HAMPTON, Ga. – Halfway through an impromptu news conference at the back of the hauler for the No. 19 Toyota he was scheduled to drive this season, Carl Edwards paused and smiled.
“I should have started this a lot differently,” said Edwards, who was clad in a black button-down shirt branded with an Arris sponsor logo. “I could have messed with you guys somehow on the rumors and stuff. (Mexican multibillionaire) Carlos (Slim) pays me a million dollars a race to come hang out. Penske wants me to spy on the Toyotas.
“No, it’s pretty cool just to be here (and) that they want me here. I’m having fun.”
About six weeks after announcing he was stepping away from NASCAR this season, Edwards returned to a Cup race weekend for the first time this season, serving as a consultant to rookie Daniel Suarez.
But while he spoke highly of his replacement’s ability and learning curve (“He’s doing really well”), Edwards lamented about his absence from the cockpit of the orange Camry.
“Everybody calls it retirement; I haven’t called it retirement officially,” he said. “I admit I brought my helmet and driver suit today, just in case somebody needed something. But I’m having a lot of fun. I’m just so grateful to Coach (Joe Gibbs) and everybody for letting me make the decision I made. But it is cool coming back here and seeing everybody. It’s really fun.”
Someone asked if he would consider a ride in the truck or Xfinity series?
“I thought you said this evening,” he smiled. “I might be in this evening! I don’t know. I think it’s actually hard to come here and be half-in and half out, so I’m going to try really hard to stick to my plan, step away and make sure I get my perspective right, and if I decide I’m going to drive something, I’m going to do it 100%, but right now, I don’t know.
“I’m certain I wouldn’t agree to something full time right now.”
The main question might be if Edwards wanted to climb into his former Joe Gibbs Racing ride if he would have been allowed.
“That’s a great question,” Edwards said when asked if he were licensed. “I don’t know. I’ve snuck into a lot of racetracks and driven stuff, so I’m not above doing that. I don’t know. I haven’t filled out any paperwork.
“I did tell Richard Buck this morning I’m pretty sure that I passed the drug test, so that’ll be good.”
NASCAR confirmed Friday that Edwards hadn’t been issued a licensed yet this year.
Suarez said the team hadn’t discussed whether Edwards might take some laps in his car. “I don’t even think he has a license anymore,” Suarez said, adding with a smile. “I don’t even know how that (would) work. Honestly, we didn’t think about it. Definitely, he’s going to be here to help.”
Edwards flew his Cessna in Friday morning from his home of Columbia, Mo., where he lives with his wife and two young children. He deflected questions about how things were going at home. “You know I don’t talk about them, but everything’s been going really well,” he said. “I’m really, really grateful to have made the decision I made.”
Edwards, who has been using his plane to ferry medical patients who can’t fly commercial, said he could leave “at any minute” but might stick around through Saturday’s practices.
“Whenever they say they’re done with me, I’ll take off,” he said.
Suarez, who asked Edwards to attend during a commercial shoot Tuesday, seemed to acclimate quickly to the 1.54-mile oval, turning the 16th-fastest lap in the first practice.
“I thought it would be more talking to him about the racetrack, but he’s super quick and learning the place, obviously,” Edwards said. “He’s pretty fast.
“It’s been pretty neat just to be able to help him a little bit. I guess the proof will be in qualifying here. He’ll have somebody to blame it on if it goes poorly.”
That would be unlikely as Suarez clearly appreciates the help.
“He’s a great guy, very good friend,” he said of Edwards. “He just asked me, ‘Hey Daniel, do you want me to go over there? Do you think it would be helpful?’ I said, ‘Man to have a driver like you who has a bunch of wins here in Atlanta, it’s a big deal.”
Edwards, who has three Cup wins at Atlanta (including the first of his career 12 years ago), said he missed the people as much as anything about the NASCAR garage, said he didn’t have a schedule for future Cup races where he might help Suarez.
“I think some (tracks) I can help them,” Edwards said. “Some places I can’t. I think very quickly, I’ll be out of the picture because it’s his team. He’s proven himself. He doesn’t have to have me here. I’m only in addition to what he’s already got, and it’s only because he wants me here.
“I definitely don’t want to get in the way. I’m not a hanger-on type of guy. If they don’t want me here, I won’t be here.”
Edwards said he’d stay for Sunday’s race if asked but added it might not be that fun based off the Daytona 500.
“It was hard to watch the start of the 500,” he said. “But once they started wrecking a little bit, it wasn’t that hard to walk away from the TV. But this place, I love this place. I miss driving while I’m standing here.”
Edwards joked that at home, he mostly had been “spending a lot of time with my chainsaw in the woods. Probably end up in an emergency room soon. I’ve been doing stuff outside the house. I’m not good in the house yet.”
Was he still interested in running for Senate as a report indicated in January?
“I haven’t decided on the political stuff,” he said. “Like I talked about at that press conference, I really believe in individual freedom and liberty and what the United States is based upon. I think, like anybody, I’ve been paying attention. It’s a little scary what’s been going on as a whole in our country and in the world.
“If I can help with that down the line, great. But I don’t have any firm plans right now.”
Two members of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew suspended 3 races for incident at Indy
Joe Gibbs Racing has suspended two members of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing pit crew.
Front tire changer Chris Taylor and rear tire changer Lee Cunningham will both be suspended for the next three races following a confrontation with Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch, after Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The incident happened after Busch and Martin Truex Jr. crashed while battling for the lead on Lap 112 of last weekend’s race.
Joe Gibbs Racing has not issued a statement on the suspensions, but confirmed that Taylor and Cunningham will be replaced by Kip Wolfmeier and John Royer.
Joe Gibbs Racing provides crew members to the No. 78 team, which is why it issued the suspensions and not Furniture Row Racing.
In addition to their hopes of his winning there, fans attending Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will receive something special to remember him by.
CMS officials announced Wednesday that for every two tickets purchased to the Oct. 8 Bank of America 500, fans will receive a commemorative Dale Jr. bobblehead.
It will be the 14-time Most Popular Driver’s final chance at earning his first Cup points-paying win at his home track (he won the 2000 non-points NASCAR All-Star race as a rookie).
“We wanted to do something special to celebrate with our fans all that Dale Jr. means to our sport,” CMS executive vice president Greg Walter said in a media release. “These keepsakes will be a must-have for collectors and avid fans alike, and a tremendous way to commemorate his last home race here in Charlotte.”
Fans that purchase two tickets before Oct. 1 (or while supplies last) will receive a voucher to pick up the commemorative bobblehead during the 500 race weekend.
After the first eight races of the 14-race K&N Pro Series West Series, Iwuji sits 15th.
He’s hoping the six-race sponsorship will help improve his performance to finish as well as he did in his K&N rookie campaign last season (10th place) – or better.
Iwuji’s best finishes this season are a pair of back-to-back 14th-place showings He also has three other top-20 outings.
“This season so far has been a great test of the durability of our team” Iwui said in a media release. “We’ve managed to bring home clean racecars which allows us to spend more time on trying to improve the cars and the way we race other teams this year in the West.”
Iwuji races this weekend at Iowa Speedway, the only time the K&N Pro Series East and West race on the same track during the season.
Iwuji is 12 points out of 12th place and 55 points out of 10th.
“I’ve raced these tracks, I’m here to compete, and I’m ready to maximize the capabilities of our team,” Iwuji said.
NEW YORK — On a rare Sunday off (after a few days in the pits covering one of the oldest and most popular racing series in the world), I decided to spend my day attending one of the world’s newest racing series, Formula E.
If you haven’t heard, it’s an all-electric Formula car series (think F1 with electric cars).
The race was being held in, as the CEO of the new series called it, “The Capital of the World” — New York. Specifically, a picturesque setting near a landing area for cruise ships in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. This fittingly positioned NYC’s famous Manhattan skyline as the backdrop for many pictures of the cars and track.
Formula E is car racing’s first disrupt-the-status-quo tech startup built on a Silicon Valley vibe, social media buzzwords and celebrity endorsements. Like the provincial tech companies of the West Coast, it was born because a couple of people believed there was an insatiable appetite for something that didn’t exist.
An eco-friendly, bring-it-to-the-people, electric-car test bed.
And car manufacturers the likes of BMW, Audi, Citroen, Renault, and Jaguar agreed and all joined.
The world’s tabloid hogs have joined, too, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Branson and (in attendance at the Brooklyn event) Michael Douglas, and Chris Hemsworth. The only thing missing amongst the Instagram-friendly metrics are what most racing series tout first — fans.
But before I go any further, full disclosure: I attempted to race in this series a couple years ago. It was 2014, and my NASCAR Cup team had folded. It seemed through a friend who was a CMO at an energy company that there might be a way to swing getting into a Formula E car.
It wasn’t to be as it was too new, too foreign, and we quickly got distracted by other opportunities. But ever since, I have kept a keen eye on its development.
Bring on NYC.
I was excited to view the upstart series up close. But after a little too much caffeine in the form of a coffee, a bigger coffee and then an energy drink to get home from New Hampshire. I wouldn’t rest my overly caffeinated body until 2:30 a.m. that day. It was a struggle to awake.
Awaiting me was a media credential. But it was to lay dormant as I decided to bring my girlfriend and conned my best friend into joining us. Mostly because he lives in Brooklyn, and this event has zero parking. The official travel guide tells you, “Not to bring a car.”
Certainly odd for a car race but understandable being in NYC. So I parked at my friend’s apartment, and we Ubered.
As we approached the ride-share dropoff zone, I oddly felt devoid of that half-euphoric, half-anxious feeling of attending a new racing series.
I turned to my friend and Blondie to say I remembered attending my first F1 race in Montreal at 14 years old and being able to hear the cars from 2 miles away. The city was overflowing with Formula One fever.
I’ll never forget walking up to the corner just before the hairpin at the Montreal circuit, as practice just had started and an F1 car approached. It sounded like a fire-breathing, human-slaying alien spacecraft was rapidly coming our way, and it was not going to be pleasant.
Suddenly, the sound was all around us in a flash of yellow, an ear-piercing scream and a loud BOOM! The Jordan F1 car of Timo Glock streaked past where I was standing. As he shifted gears, the sound and explosion hit me in the chest so hard, I could barely breathe.
It, to this day, is one of my favorite memories in life.
This event was not going to provide that.
Obviously one of the biggest departures from traditional motor racing is the cars don’t make a lot of sound. That’s part of what allows them to race in The Capital of The World. There are no issues with deafening sound reverberating through NYC’s already overflowing boroughs.
As we told our Uber driver to stop, a few Formula E signs were plastered on the walls around us. He asked, “What is this?” and my friend said, “It’s like a Formula One race.” The Uber driver replied, “Who knew? That is cool.” Not exactly a good sign for the promotion of the event.
Nonetheless, I felt good about being able to buy three tickets if our driver had no idea it was happening.
Except when we went inside, the ticket building was completely empty. We abruptly were told it was sold out and actually had been for months. Even though on Friday, Ticketmaster indicated (for $85, mind you), there were tickets available … odd.
We were told we could have free general admission tickets and maybe could get in with them. And this was something I knew Formula E did in its first season as a way to get people to come. I’ve always thought this was brilliant.
From there we went into the stringent security lines, where I got my first glance at what I will refer to as “the clientele” and not “fans.”
Two young men in front of me were the embodiment of the clientele. Both almost identically dressed in expensive, perfectly pressed, white button-down shirts, light tan belts and navy blue linen chinos.
I must have missed the memo.
One wearing Oliver Peoples glasses (if you ever go to an Oliver Peoples store, they will remind you President Obama wears their glasses) turned to the other as they were going through the security scanner. He remarked, “This certainly isn’t like Monaco,” and his friend nodded. Aside from wanting to punch him square in the face, I knew I was in for an experience only the Europeans can provide.
I call it, “European Exclusionary Events,” where they invite you to spend money to feel superior to the others around you. Hence our free ticket allowed us in, but Mr. Oliver Peoples took a very visible red carpet-lined hard left into the E-Motion club, and we were forced down a route past a port-a-potty.
The Europeans love this sort of thing, because it makes an event feel exclusive – as if you have done something to deserve the first-class version of race attendance.
But Americans do not. Sure we have courtside seats in basketball, but the guy who got a ticket from his company raffle can be sitting right behind Kim Kardashian. American events are put on to make everyone feel inclusive. Formula E missed that memo.
But I digress.
As we entered the general admission area known as “E-Village,” it was not overflowing but definitely not sparse. Scattered throughout were a few informational and promotional booths from car manufacturers and racing simulators. Par for the course at a race.
And here I bumped into a friend who lives in Brooklyn. He knew nothing about racing but had brought his wife and twin babies in a stroller. It was free and a block from their place, and the electric racing ensured their babies would be OK with the sound.
It definitely wasn’t something that would happen at a NASCAR race. I thought that was very cool.
The schedule listed a 1 p.m. start, and as 1 p.m. came, everyone in the E-Village excitedly was listening for a signal or sign that the race had started. And then suddenly at 1:05 a group of cars rounded the hairpin adjacent to the E-Village. There was no warning (not even a race announcer) and the only reason you knew was the chirping of the tires and smashing of bodywork.
Surely, they must have forgotten to turn up the race announcer. But as the laps continued, it became clear they had not put any speakers in the E-Village area. So here we were with what seemed a couple thousand people desperately wondering what the hell was going on.
This was incredibly perplexing because the whole selling point as an attendee of Formula E was that it was quiet enough to foster conversation. And to be able to hear the announcers so well they even could play team radios over the loudspeakers, so you could be immersed in the race.
Guess it didn’t apply to the free tickets and the people the series desperately should be trying to impress.
I became Formula E’s best friend as I informed people left and right about the rules and who was leading the damn race. At the other end of the E-Village was a nice lounge area with a big screen TV sponsored by VISA but with no volume. So once again, I was the on-the-ground Formula E informant, letting people know why they were pitting and what the energy percentage meant.
But the best part occurred as the race came to a close, as you only knew it was over because of the fans in the frontstretch grandstand that rose to give the winner a standing ovation. As the cars made their cooldown lap, a fan turned to me and said, “I think this is when they go pit and change cars.” To which I replied, “Uhh, no. It’s over. That was the winner.”
But then as the cars continued to trickle through the corner on the cooldown lap, another person asked, “Why are they going so slow?!?”
It was clear with no info whatsoever, these attendees might be there until Tuesday wondering what happened to the race.
Why was it like this?
I stood at one of the exit gates to survey the crowd as the attendees and clientele left the grandstands. I begged the event for a redeeming quality, something to make me want to come back, but to no avail.
It suddenly became clear as I looked at photos of the massive but mostly unfilled E-motion VIP club for Instagram “influencers” — celebrities, media, and marketing chiefs.
Was it that this event was not for you or me? That the series wasn’t aiming to impress a race fan such as myself? (A race fan who loved this form of racing so much, I responded “open wheel cars with little to no downforce and 1000 horsepower engines on city street tracks” when asked 10 years ago what my perfect race series would be.)
Everyone attending with me began to refuse to call it a race event and started using words such as “promotional display” and “a massive advertisement.”
It became clear that Formula E is for the sponsors, the car manufacturers and the series to have media outlets talking about how they have a presence in the future of the world.
So the CMOs, marketing managers and executives in linens and sports coats can walk into boardrooms with PowerPoint slides of their logos being called “eco-friendly” in the media. And use social media buzzwords such impressions, engagement and KPI (key performance indicator) while showing their logos with Instagram “influencers” drinking champagne and being eco-friendly.
Formula E is an event that has a purpose but to entertain you would be a stretch. It’s much like in school when the teacher tells you you’re watching a movie, and it turns out to be an instructional video. It’s a relief you’re watching a movie, but you still need to learn.
This is Formula E.
You’re provided a race and a damn good one at that. But it’s clear, the truth is it’s for show and not the kind that entertains.