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Kickin' back: Maybe a bit flip, but he's surely no flop

By BRANT JAMES
Published October 30, 2005


Carl Edwards, 26, has been a bolt of enthusiasm, candor and charisma for a sport that can too often get bogged down in the rigors of a 10-month season, the need to watch one's tongue and to pander to the sponsor at all cost. In his first full Nextel Cup season, he won his first race at Atlanta in the spring, chasing down no slouch in Jimmie Johnson coming out of the final turn. He celebrated with his customary backflip off the door of his car, though his tired legs nearly failed him. He chatted recently with Times staff writer Brant James.

You goofed on Tony Stewart a few weeks ago saying his main form of exercise was changing TV channels. He climbed the catch fence after several of his wins this summer, but could he pull off your victory celebration?

I wouldn't put anything past Tony Stewart. He's wild. I'm telling you, I enjoy watching him climb the fence. I think that's pretty cool seeing somebody enjoy it so much. I would really enjoy watching him try to do a backflip - I think that would be great. I think it's cool just to see someone excited to win a race. As a fan watching racing, I'd like to watch someone win a race that's really excited to win. If he wants to climb a fence or do a backflip, who knows what he would do?

Seriously, who in the garage could do the backflip?

As exciting as these races are to win, I think anybody who would try it could do it. They really aren't that hard, to be honest with you. As long as you start up on that door, you get a little height.

But you almost did a header in front of a couple million people at Atlanta in the spring.

The Atlanta win, I wasn't really concentrating too much on the backflip, I was so excited I won. I didn't put much effort into it and I thought I was going to land on my head on that one. I've landed on my head before at the racetrack goofing around. It's not the end of the world.

Everyone knows you worked as a substitute teacher before you got your big break in racing. The question is: Were you the cool sub who let everyone slide, or were you the mean one who actually followed the lesson plan?

I liked to be the cool one. But you can't start out like that or they kind of run over you. You have to try to build up to it at the end of the day. I always liked it when I was in school when we had a fun sub. It just depends on the class. I was one of those kids that think you have a license to kind of do whatever you want. I tried to make subbing as fun as possible.

What was the most confounding question you ever got?

Most of the questions they asked were. That was the first thing I learned. Someone asks me a simple question or something like that that was not on their worksheet and man, I'd panic. My mind was like blank. I'd think, "Man, I'm supposed to know the answer to this," so I came up with my first good teacher line: "So, let's look that up together."

Clever. So, how many hours a day does Jack Roush wear that hat?

I think he really just wears it for sun protection. It looked kind of crazy the first time I saw him without the hat, though, eating breakfast at the hotel. I didn't recognize him. That is his trademark. But standing out here in the sun all day, that hat's not a bad idea.

Fans seem to develop deep-seated opinions about drivers very early. Jimmie Johnson got a free pass until recently. Kurt Busch didn't. Haven't heard any boos for you yet? How do you do it?

I don't know. I try not to think so much about that stuff. I just try to go out and give 110 percent with something I love to do, and however fans want to see me, that's their right to do it however they want. To this point, it's just been awesome. Everyone has been great and it's been a real positive.