The Heartland: An essay with Carl Edwards

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
5:57
PM ET

The Heartland 
Sunup to sundown 
The melody of the plow is the pulse that pulls the second hand 'round 
Daybreak to dusk.
Every tick of the sunlight dial wrings dry the bountiful prospects of the land 

In the Heartland

Carl Edwards: I like where I grew up. I like the fact that you can have not enough money to pay for gas at the gas station and they say, 'Hey, don't worry about it. Get it tomorrow.' There's a big sense of community where I'm from.

Folks here don't expect handouts 
But are quick to lend a hand 
Their conscience is the memory of their father's calloused hands.
Generations of meticulous effort 

They will not accept shortcuts 
It's do it right 
Or don't do it at all 
In the Heartland.

Edwards: I'm blessed to have grown up around a lot of people who are good, hardworking, honest folks who held me to a really high standard -- which was painful sometimes. I'll be at the hardware store and they'll say, 'Man! I knew you. I used to see you go pick up cigarette butts at your dad's shop!' It's like they just can't believe it. It's neat to be around people who really know who you are.

Sweat that drips from a man's brow is as understood as the air that fills his lungs 
'Round here a handshake is a contract 
Word is deed  and faith is creed.
Aim as true and straight as the corn rows that define this place 

Edwards: You tell people what your hopes and your dreams are, and they laugh at you. Or they don't believe you can do it, and it's tough. Whenever people ask me for advice, I just tell them the simplest thing is three words: Never give up. I realized a couple years into this project that I'd beat about 95 percent of the people I was competing with just by not quitting. I think that's the key.

Look a man in the eye 
Square 
Roots run deeper than limbs extend 
In the Heartland.

Edwards: When [International Speedway Corp. president] Lisa Kennedy and the folks at ISC built this place [Kansas Speedway], it was when I was working as hard as I could, to do anything I could, to make it as a race car driver. This place was bigger than a challenge. It was almost an insult to have all of this racing right here happening, and, all of a sudden, people in the area I was living in were talking about auto racing. And I was like, 'I'm part of that, guys!' That's what I want to do!

Passion.

Edwards: I was a student at Missouri, and I was racing at my local dirt track and had a good deal going at school. And I was talking to someone about this race I ran on Saturday, and one of the students in the class says, 'What are you talking about? You're a race car driver?' And I said, 'Yeah. That's what I want to do.' He's like, 'You think you're going to race in the Daytona 500 or something?' To me, those were fighting words.

I hear people say, 'Oh, Carl just wants to be on TV.' To me, deep down, I still have this fear that whatever I do is not going to be good enough. So when I'm on TV with you guys, or talking to sponsors, I'm very aware that that's what makes this thing go around, and I don't look lightly on any of it. That's why I give it 100 percent all the time.

Pride.

Edwards: I remember driving past this place on the highway going to Colorado to a race, and I didn't even want to look at it because it was everything I wanted to be doing, right there. And so to me, it's a challenge. And for me, the last part of that challenge would be to win here.

You may leave it  but it never leaves you 

Edwards: I've lived two separate lives, man. I've lived the life of sneaking into these places and handing out business cards and having people laugh at me and living the life of people driving by yelling my name and honking. They're both fun. If this all ended tomorrow, I guess I'd high-five everybody and go find something that made me feel good.

Wherever you go  it is with you 
The Heartland.

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