FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Race week is underway at Daytona Motor Speedway and 3-time Texas Motor Speedway Sprint Cup champion Carl Edwards got things started in a big way by winning his first Daytona 500 pole position on Sunday.
After his qualifying run of 194.738 miles per hour, I had a chance to chat with Edwards in a satellite interview that will air on TXA 21.
Edwards was elated to get the new NASCAR season kicked off in a positive way, especially after his #99 Roush-Fenway Ford Fusion lost the Sprint Cup season title last year to Tony Stewart’s #14 Chevy Impala on a tiebreaker.
“We had the opportunity to do one of two things. It could’ve crushed us or it could’ve made us stronger and we’ve been preaching all winter that it’s made us stronger,” Edwards told me. “It’s nice to come here and prove that to everyone, to say, hey, we’ve built the best cars we’ve ever had at Daytona. My guys are motivated. Everyone’s working hard. The biggest thing now is to go have a good qualifying race on Thursday and, hopefully, go win this Daytona 500.”
This Daytona 500 will be unlike any of the previous seven in which Edwards has raced.
The rules have been tweaked to eliminate tandem racing, or the 2-car draft, and for the first time in 63 years, NASCAR has bid farewell to the carburetor in favor of electronic fuel injection systems.
“I’ve learned a bunch over the years but, really, the way the rules changed, you have to really be in the here and now. In the Shootout (won by Kyle Busch on Saturday night), I think a lot of us learned a lot about how this race is going to shape up on Sunday,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be crazy. A week from now, there are going to be a lot of unhappy drivers and, obviously, one guy will be really happy.”
NASCAR fans seemed enthused about the changes after an exciting Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night that featured some nifty driving by eventual winner Kyle Busch.
Veteran driver Jeff Gordon was involved in a wreck that flipped his #24 Chevy on its roof.
“I did learn quite a bit in the Shootout,” said Edwards. “We’re the 99 car, and as long as it’s the 99 car and not the 66, we’ll be great. We don’t want to flip over. When you’ve got guys the caliber of Jeff Gordon flipping end over end down the race track, and you’ve got cars sliding all over the race track, it’s a chaotic thing. You never know what’s going to happen.”
However, Carl Edwards wouldn’t mind doing a different kind of flip at the end of Sunday’s Daytona 500 – a backward flip off his Ford Fusion that’s become his signature victory celebration.
Edwards told me, “I stole the idea from another racer, Tyler Walker, and I saw Ozzie Smith do the flip for the Cardinals. I just thought it was a cool thing to do if you won. So, I started doing it at my local dirt track, and fortunately I’ve been able to do a couple of them there at Texas Motor Speedway, and I’ve really enjoyed it. As long as I keep winning races, hopefully, I can still do the flip.”
A celebratory flip Sunday afternoon for the 32-year old Edwards would be the twentieth of his Sprint Cup career and his first at the Daytona 500 after finishing runner-up to 20-year old Trevor Baine last year.