THE MODERATOR: Joining us now at the podium is the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver champion along with his crew chief, driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., driver of the No. 6 Blackwell Angus Ford. He’s joined by crew chief Mike Kelly. You finished 45 points ahead of Elliott Sadler. You’re the seventh former NASCAR Sunoco Rookie of the Year to go on and win the series championship. I think in the first season of the selective for a championship that the NASCAR Nationwide Series could not have named a finer champion. So congratulations, and your thoughts about being the champion.
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: Man, it’s unbelievable. There’s a lot of people that’s worked really hard for this. My family, they’ve sacrificed a lot; Jack Roush, all these guys on our team. They were with us when we were struggling and they never gave up last year and really believed in me. Everybody at Ford Racing, Blackwell Angus Beef and Cargo. Everyone has worked really hard and rallied together to be a team effort.
Our cars back at the shop are phenomenal, all the guys that work hard there, everybody at Roush Yates Engines. It’s a total team effort and it means the world to be able to bring this championship to Jack and just being a little bit of the history that he has in this sport, and for Ford to get the manufacturers and for Jack to get the owners, it was for sure just a huge team effort. Mike Kelly never let us down. He rallied us even when we weren’t good, and when I would get a little mad out there on the racetrack, he straightened me out and helped us keep digging.
THE MODERATOR: Crew chief Mike Kelly, congratulations on the championship, and talk about what it’s like to be the crew chief for the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver champion.
MIKE KELLY: Just like Ricky said, it means a lot. I heard Carl say the other day, it’s not about the trophy that you get, it’s the journey that you go on to get there, and I couldn’t say that any more for working with Ricky the last 16, 18 months that we’ve been together. We had some tough times last year, and that was documented very well, and anyone could have walked away. Jack could have turned his back on him, Ford could have, and our guys could have. There was a lot of tough days and grim nights back at the shop, and nobody did, I’m so proud of my guys and proud of Jack and Ford for sticking behind Ricky and seeing it through, and to come through what we did all last year and during the off-season, we really put our heads down and we weren’t picked to be the favorite, and that’s probably what helped us the most. We were kind of overshadowed by the Elliott Sadlers and the Allgaiers and Reed Sorensons, and that kind of gave us the fight and the desire back at the shop to make sure we come out strong.
Like Ricky said, it’s a total team effort. It’s not me. I’ve got a great engineer staff. We’ve got Robby Reiser back there. We moved our shop. Jack let us move down to the Cup shop in Concord and that was a big plus for us, and the cars we get out there are second to none and the engines are probably second to none. We never quit.
We had bad days at the beginning of the year. We learned as a group on fuel mileage and fuel strategy. I felt like we gave away a couple wins early in the year based on that and just really proud of the effort this team put in during the hard times. We really dug in there and finished it off strong.
THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined by owner Jack Roush, and we made history tonight in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. For the first time a team won both the driver and Owners Championship but with two different primary drivers. Obviously Ricky Stenhouse winning the drivers championship and then the No. 60 driven by Carl Edwards, 33 races, Billy Johnson one race, won the Owners Championship. So congratulations, Jack, on winning the daily double I guess you could say. I know that’s a great accomplishment for your race team.
JACK ROUSH: When Carl won his Nationwide championship in 2007, and of course I didn’t win the Owners Championship, I didn’t know what I did wrong. I didn’t do anything more wrong than I did right this time. It is an honor that’s given to team owners that’s really at the mercy of the efforts of the crew chiefs and the drivers and all the crew, and I’m glad to be sharing the honors with Carl and with Ricky and with Mike Beam and with Mike Kelly.
One thing I want to say, I’ve been doing this for this is my 24th year and my third Nationwide championship, or third Nationwide championship I’ve helped a driver win, but Ricky sits here tonight because of the sacrifice and dedication of a great family, and without his mother and his father, and I’m looking at his mother across the room here and I saw his dad earlier and his sisters, but without their sacrifice, their dedication and their determination to see to it Ricky had everything he needed to develop into the driver he’s become, it would not have happened because people like myself or Tony Stewart or other owners out there that have got the race cars would never be able to identify, find a Ricky Stenhouse without the family doing all they have to do and the dark days before it really goes public.
But Mike Kelly did a great job this year, Mike Beam did a great job behind the scenes, Carl Edwards provided great leadership from a driver point of view, Trevor Bayne did a great job challenging Ricky in some ways and supporting him in others and they challenged and supported one another. So it’s been a great team effort that we’re celebrating tonight. But I’m especially thankful and respectful of the sacrifice of the whole Stenhouse family made to get Ricky where he is.
Q. Is this going to be the biggest thing to ever happen in Olive Branch?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: I would probably say so. It’s going to be cool. We’re going to plan on taking the trophy, I’m going to the Christmas parade and be the grand marshal December 3rd. It’ll be a good homecoming for sure. Got a lot of people back there that are really supportive of what we’re doing. The whole school system, just everybody down there, it’s really cool to have a community behind you like that.
Q. You were in the top 5 in points I think the whole season but went to first in the middle of the year and stayed there. Was there kind of a momentum shift after that happened, after you got to first?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: We look at it as one whole year. We got the lead a couple times, lost it, got it a couple times. But the last time we got it we were bound and determined not to give it back. We wanted to seal it up before coming to Homestead. We did the best job we could, and it was just the whole year, just the total team effort, just really working, not making mistakes on pit road, not making mistakes as a driver and as a crew chief. I think at the end of the year, we really limited our mistakes that we made in the first half of the year that gave those points leads back to other people.
So that was the main thing that we focused on.
Q. Carl was in here and regaled us with tales, Jack, of your meetings with Ricky and the group last year. Ricky, from your perspective, what was maybe the one biggest lesson that you took out of that? Mike, did you often feel like the glue that was holding the whole thing together? And Jack, obviously you stuck with Ricky, and at any point did you feel like it might not make it, and what was the biggest lesson you were trying to impart with what you put the group through?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: The one biggest thing I think I learned from everything that Jack has done for me is that he cares about me as a person and really wanted me to succeed. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t have put me in the body shop. I think that’s one thing I learned from my dad. He was tough on me growing up, but it was always for a reason. Jack has been an awesome team owner. He’s done a lot of great things in NASCAR and I’m proud to be a part of this one little thing. He’s been doing it a long time. He’s got his ways of doing things and you’ve just got to look at the positives from it, and I think that was one of the biggest things I learned.
JACK ROUSH: We never did fail to take you to the emergency room when you needed stitches, though, right?
Q. We really didn’t get a tale, though. Carl came in and told us about the boot camp that you put your drivers through, and you’ve gone through – I would say a revolving door of Nationwide guys, but I mean, just looking for that special something, what was it that you saw in Ricky that you just refused to give up that you just insisted on pushing him to the point to see if he had what it took to get to that next level?
JACK ROUSH: Ricky was extraordinarily talented. Every challenge we gave him with the new racetrack or with the new problem with the car, as we changed the car, Ricky was – he was bright and he was quick, and he was talented in meeting those challenges. But the thing that was always there when you’d reach a situation when it was clear that you could go down this path or that path, and Mike Beam or Mike Kelly or myself or Robby Reiser decided that we were going to go down one of the two paths that was out there, Ricky always went along with it. He never called his dad for support and said they’re going too hard on me, he never challenged what we were trying to do, he just went along with the program. That’s what a rookie needs to do, he needs to go along with the program of the people that are trying to look after him if they’ve got his interest in mind, and my group obviously did.
But the other thing was that he was just driven to be competitive to the extent of self-destruction to start with, and it’s much easier to temper that and to rationalize that and to deal with it than it is for somebody, and I’ve had people that could drive the race cars that didn’t want it as bad enough, as bad as the people next to them, and then they couldn’t realize the ultimate prize. But Ricky wanted it bad. He was raised and raised himself to be a race car driver. This was his opportunity, and he tried to hang onto it too tight to start with so he couldn’t realize the success that was there for him. But very quickly we got over that.
Q. We talked about this at mid season when you were in contention: This is the first championship under this new format where the guys who won like Brad, five races, and Carl, eight, but you’re the champion with two wins. Can you just kind of talk about just how you feel about being the first champion in this new format, and does it mean as much?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: It means just as much. We race week in and week out with those guys. We gave them a run for their money tonight. I think that’s – ultimately my goal is to go out there and win the Drivers and Owners Championship. We finished third in the Owners Championship. We ran really strong all year, and we beat Carl, we beat Brad, we passed those guys, we raced Kyle Busch. So I think as a race team and my as a driver, I feel like we’re just as good as those guys, and I think that racing up there and beating them definitely makes this championship definitely worth it.
Q. Ricky, as far as – could you talk a little bit about finishing strong? Here you get the championship and you come in second, you almost got the race. Could you talk a little bit about that, please?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: Man, this racetrack is one of my favorites. I wish we came here twice at least. Last year was the first year here, had a lot of fun, and this is just my style of racetrack. You can drive it in hard, let it slide up to the wall and get back into the gas and let it really hang out. It reminds me a lot of sprint car racing. Last year we finished fourth, ran really strong, and this year we just came up one spot short and maybe one corner short. But man, it was fun racing those guys. We were sideways, turning right, trying to keep it off the fence, getting into the fence every now and then, and to race up there with Carl, Brad, Denny, Clint Bowyer, Elliott Sadler, those guys, they’re some of the best in the business, and to be up there racing with them and Denny, it’s fun.
Q. At what point did you know it was yours in the race tonight, and did that at all change your philosophy? What was your philosophy going in and then afterwards when you knew you had secured it?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: Yeah, we were going 100 percent there from the start. It’s tough to get me to back down any, and I’m not good at riding around. And I’m not sure what lap it was. Mike Kelly came over and told me that we were good to go. We had won the championship. But we stayed focused and I think I drove 110 percent after that, so that was the only thing that really changed.
Q. Ricky and Mike, in a lot of championship seasons there’s a moment or a time that’s a watershed moment or a turning point. Was there anything like that where you felt either a direction that gave you confidence or a turnaround that happened during the course of the year that sort of gave you the boost toward the title?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: I can think of two. Early in the year when we led laps at Bristol, ran up there with Kyle, and I was kind of playing around with him the whole time talking to Kyle afterwards, he was like, man, you had the best car, we made a mistake on fuel mileage and we made a mistake as a race team getting lined up, and we got caught two laps down. I think we rallied together. We worked on our fuel mileage with Ford, and everybody at Roush-Fenway, Roush Yates worked on our fuel mileage and kind of got a direction there and that really helped us, and then Indy when we led 190 laps and we came up a couple spots short, that was pretty tough for us, but we were bound and determined to win some more races and really run up front and dig hard.
Mike was the one that kind of rallied everybody together and kept everybody digging.
MIKE KELLY: Yeah, I kind of agree with him. Early in the year we made a few mistakes and left a lot of points on the table, a lot more than we’d ever thought, and I really feel like if we would have been a little smarter, a little better, earlier in the year we would have been right in the middle of that Owners Championship and that was our goal from the beginning. But the thing that meant a lot to me is we sat down in January and we circled a bunch of dates on the calendar for Ricky’s experience level on the road course races. We kind of had a goal. We said we’d have to be 25 points in the lead coming into the last two-road-course race swing knowing that Elliott had a lot of experience and Ricky had never been to Watkins Glen. And we knew we’d take our lumps there, but if we could good get out of there we didn’t care if it was a one-point lead or a two-point lead we could tell ourselves we came out of there with a lead and it was ours to hold onto. The last ten races of the year really laid into Ricky’s schedule, a bunch of short tracks thrown in there with some couple mile-and-a-halfs that the cars have been good on. When we made it through the two road course races, and I don’t know if it was six, seven, eight points or something, we came out of there with a lead, and I remember looking at him on a plane, and I told him, picture we came in here five points behind and we actually came out six points ahead and we’ll look at it that way instead of saying that we lost ten today and we got the guys rallied back at the shop and said we’ve only got to turn left from here on in, and Ricky can do that as good as anybody. Lack of experience or not, he’s as talented as anybody I’ve ever seen behind the wheel.
Q. When people like me do predictions at the start of the year maybe didn’t even have you in the top 5, did you think we were – we didn’t know how good you were, or were you like, man, I don’t know what this season holds? And did you use it as motivation at all?
RICKY STENHOUSE, JR.: We definitely used that as motivation. We felt like at the end of last year Mike Kelly and I were sitting down at the banquet watching Brad get the trophy. We told each other right there as strong as we were running at the end of the year, running in the top 5 with the Cup guys, we were going for that championship, and that was before they ever changed the points system.
You know, obviously they changed the points system, and we still weren’t in sight to do that from the media’s perspective. But we felt like as a race team we could do that. I felt like as a driver I was just as good as anybody else out there, and if we put everything together then we knew we had a shot at this championship.
But it was just fine. Y’all have been doing this a long time, and I’m just getting started, so it was good to come out here and get this championship.
THE MODERATOR: Ricky, Jack and Mike Kelly, congratulations on this championship. As I mentioned, Jack, a double championship for Roush-Fenway, and Ricky, certainly you’re going to be a great champion for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I have a real good feeling about that. Congratulations, and Jack, good luck tomorrow, as well.
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THE MODERATOR: Let’s roll into our race winning team for tonight 17th Annual Ford 300 Nationwide Series race and our winner is Brad Keselowski. He drives the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge for Penske Racing. He’s joined by his crew chief, Todd Gordon. This is Brad’s 17th career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. His fifth in 2011. His first one here at Homestead Miami Speedway. And as the defending champion of this series, I know you’ve got to feel good about coming to Homestead Miami and winning the season finale.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yes, absolutely. You know, it’s been kind of an up-and-down year on all sides, whether Cup or Nationwide side, and it certainly feels good to finish this year off very strong with a win and sitting on the pole today.
We had a very fast car for sure in qualifying. There was a couple moments where we struggled in the race for sure, but we worked on it and didn’t spend a lot of time whining and moaning and made the most of it at the end.
Carl definitely put up a good fight, and it was going to come down to the last restart. I really thought once I had him cleared that I could drive away with the clean air, but I got to pushing real bad and he was able to drive right back up on me and from there it was going to be a dog fight. He fought hard and I fought hard and we were fortunate enough to come out on top.
THE MODERATOR: Crew Chief Todd Gordon, congratulations on this win. Talk about how things went down on pit road tonight.
TODD GORDON: We made a couple adjustments after practice not having second practice today and thought we would get a little more aggressive with travels and we kind of missed it really, over-traveled the car, wore the splitter, got on the splitter pretty hard there the first half of the race, and we kind of struggled with trying to get off of that all day.
But you know, we just kept plugging at it, and Brad never gave up and several rounds of around the car to try to get ourselves settled and away from the splitter, but it just comes down to Brad’s talent when it comes to restarts and finishing. He pulled out a day that we probably didn’t give him the best piece to work with, but he made it happen.
Q. Brad, how cool was it that you’re last year’s champion dueling this year’s champion at the end?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It was really neat.
Q. Talk about the passing of the torch like that.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Absolutely. My spotter was talking about it during the race with Carl being a past Nationwide champion and myself being last year’s and racing with Ricky, it was kind of cool. It’s good to see the sport and the progression that it takes. It’s a good moment to reflect on where the sport is, was and is heading.
Q. For a while there it looked almost like it was between you and Carl. He said he tapped you but failed to hit you hard enough.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: (Laughing).
Q. Were you worried there as you kept blocking him that you might pay a price for that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I only put a move on him once. One move is cool; two moves is not. That’s how I always feel about it. You get one move, and I used my one move. So that’s kind of how I feel about it. I guess every driver has their own code and I used up my one move and he never made a second one.
Q. Do you know what your Nationwide plans are for next year, and if you don’t run – I assume you’re not running as many races. Is that a good thing, a bad thing or what?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Sure. The thing about the Nationwide car to me, there’s a lot of things about it, but the Nationwide program was a great opportunity for me to come into Penske Racing and be a part of creating something special in multiple ways, from being able to win a first championship for Roger to creating depth in a company that would serve us for years to come. And for me to have a shot at just being successful and feeling like if the Cup side didn’t go so well, which I think to be honest, I had some suspicions it wouldn’t, that I wouldn’t lose my own confidence and that those around me wouldn’t.
To make that all happen, it took commitments from people and those people work on the team, those people work in the shop and those people sponsor the race car. And so in order to live up to my end of that, and I’ve certainly been rewarded with it and we’re starting to see success from that on the Cup side, I can’t just run away from that. I’ve got to live up to that, and the commitments that those people have made to me, I’ve got to make the commitment back to them.
I plan on continuing that commitment to them and slowly scaling that down as the time passes by, and I think we looked at this year and I ran somewhere around 28 races approximately. Does that sound about right?
And you know, I would suspect that over the next few years that you will see that continue to roll back in a number of – we lost six or seven races this year, and I would assume that would probably shed a few more next year and then the year after. Those things are always changing, so it’s hard to give a definitive answer, but that would be my own expectations.
Q. Brad, we mentioned 17 wins. Do these wins, some mean more to you? Do you kind of lose some of them as you go along, or does the last one feel pretty good?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You’re only as good as your last win, you know. I don’t know. To me I always feel like not only are you only as good as your last win but you never know when your last win is going to be, so you’d better savor it.
I’ve been through up-and-down patches in my life as a race car driver and I can remember being a crew member and going through a patch of four or five years not winning a race and, damn, it sure made me appreciate the ones that I was able to win before that. I sure as hell don’t take it for granted. This could be the last one of my career as far as I’m concerned.
I feel like every time I get in a race car, I have something to prove; and when you’re able to prove it like we’re able to do today as a team, it feels pretty damned good to me.
Q. Todd, from your perspective, talk about what winning this final race of the season means and what it means after coming off the championship season with Brad and as you look ahead with him saying his schedule is going to decrease. From your perspective what does that mean to you and the team?
TODD GORDON: To reflect on the year, we kind of built – I made my pre-race comment, but we kind of lost some continuity from what the 22 team was last year, had a lot of new faces, myself being one of them. The car chief came over from a different place. The engineer, we’ve had a couple different that weren’t here. So we built a lot of chemistry this year, and I think the last half of the season shows a lot for that.
A couple things that are unique about this year: Brad has won five races in the 22 car this year, none of which were at racetracks he won at last year. So we’ve got 11 wins over the last two seasons at 11 different racetracks, and Kurt won Watkins Glen, which was the 12th racetrack.
We’ve accomplished some different – we’ve had success at some different places, and I think winning this is just – it sends the team in the off-season with an extra little hitch in their step. It gives us something to build off of for the off-season and look forward to for next year.
However it works out, I mean, I think we went through the summer months when Brad had his injuries and we shuffled four different race car drivers into our cars and I think we were competitive with all four. You know, it’s one of the things we’ve got here at Penske is we’ve got talent. Roger does a good job of supplying us with that, and I don’t want to give Brad up, but I understand where the program is at.
We’ll be here, together for a majority of the races next year, and we’ll work in the off-season pretty hard to make sure that whatever we’re going to do to fill the little voids, we’ll be ready and in step for 2012.
Q. Do you think some of the stuff we saw on the restarts today guys will have seen and try tomorrow unless the guy who is second was able to really get a good run?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Sure. You know, the way the Nationwide cars are, it’s quite a bit different than the Cup cars as far as restarts are concerned. With the low power situation, it’s almost like a tag team on the restart. Whoever has the best tag team comes out front.
It can be a little awkward at times, but I think almost every restart, whoever restarted second took the lead or at least more than not. It would be an interesting stat. But that’s kind of par for the course on the Nationwide side, and that’s got more to do with the power situation and the side drafting than, I think, anything else. And Cup cars seem to be quite a bit more immune to that.
Q. Brad, you won the Nationwide title last year. You’ve spent a lot of time on the track the last two seasons with Ricky. Can you tell us a little bit about why you think he made such a great improvement from last season to becoming a champion this year?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think with Ricky, I think his cars were pretty far off last year, and I think same thing for Carl and really all that team. By the end of the season they found something, and they got their cars better. They’ve got that new engine over there, which was a huge gain for them in both power and weight savings. So I think that was a huge gain for them.
And I think once his cars got more competitive, he was able to be more competitive without pushing as hard, and I think that that’s a big learning curve. When you find yourself running 90 percent and you’re able to run 5th to 10th, you’re okay with running 90 percent for a little while. You can kind of settle in.
When you find yourself running 90 percent and you’re running 15th or 20th or whatever that might be, you find yourself driving at 100 percent, and you find yourself taking chances or kind of going all in on some bad hands, so to speak. So it makes life a lot easier on you when your cars are more competitive.
I think his cars are more competitive, and that has allowed him or opened a box in his own mind that allows him to understand better how hard he needs to push. He’s done a great job picking that up this year, and that’s what every driver needs to learn. That’s why teams are so important, because the first brick, the foundation of any race team, is the speed you have in the car, and from there it’s – you put up the sides of the house with the pit crew and you worry about the roof, the roof being the race car driver. But you’ve got to have that good foundation and that’s speed in the car and everything else is built off of that.
I think that camp over there did a good job of making their program better, making their cars better, and Ricky was able to make something out of that. So he deserves some credit, too.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations on tonight’s victory. Enjoy it. And Brad, good luck tomorrow.
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THE MODERATOR: His performance tonight wrapped up the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Owners Championship for Roush-Fenway racing. Carl, congratulations. I know that was a big, big goal for you all tonight. You accomplished it, and talk about that.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it was huge for us. That 18 team, they’ve been unbelievable, and for us to have closed in all the points we did over the last couple of months, I think it was 50 or so points, something like that, my guys are very, very excited about this. That was our mission tonight was to beat that 18 and to win this Owners Championship.
I just can’t say enough things about Jack Roush and Ford and everything they’ve done with this Nationwide program. Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne have been huge helps to me as a driver. They’ve obviously been amazing on the racetrack.
And I’m so happy for Ricky for his accomplishment, and for us to have won that Owners Championship, that makes it really neat for all the guys back at the shop, and it’s something they can be proud of.
So that was good. And the race was a blast. That was just really fun, and there at the end I learned a little bit about the different lines on the restarts and things like that. Brad did a really good job. He blocked for everything he had. I bumped him but not hard enough and then I got tight and Ricky got by me and I thought maybe Ricky would get him. I don’t know about you guys, but coming into turn 3 that last lap, I thought maybe these guys will bump into each other and we’ll still win this thing.
I don’t know if it looked that exciting from the grandstands or from TV, but it was exciting for me. That’s a good way to spend Saturday night before tomorrow’s race. It was a blast.
Q. Obviously, Carl, aside from tomorrow, you as a Nationwide champion, this is your – this must be kind of bittersweet for you because this is your last full season in Nationwide. Next year you’ve already committed to going to a part-time schedule. Talk about that and your feelings as you finish your last full season in the Nationwide Series.
CARL EDWARDS: Well, Mike Beam and all the guys on this Fastenal team. I don’t know, I think it’s eight races we won this year. We got more poles than anyone, led close to 2,000 laps. It’s been a blast. It’s really fun. I’m going to miss it a lot.
And I will probably run some races, and there’s no telling. I might run again full-time here again in a year or two. Who knows. I really do enjoy this. Years like this make it just – it’s a lot of fun. I mean, this is – it’s from a lot of hard work. We were not this fast a year and a half ago or so when we were really struggling. They had to really go to work on the engines and the cars and moving the shop and – so it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been something I think has helped me in huge ways to be in the place we’re in in the Cup Series.
Q. This afternoon you talked about how you hoped this would be some preparation for tomorrow. As close as you and the 18 car were, you went back and forth, did this fulfill your hope of a proper preparation for tomorrow’s race?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes. Yeah. This was very good practice for me. It was really good practice. Especially there was one point where the 18 was in front of us and had to really bear down and go for it there on one of those restarts, and that was neat.
And we also made a lot of adjustments on the car. I got to feel adjustments. I got to feel the track change a little bit as the sun went down, and I was reminded of all the things you have to be careful of not to mess up. So I think it’s great practice, and I didn’t hurt myself or break an arm or anything, so that was good, and I had a good time.
I actually did think about what if I win this thing, should I do a back flip or not because that would be unreal.
Q. Don’t want to pull a hammy, that’s for sure.
CARL EDWARDS: I know who I’d pull out of the car if I had to get out of it. That would be Ricky.
Q. When Ricky didn’t make the race at Nashville last year, did you have any doubts about his abilities as a race car driver and did you have any doubts about whether he’d be able to survive whatever Jack had in store for him?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn’t know if he’d be able to survive Jack (Laughter.) I mean, Jack was just – he was on Ricky. I mean, it was not – he was not building Ricky up. He was challenging Ricky every day, and I think Ricky has shown everyone, myself included, how good he is.
I mean, there are guys – when I talk about Ricky with the Cup drivers, they’re all – they know when he comes up there, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. There’s no doubt that Ricky Stenhouse will win tons of Cup races and probably championships. He’s truly that good.
Q. How does a guy go from where he was 18 months ago to where he is now?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the cars are better, first of all. So he was not only having – thrown to the wolves. I mean, Ricky is a Sprint car driver, and he was really thrown in this thing headfirst at a time when I’m not sure if we – I don’t think I was winning any Nationwide races, and if I was, it was by the smallest of margins, and I’ve been doing this for five years or something when he came in.
So the thing about Ricky, though, he is the – I’ve never personally seen a bigger example of a guy who just – all he had to do was slow down a little bit, and he’s as fast as anyone.
And I think that two things coincided: Ricky learning to get the car set up like he wanted to run these long races and the cars got a little better and however he hung onto his job was awesome and here he is. I just can’t say enough good things about him. He’s always been a good, solid person through the whole thing. He’s just a good guy.
Q. It almost looked like old times between you and Brad there at the end. Did you come close to getting carried away a little bit in the heat of battle?
CARL EDWARDS: I thought about it a little bit, but we kept it clean. I mean, it was just good racing. It was really fun. That thing could have gone any number of ways, whether we had a restart or didn’t have a restart. He did his job, and it was just – it was just a good race. He drove his heart out.
Q. You’ve talked a lot this week about some of the mental lessons that you’ve learned that you kind of stored away over the years. Is that, do you think, part of what happened with Ricky with kind of going through the fire, that maybe that helped him make him into a champion?
CARL EDWARDS: Right. All of us in this room, it’s not your successes that make you better usually. Those are nice, but it’s the tough times that make you strong and teach you the biggest lessons. And Ricky, man, he – I just can’t tell you because I wish I had some of those meetings on audio tape or video because, I mean, he was getting it from all angles, and he just kept getting better and kept working and turned this whole thing around. It’s just amazing.
Q. The race starts relatively late tomorrow, like 3:00. What are you doing tomorrow morning? Do you have appearances like usual or do things change tomorrow?
CARL EDWARDS: Normal stuff tomorrow, nothing big. Just have a regular day before the race. Bob and I will talk a little bit tonight like we always do about what our plan is, but there’s nothing changed, got a lot of sponsor folks coming.
Paul Amos from AFLAC is going to be here. We’re excited to have him here. We’ve renewed our partnership for a multiyear deal, so that’s really exciting and had a bunch of people from Ford who are going to be here, which is really neat. I think it’s cool that Edsel Ford himself has been here this weekend supporting everybody, but for me there’s nothing different, no big appearances or anything like that.
Q. Why do you choose to stop the full-time in Nationwide and Cup next year?
CARL EDWARDS: Because it’s been so good for me, I am a little bit nervous. It might throw me off a little bit, but I think a big test for me was this year at Sonoma. We had the Road Course Race in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and our car was no good at Friday’s practice and we made the call and Fastenal was okay with us not going to Elkhart Lake.
And I was really nervous that that would throw off my – I’ve been doing that for six years or something, and traveling that day and not practicing at Sonoma. But it turned out to be our best Sonoma Cup race we’d ever had with me staying there focusing on the Cup car.
As much as I learned from running the Nationwide Series, I believe that sometimes – at this point in my career it takes a little extra energy, and it might be better to focus on the Cup car. But if it’s not working, I’ll be back here. I’ll be racing. I’ll find something to drive, I hope.
Q. Speaking of the meetings, did you happen to be at the one where Ricky came to the meeting in his work goggles or the one where he was reminded when that happened?
CARL EDWARDS: No. What’s the story there?
Q. Basically he showed up in work goggles when Jack put him to work at the shop.
CARL EDWARDS: Jack’s boot camp.
Q. Have you heard about that?
CARL EDWARDS: No, I hadn’t heard that story. All I heard was it seemed like for months, it was just like – it was almost like Jack turned it into a game. You bring up Ricky, he’s like, Yep, we’re running him into the ground. We’re not letting up on him. It was like Jack made it his mission that he was going to go with Ricky to the end of the earth, and it wasn’t going to be fun for Ricky until he turned it around. So it worked out, I guess.
Q. Did he ever do anything like that with you? Did he ever just try –
CARL EDWARDS: Yes.
Q. It’s somewhat tough love, but it’s also maniacal as only Jack can be at times. Can you give us an example of what he did to you? And on a second point, obviously the conditions tonight closely mirror what you’re going to go through tomorrow night more so than any other practice you’ve had so far. What did you learn?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah. So my dad came here tonight. He’s here. So Jack and my dad are a lot alike. When I was a little kid everything would be going well, the day would be going great, and he’d go, “I haven’t beaten you for a while, have I?” Just to remind me. I’m like, Yeah, everything is going pretty good. I want to keep it that way.
But Jack is the same way. He pulled me in after one wreck that I caused and he asked me to come in and have a meeting with him and I was under the impression that this was going to be a, Don’t worry; everything is going to be great; we’re working really hard, and you’re a good driver meeting. And he sat me down and he said, “I just want to make sure you feel bad enough about what you’ve done,” and he proceeded to tell me all the things that I had screwed up.
He’s not afraid to break you down real far and make you look at all the things you’re doing, and you have to be strong to put up with that. And if you’re not, it’s been my observation that he doesn’t have much use for you. You’ve got to be able to take what he’s able to dish out, you know.
I think tonight was really good practice for tomorrow, but I’ve been doing this Saturday-Sunday thing long enough to know that it doesn’t all transfer. You know, you can really feel like, Oh, hey, I’ve got some things figured out, and all of a sudden the race will change, the track conditions will change a little bit. And those Cup cars, they’re so much faster down the straightaway and there’s a lot more acceleration and braking involved to get through the center of the corner that you’ve just got to – I almost have to make sure to switch hats figuratively and make sure I’m driving a Cup car and not to rely on what we’ve done on Saturday. I’ve only learned a couple things, I think, that will be helpful tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, congratulations on contributing so much to the Owners Championship.
CARL EDWARDS: And the media center. I’ve contributed a lot to the media center.
THE MODERATOR: You’ve become a constant over the past several weeks, and lots and lots of luck to you tomorrow.
CARL EDWARDS: I appreciate it, and I’ll keep working on the party in case we happen to win this thing tomorrow.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us up here now is Timmy Hill, and he is the 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. And he drives the No. 15 Point Lilly Trucking Ford. Timmy, congratulations on this award. Congratulations on this honor. I’m told it came down to you and Jason.
TIMMY HILL: I think it was real close between me and Blake –
THE MODERATOR: Right, Blake and whoever had the highest finish in today’s race was going to be the Rookie of the Year, and you prevailed, so congratulations on that. Talk about that.
TIMMY HILL: Yes. Between me and Blake throughout the entire season, we’ve normally been within one or two spots of each other. It’s been a real tough battle. We’ve got about the same equipment. We drive mostly on different teams, so it’s been a lot tougher.
But Blake and I had a really exciting battle throughout the whole season. It came down to where we were tied up going into this race. The one point is what decided the race, and we were able to pull off the 21st place finish tonight, and that’s real good for our team. I’m excited about it.
Q. Timmy, a lot of stuff was on the line in this race. Can you talk a little bit about what – it was so close between you and Blake, what accomplishing this today means for you but also for your team because they had something at stake in this race today, too.
TIMMY HILL: You know, for myself this is a huge stat on the résumé. This is something that I really looked forward to doing. You can look and Ricky Stenhouse was a past Rookie of the Year, and he went on to win the next championship. It gives you something to look up for for the team.
This is something we’ve pulled together for the whole year to accomplish. We had bad times, good times, but through all that we pulled together. It just feels good that you can accomplish something at this altitude that is incredible to do.
Q. Have you had a chance to get with your dad after the end of the race and winning this award, and through his racing career, how much were you around when he was doing his different aspects of racing?
TIMMY HILL: I did. I gave my dad a huge hug after the race. He gives me advice all the time. I’m glad that he was mainly here for all the three races. I was glad that he can pretty much be there for my whole season and experience it with me.
You know, growing up I’d always go to my dad’s races, but I’d always bug him, you know, so I could start racing. Finally at age 9 he let me drive a go-kart. That’s how my career started. As soon as I started, he quit so he could help us, and I can only thank him so much for helping me out through my entire career.
Q. How much did you think you had a chance at this award at the start of the year, and what do you think you kind of learned the most throughout the year?
TIMMY HILL: The start of the season, I knew the five rookies going into it were going to be tough. There was Ryan Truex. There was Blake Koch. That’s the two it came down to between myself and the other two.
Honestly, I had no idea. I just wanted to have a chance at the end of the season to be there. Before this I only had ten starts in a full-sized stock car. It was kind of nerve-racking. I had to miss the first race of the season because I wasn’t old enough, so I went to Phoenix was my first race and hit practice, and I found out pretty quickly it was going to be pretty tough. We weren’t the fastest as we wanted to be.
But each race we got better and better. After each race we’ve click off rookie of the race and my chance at getting the Rookie of the Year seemed like it got better and better and I think we ended up leading the Rookie of the Year battle for 27 weeks straight, which is incredible.
It came down to being tied up and being able to win by one point, but at the beginning of the season I had no idea, and I just wanted to have a chance. By the middle of the season I felt like we had a really good chance of getting it, and here we are. I got it.
Q. I know you just won this award, but is it too early to think about what’s the plan for next year?
TIMMY HILL: We already settled out that we’re going to run the No. 15 again with Rick Rarer Racing, point.com, they came up for the last ten races of the season. They’re going to be a primary sponsor for us. It’s a great company. Everybody is teaming up along with Lilly Trucking.
So it looks like a full schedule for next year. It’s going to be good for us, and hopefully we can be like Ricky Stenhouse did and be the next champion. That would be a good thing to do.
THE MODERATOR: Timmy, congratulations on being the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Much deserved. Congratulations. Enjoy this honor.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports.