WEST ALLIS, Wis. Carl Edwards might be the most buff driver in NASCAR. But when it comes to running in front of television cameras, even he realizes there are limits.
"People don't understand, it's hard to run and look cool," Edwards joked during a recent test session at the Milwaukee Mile, the site of his sprint to the green flag last year. "Because you know all the cameras are on, and they're all watching you."
He hopes he won't have to do the same thing this weekend, as he again scrambles from Sprint Cup series practice in Sonoma, Calif., to make the start of the Nationwide series race Milwaukee Saturday night.
Edwards was a man in motion for the start of last year's race. After practice in Sonoma, he boarded a private plane bound for Wisconsin and immediately began prodding his pilot to go faster so he could make the start in Milwaukee. But they had to stop for gas, and that's when things got hectic.
"I was wearing the pilot out so bad to hurry that we stopped for fuel, and he told them to put the minimum amount of fuel on because I was wearing him out so much," Edwards said. "And we didn't put enough fuel on, so we had to stop again."
Edwards finally arrived in Milwaukee with minutes to spare, and ended up sprinting through the garage to make it to his car in time for the start.
Oh, he tried to make it look like he was having fun, smiling and waving as he chugged toward his car. But he now admits he was pulling a fast one.
"I hope I don't have to do that again this year," Edwards said. "I was about to die."
But Edwards' run was nothing compared to the saga of fellow Cup driver Denny Hamlin that day, making Milwaukee one of the more bizarre race of the season.
Hamlin also was a late arrival from Cup practice in California, and his helicopter couldn't land at the track because there were cars parked on the helipad. Hamlin was denied permission to land on the track itself, and the race started without him.
Aric Almirola started the race in Hamlin's place and appeared to have a chance at a victory when Hamlin finally arrived. The team ordered Almirola to pull over and let Hamlin take the wheel.
Almirola walked away sulking, and Hamlin went on to take the checkered flag even though NASCAR credited Almirola with the victory because he started the race.
Hamlin isn't trying to pull California-Wisconsin double duty again this year, but Edwards, Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann, David Ragan and Marcos Ambrose are expected to run both races.
"To be able to go from Sonoma and come to Milwaukee to race on Saturday night, it's been one of the most adventurous weekends of the year for the last three years, and we have fun with it," Edwards said. "And to me, to be able to win a race here would be spectacular."
But as much success as Edwards has had in the Cup series this year he's fourth in the points and has won three races he has yet to find victory lane in the series he dominated last season.
"Our season so far on the Sprint Cup side has been great," Edwards said. "We've never started a season this well. We've got three wins, I feel like we've got a car that can win every week. The Nationwide side has been terrible. We're not as competitive as we need to be. We're working really hard at it, though."
Roush Fenway Racing made an abrupt crew chief swap this week, moving Drew Blickensderfer to Edwards' team and Pierre Kuettel to its No. 17 car. Edwards won the series championship with Kuettel last year.
But Edwards said recently his team's disappointing performance in Nationwide this year was mostly related to engines.
"That's the biggest thing that's hurting us," he said. "And we've got to work on that. And I've talked to (engine builder) Doug Yates, and they're doing everything they can."