|Carl Edwards smiles
as he jokes with a reporter. Dealing with media has become a
daily part of the 26-year-old racer’s
first full year of competing in the Nextel Cup series.
Carl Edwards, life moves fast. A typical week is a blur that looks
something like this: conducting countless media interviews, signing
hundreds of autographs, traveling the country, appeasing sponsors,
fine-tuning cars and speaking at charity events.
Oh, and racing on the weekend.
One day, Carl is watching Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon on TV.
The next day, he’s passing them at Pocono Raceway.
“It’s crazy” is how he puts it.
That’s saying the least.
During just his first full year of racing in the Nextel Cup series,
the 26-year-old NASCAR driver has won twice in dramatic fashion and
is a contender for winning it all. In the second-tier Busch Series,
he was in fourth as of early September. Carl’s victorious backflip
has become a nationally recognized signature for the young driver.
His face has been splashed across USA Today, ESPN and NBC. Local media
outlets in Columbia, his hometown, can’t get enough Carl. People
magazine even named the athletic blond with bright blue eyes and a
movie star smile as one of its “50 Hottest Bachelors.”
“To think that my son is one of the hottest bachelors is just
pretty funny,” says his mom, Nancy Sterling. “The day
it came out, I ran across town and bought up 10 copies.”
Thousands of NASCAR fans watch as Carl Edwards speeds by during
a Busch Series race at Chicagoland Raceway.
Not that Carl needed
the glorified singles ad. He is currently dating Olympic swimmer
and model Amanda Beard. He’s also earned more
than $3 million from this year’s races alone and NASCAR fans
everywhere instantly recognize his name.
Funny what winning can do.
Only four years ago, Carl was still living at home in Columbia and
working as a substitute teacher. His father, Carl “Mike” Edwards,
a former short-track racer, helped give Carl his start in racing
at the age of 13. Despite dominating regional races at tracks in
Holts Summit, Lebanon, Jefferson City and Moberly, advancing further
required money Carl did not have.
So, Carl set out to change that. He printed thousands of business
cards that read, “If you are looking for a driver, you’re looking
for me.” These cards now sell for $400 on eBay.
Eventually, he landed a part-time job with NASCAR’s third-tier
Craftsman Truck Series. He raced well enough that a week before
the truck series opener at Daytona in 2002, Rousch Racing hired him.
That first truck race still stands out in Carl’s mind.
really wild,” he recalls. “There’s
really no way to prepare for it because you don’t know
going to feel like. I had a little bit of butterflies in my stomach,
and I was a little nervous about how it would go. But after two
laps, it became something manageable.”
|In his No. 99 Office
Depot race car, Carl speeds past Mark Martin during the Nextel
Cup’s Durock Sheetrock 500.
“It was really
exciting going down the back strip in the first lap at Daytona and
not lifting off the gas when you go around the corner at 180 mph.”
Even though he had little experience on high-banked, high-speed
tracks, Carl lead the race at the halfway point, leaving quite
an impression. He went on to win three truck races that year and,
in 2003, he won three more times and earned Rookie of the Year.
More importantly, Jack Rousch proclaimed him as the heir to Mark
Martin’s No. 6 stock
car. When veteran Jeff Burton unexpectedly left Rousch Racing
in the middle of 2004, Carl instead strapped into the No. 99 car.
What was it like racing for the Nextel Cup that first time?
“It was a little bit more difficult than what I expected,” he
says. “It’s really competitive and these guys are just
spectacular. I knew my competition was gonna be really, really tough
but I don’t think I was quite prepared for how good these
Carl apparently learns quickly. In only 13 starts last year, he finished
in the top 10 five times. NASCAR fans immediately took notice.
Carl pulls in for a quick pit stop. During the Busch Series,
he drives his purple No. 60 stock car.
Although he showed potential, few people predicted how quickly Carl
would catapult to the forefront of NASCAR racing. The day after winning
the Busch series race on March 20 at Atlanta Speedway, Carl surged
past Jimmie Johnson to take the checkered flag. It was the first time
any driver on the circuit had won both the Busch and Nextel series
races during the same weekend.
Carl emerged from his car, climbed onto the top of the car door, steadied
himself, then flipped backwards through the air before landing on both
feet. The moment Carl performed that celebratory backflip was the moment
he leapt into the hearts of race fans everywhere.
“I don’t know if I had any inkling of what that win would
bring,” says his mother, who was in tears after the race. “Like
so many other times before during the 10 years we’d been working
to get to that point, he just looked at me and said, ‘Mom, we
Boy, was he right. Two months later, Carl won again at the Pocono 500
after preparing for the race by playing a video game. To Carl, that
win was even bigger because NASCAR fans realized the enthusiastic driver
was here to stay.
Since then, Carl has lived life in the fast lane. Racing in both
the Busch and Nextel series and traveling all over the country for
fundraisers and sponsors fills most of his time. During the half
day or day he gets off each week, he’ll spend time doing one
of his hobbies — riding
dirt bikes, working out, flying planes or mountain biking.
|Just before securing
the safety netting on his car door before a race, Carl signals
that he’s ready. The young Missouri
native has sped to fame and success as a NASCAR driver.
Although he has
come a long way from dirt tracks in Missouri, Carl never strays too
far from home. He still comes back to Columbia fairly often to see
his family or to appear at fundraisers and local races. He also makes
time each week to do interviews with local media in Columbia. Carl’s mother attends many of his races and sits in the pit area,
and his father’s wisdom still rests close to his
“My dad never really made any excuses for a lack of performance,
so that’s something that I’ve always taken with me,” he
says. “I try to look at myself and look at things
I can do better as a driver or team player to make our
Carl also offers his own words of wisdom to his 22-year-old brother,
Kenny, who is just now getting his start on Midwestern racetracks.
“Above all, I tell him not to take it too seriously,” he
says. “It’s a fun sport, and as long as he’s enjoying
it and learning lessons he’ll be a really great racecar
For now, Carl is having plenty of his own fun and learning
along the way. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in racing:
One day you’re
on top and the next you’re on the sidelines. In the meantime,
Carl’s eyes are fixed on the track ahead.
“Right now, I want to be the Nextel Cup series champion,” he
says. “There are a lot of things that I’d like to do someday,
but right now I’m focused on racing.”
To learn more about Carl, visit www.roushracing.com/carl_edwards.