Even with only one top-five in four starts at Kentucky Speedway, Carl Edwards admits that he is a fan of Kentucky Speedway and hopes that he can have a good run on Saturday night after crashing out of the past two events.
Edwards says the reason that he likes Kentucky is it has character – from the bumps, to the grooves to how the banking changes around the 1.5 mile oval. He says that makes the race tough on the crew chief and driver in calling the right strategy and making the right adjustments, giving you more satisfaction post-race.
“To me, the part about this sport that I love is that you can work hard, you can prepare for the race, you can work with your crew and you can drive your car the right way and have good strategy and win the race based on your own merit,” he commented.
Though if he wants to do well this weekend, he is going to have to master the new aero package quickly that NASCAR has implemented in an effort to improve the racing. The new aerodynamic package calls for teams to use a 3.5-inch spoiler, instead of a 6-inch one. It also features a radiator pan reduction from 38 inches to 25 inches. The splitter will have 1.75 inches less overhang than what was used in the first 17 races this season. As a result of these changes, the cars should feature 900 pounds of less downforce.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind that we’re really just stepping back a few years with the aerodynamics, but it’s still the right direction,” he commented. “I grew up being a stock car fan because stock car races are races where the guys are out there driving the cars sideways and they’re using every bit of the tire and they’re able to race close to one another. That’s where the heart and soul of NASCAR is about to me. For me, the less dependency on aerodynamics and having nobody in front of you that we have, the better off we are.”
The drivers were supposed to get a pair of test sessions on Wednesday to try out the new package, but the rain prevented that from happening. NASCAR announced that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice that was originally scheduled for Thursday from 8 a.m. EST to Noon EST will now take place from 8 a.m. to 10:55 a.m., with the Sprint Cup Series slotted to be on track 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Sprint Cup Series also has sessions scheduled for Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:55 a.m and 1 p.m. to 2:25 p.m. for the Sprint Cup Series final practice.
For the importance of the package, Edwards says that you can’t overstate how important the extra track time is.
“The way that we race here and the way that we race at Darlington is going to give us all a good data point going forward. NASCAR, all of us – we want closer racing and we want better racing, we want it to be more exciting, more fun and NASCAR has a lot of things on the table,” he explained. “This low downforce package here and Darlington, we’re going to do a high downforce package at Indy and Michigan. I know they’re not going to come ask me about either of them because they know what I’m going to say, but it’s a good data point and so this test, this race, Darlington – they’re going to be important going forward.”
It seems odd to some to see a change halfway through a season to a whole package, however it came about from the drivers requesting it in the driver council meetings. Edwards says the drivers wanted a low downforce package and NASCAR offered that, but also has a high downforce package to try both sides of the coin. While it isn’t what Edwards wanted, he understands that it’s fair to try everything.
“I just really, really hope we continue to go down the path of what the sport was built on and that’s not aerodynamics and that’s my opinion,” he added. “I do believe that the closer we get to restrictor plate racing, the racing will look different and it will look more like what we see at Daytona, but really for me personally that’s not the most fun type of racing. It might look interesting, but you really can’t separate yourself from the field and that’s what I like. Everybody has their different opinions.”
Edwards feels that he likes the way that things are going in putting the cars back in the driver’s hands more, but also understands the differing opinions from the fans.
“I really believe in this sport there are two types of fans,” he commented. “There are the fans that really like the race and they like to see the guys get the cars balanced and man-handle the race cars and do all that and they understand it and I think there are the fans that believe that just because cars are closer than that means it’s a better race.”
In searching for the right package, Edwards admits that he will lean heavily on teammate Kyle Busch based on Busch’s success last year at Kentucky Speedway.
“That’s one of the cool things about being a JGR driver is that these guys just push me and push me every week – figuratively,” he said. “Literally, we haven’t been pushing each other yet. The guys are just awesome to lean on so I’ll do that.”