Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues this week heading into the Talladega Superspeedway race, where Carl Edwards once had an infamous finish. Edwards took time to answer SB Nation's 12 questions at Martinsville.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
CE: Well, it might be Ricky Stenhouse after what I saw at (Fontana). I don't know if you saw that Nationwide race, but that guy can drive. It's amazing.
SBN: What's a race you didn't win that still bugs you today?
CE: Kansas in '08 (where he tried to cross over in front of Jimmie Johnson on the last lap). On the last pit stop, I asked for an adjustment that I didn't need. And I shouldn't have asked for it. I wanted to win that race bad. Until I win a race there, that one is going to bug me.
SBN: If you could pick any teammates aside from your current ones – manufacturer and sponsor conflicts aside – who would you pick?
CE: Well, who you're friends with is different than who you'd like to team up with. I like the teammates I have now. If I had to pick three others, that would include Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
But aside from them, I'd pick Jimmie Johnson – because I'd like to be able to compare notes with him after the race; Mark Martin – because of the way he drives the car and cares about it as much as anyone; and...let me think.
(After thinking for about 15 seconds) The last one would probably be Kyle Busch. I'd like to be able to compare notes with him at some of these racetracks. That'd be pretty fun.
SBN: What driver did you most want to model yourself after when you were growing up?
CE: Kenny Schrader. He's my dad's cousin, so I had met him when he was a kid. He would come through town and stuff, and he was the only guy who I had met that raced at this level. But no matter what, it always seemed like he really, really enjoyed what he was doing.
And he raced everything. He raced a dirt Late Model and a dirt modified and a midget, and to me, that's what I thought was neat about Schrader. He made it to this level, but, really, he just liked to race. That's cool.
SBN: What's a memorable post-race escape you've made to the airport?
CE: So at Martinsville last year in the Chase, I did the ESPN interview (in the Pit Studio) after the race. And when I got done with the ESPN stuff, they'd locked all the gates. So I had to climb the fences and then crawl under the catch fence on the wall.
But I had to climb the fence at the top of the grandstand, so all these people are watching me like, 'Who's this idiot climbing the fence?' And it was a pretty tall fence. Had to climb two fences and a wall to get out, so that was pretty good!
SBN: Who is somebody famous you'd like to meet that you haven't met yet?
CE: Is Milton Friedman still alive? I'd like to spend a little time talking with him.
SBN: I'm not actually sure who that is.
CE (starts Googling "Milton Friedman" on his phone): Aw man! He's an economist, statistician guy. Here, let me show you. You've never seen some of his stuff?
SBN: It doesn't really ring a bell...
CE: Ah! He died. Well...dang it!
SBN: That would have been a good one.
CE: Yeah, because I'm interested in what's going on in the world right now, what's going to happen here in the next... (interrupts himself to show Friedman's Wikipedia entry). Yeah, so he was an economist. You've never heard some of his stuff? Man, you've gotta check it out.
I want to think of the right person for your question. Anyway, what's the next one?
SBN: Last year, there were two types of seasons. Jamie McMurray won a couple races but ---
CE: I'll say Thomas Sowell! (shows Wikipedia entry of Sowell, an economist/theorist/political philosopher, on his phone)
SBN: OK. So is it that you want to talk economics with someone?
CE: It's not economics, necessarily, it's that these guys have the broad view of what's going on in the world. There's a lot more in this big picture. I'd just like to hang out with one of those guys.
SBN: Anyway, last year McMurray won a couple huge races but didn't make the Chase; Jeff Gordon didn't win any races but made the Chase and contended for the title. Which type of season would you rather have?
CE: At this point, if I win the championship, I'd take that over anything. But I've been in the Chase and run third and second in the points, all that stuff. The hell with that! I'd like to win some races, you know?
If I could win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and Kansas, I'd take that. At this point in my career, I'd take Jamie's year over a year where I didn't win the championship or a race.
SBN: When you hang it up someday, what do you want your retirement story to say about you?
CE: Probably the same thing everybody wants. The biggest thing is I just want to be a good father and a fair person. That's the most important thing.
SBN: Everybody wants to win. But where do you get your motivation to win? What drives you?
CE: I think that's just an internal thing that probably all of us drivers are cursed with. From Day One, some of my earliest memories are just picking something and making that my challenge, then working at it. This is an awesome situation that we're in: It's the ultimate challenge. You work on these machines, and then there's a social aspect to it and then there's the driving. So it's just a fun game, you know?
SBN: If you could switch lives with any athlete, who would want to switch with?
CE: Oh, man. I'd like to be a motocross racer. To me, that's the ultimate bravery, physical conditioning, stamina, confidence – those guys are just machines. If I could do that well, that'd be awesome. I'd love to do that.
SBN: How different is your personality inside the car and outside the car?
CE (chuckles): I think it's a lot different. And it should be. This is my sport, this is what I do. During the race, I'd say I'm a little more ruthless, because that's what it is – it's a race. It's going to be over when the checkered flag falls, and you don't get to do it again. But in life, I try to be much more forgiving and much more calm.
SBN: If you could leave NASCAR for a year and go do whatever you wanted, then come back knowing you had a job waiting for you, would you want to do that?
CE: Well, I can do that. You know what I mean? And I don't, so...
I think any of us in the top 10 or 12 of the sport could probably take a year off and come back. I don't think you'd do well and I don't think it would work very well. That's why I'd never do it – I'm too competitive and I want to do this until I'm done with this, and then I'll go do something else.
It might be interesting to see if somebody did, though. That'd be wild.
SBN: Let's say you're going to win the championship this year. Would you rather do it having clinched the title at Phoenix, or would you like to win it coming off Turn 4 of the last lap at Homestead?
CE: Well, if you know you're going to win it, then for sure the last turn of the last lap. That'd be great! That'd be like the ultimate. But the part that would make it fun would be not knowing if you were going to win it. It'd be the heart-pounding feeling, knowing this last lap meant more than anything in the world. That would be awesome. It'd be unbelievable!