? “No, the strategy won’t change. I don’t see any way we could change. We’re just gonna go as fast as we can, period. If we were 190 points ahead going into Homestead, that’s the only way we would change our strategy. That’s the only way.”

ANY NERVES SETTING IN NOW THAT IT’S CLOSE? “Just the regular level of nervousness. I used to get so nervous going to the local Saturday night track for a race eight years ago that I couldn’t hardly deal with myself. I’ve just learned how to deal with that a little bit better. I don’t really have anything to lose, so I don’t see any reason to be nervous. Yeah, it would be the greatest thing in the world to win this championship. I would be the happiest guy, period, in the world, but at the same time this is my first full year. I haven’t probably earned, really, the right to win a championship yet. This is my first year, so I’m not gonna put extra pressure on myself to try to do something this extraordinary. If we can go out and perform really well and do this, it will be spectacular. And if we don’t, I’m still gonna have a smile on my face.”

           Jamie McMurray will be joining the Ford Racing stable next season when he takes over as driver of the No. 97 Ford Fusion for car owner Jack Roush. McMurray held a Q&A session in the PIR infield media center to discuss his move.

JAMIE MCMURRAY – No. 97 Roush Racing Ford Fusion – WHAT DOES THE CAR CAP MEAN AS FAR AS YOUR DEAL WITH ROUSH RACING? “I talked to Geoff Smith and Jack and it doesn’t really pertain to me. They’re grandfathered in, I guess, through 2009 so my contract runs through 2009, so I’m good as long as I’m there so far. That’s not something I’m really involved in anyway. That’s pretty much up to the owners and NASCAR.”

THOUGHTS ON DRIVING THE 97 AS OPPOSED TO THE 6. “This has taken so long to see exactly where I’m gonna be and where Kurt’s gonna be. Obviously, that was a big deal to get to get in the 6 car and to have Mark personally come ask me to replace him when he retires and things just didn’t work out that way. The 97 obviously won the championship last year and has won races this year and Roush Racing has been so successful, not only this year but for the last two or three years with the championships they’ve won. That’s hard to answer because if you say you’re disappointed not to go to the 6, I mean it’s a really good organization and I’m looking forward to going and obviously being with what’s currently the 97 team.”

ANY STRESS IN ALL OF THIS? “Yeah, just because I wanted to know. I made the commitment to Chip and I spoke with Chip two or three weeks ago and I told him. We talked about that there was a possibility that this deal might get accomplished this year, and I just wanted to know exactly where I was gonna be. The winter time is when you start building new cars and you want to know what team you’re gonna work with. If that was gonna be the 42 team, then I was OK with that because I had made my commitment to driving for Chip through next season, but at one point I thought that it was all gonna get worked out, and then there was a point where it was not gonna get worked out and I just wanted to know where I was gonna be. The guys that I’m working with now, they’re my best friends and it wasn’t gonna be that bad of a deal to have to stay with them. But when you know your future is with another organization, you want to move on. The biggest thing is you just want to know exactly what’s gonna happen, and it wasn’t in my control. It wasn’t a situation where they said, ‘What do you want to do?’ They knew that I wanted to move on and go to Roush Racing, but there are so many other things that were involved with that – not just my future and Kurt Busch’s future.”

WILL YOU RUN SOME BUSCH RACES NEXT YEAR AND THINGS LIKE THE ROLEX? “I think that actually there’s already been a little talk about running the 24 Hours of Daytona. That’s a fun race and we’re ready to get back in cars by the time that rolls around. As far as the Busch deal, I have every intention of being with Rusty’s Busch team for next year. Rusty has become probably my best friend in the garage area as far as drivers go. We hang out a lot and whether you’re playing golf or just talking about racing, he’s one of my best friends and he’s a great name to be involved with. He’s somebody I’ve always looked up to and we’ve made a lot of changes to the Busch team. We ended last year winning at Darlington and running second at Homestead and really felt like this year we had a shot to win a lot of races and things just haven’t gone well for us. It’s been a struggle, so we’ve made some changes internally with crew chiefs and everything and right now the Busch team is as fun as it’s ever been and everybody is getting along really well. I know that Top Flight is coming back next year. I’m not sure how many races they’ll be back, but Top Flight is coming back and I think they’re looking for some other sponsorship, so I have every intention of running as many Busch races as I can next year with Rusty.”

WERE YOU KEPT UP TO DATE ON THE SITUATION? “I was kept in the loop, but the deal was people would call and they didn’t have any information. They just kept telling you the same thing that you already knew, so I just pretty much told them that unless you have something that is gonna be of any significance, don’t call me. It doesn’t do any good to talk about it unless something is gonna happen. So I was definitely kept in the loop. Like I say, I think most of you know what’s happened. The best way it was put together was there was a lot of pieces of the puzzle and we kept thinking we had some and then we didn’t have those and then we’d get others. So it took a long time. Honestly, I just kind of tried not to think about it. As hard as it is to do, you try not to think about it but it’s your life and your future and everything that you’ve worked forever for and it’s tough when it’s undecided and you don’t know what you’re gonna do. So you try not to think about it, but obviously you do every day when you wake up.”

HOW EXCITED IS IT TO GO TO ROUSH? “I’m certainly not gonna get up here and bad mouth anyone because Chevron Texaco has been wonderful to work with and I won with Chip and Felix in our second race. It looked like a very bright future, unfortunately it just didn’t work out. We haven’t won a race. We’ve had a lot of success. We’ve run second I don’t know how many times and we ran really well, we just never got back to Victory Lane. That’s the reason I’m leaving. I’ve talked with Chip about this numerous times, it has nothing to do with personal feelings. I get along extremely well with everyone at the organization, including Chip and Felix. It’s certainly a business decision and Roush has won two championships. Right now I think they’re as strong as they’ve ever been with five drivers in the chase, so I’m looking forward to that. This is my decision and this is what I want to do and I’m very excited about moving on.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE JOINING A TEAM THAT HAS A BULLSEYE ON IT WITH THIS LATEST RULING? “I really don’t have an opinion. That’s not gonna effect me and my racing next year. You need to speak with people that are in upper management at Roush because I don’t really have an opinion on that and that’s not something I even want to comment on.”

DO YOU TRY TO STEER CLEAR OF CONTRACTS AND THAT KIND OF THING OR ARE YOU HANDS ON? “I think contracts are wonderful things when everything is written out on a piece of paper with what exactly the rules are of the agreement. When you don’t have a contract is when people get confused and they assume things. So I think it’s wonderful that we have contracts for both sides.  If a better opportunity comes along for a car owner with a better driver, every driver wants to know that there’s some security in that he’s not gonna be let go and vice versa for car owners. So I think it’s great. Do you want to be involved in them? No, because to be quite honest if anybody’s ever read a contract they don’t make sense. It has a lot of ‘where as and what is’ and that honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I believe every other driver would be lying if he said it made sense to him, but I think it’s wonderful that we have contracts and that’s the way it should be. As long as everybody honors those, then it’s great.”

HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU IN THIS DECISION? “It’s a tough decision because you make a decision based on performance and on the business side of it, not on your personal feelings. If you did this based on personal feelings, I’d still be at Chip Ganassi Racing because you develop relationships with your team and your crew chiefs and with everyone around the organization. Whether it’s the secretary at the front desk you become friends with them and it’s tough because you know in a month those aren’t gonna be the same people that you work with. I can’t even give you a comparison, but it’s hard to move on and go somewhere else. There’s 350 employees, I think, at Chip Ganassi Racing and I was almost to a point where I knew everyone’s name, and now I’m moving on to another team and gonna walk into a shop on Monday and maybe know five people. So it’s tough, but you move on because in this sport you want to win. All the drivers and crew members and owners, every one lives to win races. You wake up every day and that’s your goal. When you go two or three years and you don’t win, you look at that and you have to figure out what’s best for you and where you need to go to try to win. That’s what I based my decision on.”

ANY ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE ANOTHER DRIVER IN THIS SITUATION? “I don’t know. It’s not something that’s really in your control. When you’re (Multbox cuts out at this point.)

“Guys, honestly, last Monday when I spoke with Chip, I really felt that I was gonna be in the 42 car next year and I was fine with that because I had signed a contract that said that’s where I was gonna be. So I kind of mentally was prepared to stay in the 42 next year and be fully content with that. If things worked out where I could go to the 97, then that was gonna be great. Yeah, you somewhat hoped that things would get worked out, but I wasn’t counting on it.”

WHAT ABOUT HAVING MARK AS A TEAMMATE AND THE OTHER GUYS? “One of the things I based my decision on with going to Roush Racing was the teammates I was gonna have because I knew that Reid and David were gonna be coming to Ganassi. I still feel that I’m young enough that I need to learn from people that have been around for a long time and it was gonna be tough to learn a lot from two guys that felt like they were gonna be learning from me. One of the things that I’ve thought about in the last week or so is that I was supposed to go replace Mark Martin – someone that I looked up to forever – and I talked to him this week and I said, ‘Man, I’m gonna get to be your teammate now. It’s like a bonus.’ So I look forward to that. And Matt and Greg and Mark, and obviously Carl has had a lot of success the last two weeks, are really smart drivers. The one thing about all of the Roush drivers, I think, is that they’re really into their chassis and everything it takes to make a car go fast and I love that. That’s one of the things I really get out of racing is learning on what makes a car go faster. There are a lot of different types of drivers in our series. There are some that could care less, but they can drive and they seem to be able to tell a crew chief what they need in order to make it faster. The Roush guys are all pretty hands on, so I look forward to that part of being at Roush Racing.”

           NASCAR released a statement Thursday afternoon stating that car owners would have to adhere to a cap of no more than four teams. Jack Roush, who currently has all five of his Ford Tauruses in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, spoke about the new rule in a group interview session.

JACK ROUSH – Car Owner, Roush Racing Tauruses – THE DETAILS OF THIS ARE SKETCHY. “There are no details. It has the feel that we’re going to make it up as we go.”

THEY SAY THIS IS AIMED TO HELP A GUY COMING IN WITH A SINGLE-CAR TEAM, BUT YET HE CAN HAVE FOUR TEAMS. HOW DOES THAT CHANGE GOING FROM FIVE TO FOUR? “I don’t think it changes at all. The thing that they did by picking on five rather than four is they singled me out. I’m the only guy with five viable teams and the worst of all scenarios is we put all five of them in the Chase and, of course, that gave the bonus to our sponsors for the exposure that they got from being involved with us rather than somebody else and they want to diminish it to an extent. The WWF has their ways of determining who is going to win and what the ranking is and maybe NASCAR behind the scenes is trying to do the same thing.”

SO YOU TAKE THIS PERSONALLY? “I take it personally. I do take it personally.”

WHAT DO YOU DO FROM HERE ON OUT? “I get up every day. I put on my pants like I do the day before and I do the best I can, and every day has a surprise – an opportunity and a challenge.”

DO YOU SEE WHERE THEY CHANGED ANYTHING? LIKE YOU SAID AT KANSAS IS IT JUST ‘GET SHORTY’? “They tell me it’s not personal, but I’m the only guy standing here with five teams that is making them work. They’ve brought it out just at a time when we were starting our Chase. If they wanted to cause distractions to my teams; if they wanted to create anxiety among my drivers; if they wanted to create a question in my sponsors as to my viability and my commitment and the prospect for Roush Racing going forward, they would do exactly what they’ve done.”

SO ARE THEY GOING DOWN TO THREE EVENTUALLY AND THIS IS JUST A START? “No, they’ve told me that it’s four. But they haven’t said that they would never, never, never consider anything less because you could start that slide and then you could say, ‘Well, it’s got to be one team, one owner.’ But I’m not sure in the light of day, I’m not sure with the interstate commerce laws that are on the books steadily and with the right to work laws that are in the various states around, I’m not sure that what they’re doing is right. I’m not saying I’m the guy to go take a position and to unearth it right now, but I’m not sure what they’re trying to do is legally right or is defenseable in a court of law. But I want to be in this business. I don’t want to jeopardize my sponsors and my drivers and our prospects in the near term and too much distraction through an adjudication process would certainly not be in NASCAR’s interest and would almost certainly not be in my interest and would very likely not have an outcome that I could be happy with under any certain area. I choose not to fight that right now, at least not when it’s at four. You get an animal cornered, he can be a pretty meek animal but he’ll fight pretty hard when he’s in a corner. I think that through this that they really didn’t want to corner us. Even though it was about Roush and it was about Mark Martin and it was about Matt Kenseth and it was about Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle – that even though it was about all that, they don’t want to put us out of business.”

DO YOU FEEL THE MEETING THIS MORNING WAS A WASTE OF TIME? “The meeting I had this morning, you didn’t ask me about the press release but it was on the matter of the press release. I guess there was only half of you that got the press release.”



WAS IT PARAPHRASED OR DID THEY MAKE IT UP? “Wasn’t my quote. There were words in there that I use. I speak the English language and there are words that I’ve used in this interview that could be taken out of context and applied at sometime in the future to suit somebody’s purpose to a mean that would be contrivance and I made no such comment.”

GEOFF SMITH – President, Roush Racing – DID THIS CATCH YOU BY SURPRISE? WHEN WERE YOU NOTIFIED OF THIS DECISION OF HAVING TO EVENTUALLY CUT BACK TO FOUR TEAMS? “There were different levels of surprises throughout the process and the discussions. We had assumed over a period of time that our opinion would be solicited and we would have an opportunity to discuss the intellectual side of what prompted the thinking for a cap, and at what point did a certain number of teams make sense. So the thing that caught us by surprise was the press conference at Kansas City when it seemed like it was a done deal – that in fact there was going to be a limit that was going to affect us as opposed to a limit that stopped with us. That was the first official alert that we had and then from that point on we began, based on what we heard, to marshal up all of the data over the last 15 years in an attempt to publicly illustrate that the reasons being given to the public as well as us weren’t valid. The culmination of that was a recent meeting on Tuesday when we were officially informed that there was a policy. We received a preview of that policy informally within seven days prior to that meeting and were instructed to be prepared to discuss the consequences of going to four and how you would do it and how long it would take and that they were open to that. In the meeting on Tuesday we were told to expect a release on Thursday that announced the policy, and it would also announce that we were going to be grandfathered for some indeterminate period based on rules to be officially determined.