Making the move to Joe Gibbs Racing over the off-season, Carl Edwards is entering this year excited to get racing, but also feeling as though he needs to prove himself to make sure his level of success match that of teammates Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.
“I feel a little anxious, a little nervous about it and that’s nice,” he commented. “I haven’t had that feeling for a long time and it’s a motivator. I’d say I’m as focused as I’ve ever been and I am as excited as I’ve ever been. This is a neat opportunity for me.”
He also adds that it’s a little surreal being with JGR in watching how much work that they have put into expanding from three cars to four cars, noting that “it feels like my first chance in the Sprint Cup Series all over again and that’s a great feeling.”
In recent years, drivers who have made changes have gone on to have a lot of success. Matt Kenseth made the move to JGR in 2013, and finished second in points. Ryan Newman moved to Richard Childress Racing and finished second in points. Kevin Harvick moved to Stewart-Haas Racing and won the championship. Edwards feels that drivers have the success due to a slight feeling of “insecurity” in knowing that you have to prove yourself to your new boss.
The chances for Edwards continuing the trend are high, too, as he enters an organization that had three drivers in the top-10 in points last year, and he is working with Darian Grubb, who led Tony Stewart to the championship in 2011.
“I feel like I have experience and have learned a lot,” Edwards added to those reasons. “I feel like I’m in the best form I’ve ever been in as a driver. We should have good opportunities to go perform at a very high level.”
Though to have success, Edwards has to make sure the team chemistry is there and feels that will improve the more they work together as a group. Compared to when he first started with Roush Fenway Racing, the driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry feels he will be a good teammate right off the bat for the new group, rather than going with the ‘every man for himself’ attitude.
“The last few years especially, I’ve learned the value of what everyone contributes,” Edwards commented. “I’m excited to be part of a four-car team that is this stout. These guys are amazing. Just really excited about that.”
While Edwards is excited about the new partnership, he isn’t the only one as his teammates are excited as well. Busch says having a ‘veteran’ style of driver in the new fourth car will be a huge addition, and more valuable than possibly having a rookie-type driver.
“To have Carl come on board, I think that’s going to be great for our team and to have that veteran-type leadership like Denny (Hamlin) or myself or Matt (Kenseth) has that we’re all able to communicate right off the bat really well,” Busch added. “The biggest thing is just the infrastructure and the amount of money that’s left in order to add on the extra engineers and the body guys and the chassis guys and all that stuff just to build more cars and keep up with everything and all the demands that NASCAR makes and requires for four teams, I think that’s all obviously a huge added bonus as well.”