Carl Edwards found out last season he didn’t like racing nearly as much as winning.
After tying champion Tony Stewart in the 2011 Sprint Cup point standings, Edwards suffered through a winless season in 2012 and fell to 15th in the final standings. He recently broke a 70-race winless streak by dominating two weeks ago at Phoenix.
“It’s way easier to win. It’s a lot more fun too,” said Edwards, a 20-time Cup Series winner. “I told people I don’t like racing as much as I thought I did. I like winning. I didn’t realize the difference.”
Edwards, who will look for a third career Bristol Motor Speedway victory in Sunday’s Food City 500, added that new crew chief Jimmy Fenning made it clear that winning is the main goal of the No. 99 Ford team. Edwards likes the business-like manner of the new pit boss.
“He tells me exactly what he wants and how he wants it done,” Edwards said. “Everybody on the team is able to do the job Jimmy gives them.
“He has a very good perspective that we’re going to work hard, going to do the job and reap the benefits of that. He doesn’t yell at people with that. He just expects it and holds everyone to a high standard. When we’re at the race track, it’s not a social event. We’re there to do a job.”
Still, Edwards’ outgoing personality has made him one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, although the 33-year-old driveralways backed up the popularity with performance. That is made last season, especially the races on the larger tracks, so puzzling.
“The fall on the intermediate tracks was a little scary,” Edwards said. “Those have always been my best tracks. We need to make sure something isn’t missing there. The Charlotte test was a big test for me. Those tracks are the bread-and-butter of the season and you can make a championship push with just good runs at those tracks.”
That’s not to discount the six short-track races throughout the season with this Sunday’s Food City 500 the first. There is no track which tests a driver physically the way Bristol does for 500 laps.
Edwards feels his strenous workout routine helps him prepare for Bristol, although he sees more of a benefit off the track.
“The overall importance of physical fitness in NASCAR, it’s not something where you can say this guy is in better shape so he will run better at this race track,” said Edwards, a two-time series runner-up. “The biggest change has been in my life. Staying in shape has been rewarding.
“I work with Carmichael Training Systems and my trainer works with me to discuss the strategy for the season so I can stay in the best shape all season. It’s something that 10 years ago I laughed when people worked out. Now it’s a huge part of my life and time I spend investing in myself. I really enjoy it.”
He hopes that staying in tip-top shape gives him some advantage. It’s one reason he’s not ready to share any secrets of his workout routine with other drivers.
“The problem is I talk about working out and 6-8 years ago, I would go to the gym and have it to myself or one other guy in there,” he said. “Now, everybody is in there, working out, staying in shape.”
It’s not the only thing which has changed.
The process which race cars are constructed and how drivers are expected to adapt to them are even different than 5-6 years ago.
“The way the sport is right now, you build the car and set up the car to what the (computer) simulation says,” Edwards said. “What the aero is best, you tweak it from there. When we would get to the track (last year), Greg (Biffle), Matt (Kenseth) and I would unload with the same thing, and we would have the same comments. Whenever we’ve changed crew chiefs, there has never been a hiccup.”
He hopes there isn’t a hiccup this weekened, although it can be tough at Bristol where he admitted racing sure comes a lot easier than winning.