Over the off-season, Carl Edwards made the switch from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2015 season. He becomes the third straight big name in a row to make a big move, with Matt Kenseth leaving RFR for JGR in 2013, and Kevin Harvick leaving Richard Childress Racing for Stewart-Haas Racing. Both Kenseth and Harvick had success with their moves, a trend that Edwards hopes continues for him this year.
“I believe that change in itself is good because it puts a lot of pressure on you,” he commented. “I feel that right now and I’m actually nervous and I think that’s good. That’s a motivator and for me it’s an opportunity right now. I’m way outside of my comfort zone and that’s good. Hopefully it yields good results.”
Edwards is hoping to the team switch yields to his first career championship, something that he has come close to in the past. In 2011, he lost in a tie-breaker to Tony Stewart with Stewart winning the season finale Ford 400 and Edwards finishing second.
I always come back to this because that race should maybe bother me more than it does – the reason I’m real content with it is that we performed so well,” he reflected back. “We qualified on the pole, led the most laps and we were leading before the last round of pit stops and I’m proud of that. We had a lot of opportunities to crumble or make mistakes and we didn’t. Tony (Stewart) and Darian just beat us, they got us and they earned it. I’m proud of our performance, but I’d love to have it over again and hopefully we get to do it again this year and win it.”
Edwards now partners with Stewart’s crew chief at time – Darian Grubb – for the upcoming season.
“Fortunately for me, Darian Grubb (crew chief) and the team that I have are veteran guys at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and they have a lot of experience there,” Edwards shared. “It’s not going to be as tough for me in that respect. We’re not all learning together. I’m the only new guy really on my team, so that’s good. I do feel like I’m starting over again and it’s interesting. I didn’t expect that and it’s a neat feeling and I think it’s motivating.”
Edwards added that he’s been surprised with how well the team is, from everything they have planned, to building all the cars, compiling data to getting presentations ready for Edwards to show him things.
Between getting used to a new crew chief and new organization, there’s a lot of things on Edwards’ plate. However, the driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota has one thing in his back pocket – a previous relationship with Matt Kenseth. The pair were teammates back at RFR and have carried that friendship forward.
“Matt (Kenseth) has been huge in my transition,” Edwards commented. “Matt kind of does things under the radar. He put together some meetings early on and some things I needed to be very aware of and really helped me a lot. He’ll be a guy I lean on a lot. He’s a quiet guy, but he’s a very good leader and he has all the experience and success, so hopefully I can keep learning from him.”
In making the transition over, Edwards says the key so far has been understanding the people, and understanding how he fits in so that way he can give everybody what they need. One of the aspects that has helped so far is he knows each of his teammates well, beyond his past experience with Kenseth. Edwards feels that they understand each other well and “that’s half the battle”.
“I’ve watched Kyle Busch and I’ve watched Denny Hamlin,” he said. “From Denny Hamlin’s entrance into the sport, I paid a lot of attention just because those guys have so much pure speed and to me this is an opportunity to combine forces with them and to share tricks and share ideas and hopefully make us all better. I’m very excited to learn from those guys.”
Edwards added that so far, the meetings have gone really well as they’re light-hearted, kind of like a “brotherly atmosphere”.
Edwards’ move to JGR brings also brings a new sponsor into the sport – ARRIS, a telecommunication equipment manufacturing company. Edwards feel it’shuge for the sport to watch a new sponsor come in due to the negatives you normally hear surrounding sponsorship.
“They see the value of NASCAR – they could spend their advertising dollars in any way and they see this as the best way to go out and raise awareness about their products and reach their customers and I’m really proud of that,” Edwards commented.