News & Media

By air and by sea, Edwards' group makes it work

August 20, 2011, Dave Rodman,

MONTREAL -- Carl Edwards' weekend flight nightmare became a saga of helicopter, plane, helicopter and speedboat Saturday -- and it worked out perfectly. Edwards traveled from Michigan International Speedway to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to race in the Nationwide Series' NAPA Auto Parts 200 with only minutes to spare.

The nightmare occurred on Friday, when the Roush Fenway Racing driver realized he'd left his passport at home and had to have it driven from Missouri to Michigan by a friend. That enabled Edwards to fly into Canada and land at Montreal/Saint-Hubert Airport, which is located in Longueuil, about 9.9 miles east of downtown Montreal.

Carl Edwards signed in while substitute driver Billy Johnson filled him in. (Turner Sports New Media)

That's a little closer to the track, which is located on Ile Notre Dame in the Saint Lawrence River, but it would still require a second helicopter transfer.

Edwards, who regularly flies his own Cessna Citation CJ1 twin-engine jet airplane, had taken a helicopter from MIS to Lenawee County Airport in Adrian, Mich. Edwards was originally scheduled to land at Saint-Hubert at 2:12 p.m. ET. That would have kept his airplane on the ground due to airspace over the track being closed for a scheduled flyover by two Royal Canadian Air Force jets.

Roush Fenway representatives communicated with Octane Management, the Canadian agency that operates the event for American entity Stock-Car Montreal and the closure was rescinded to allow Edwards' helicopter, which was also carrying RFR teammate Trevor Bayne, Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose and one of Edwards' pit crew, to land on the helipad nearly a mile down the from the pit and garage complex.

Edwards' original flight plan called for airspeed of 355 knots, but at times Edwards' jet was traveling at 400 kts, which brought his scheduled landing at Saint-Hubert to 2:01 p.m.

The helicopter landed on Ile Notre Dame at 2:14 p.m., where a speedboat the organizers had offered was waiting.

The three drivers were transported down the Olympic rowing basin by speedboat, where they disembarked about 80 yards from the NASCAR office hauler, where they had to sign their liability waivers that would allow them to get into their cars and race.

"That was awesome," Edwards said, to no one in particular, as he stepped up from the impromptu boat landing to head toward the NASCAR trailer. Billy Johnson, the Roush sports car driver who had prepared the car in Edwards' absence, met him at the steps from the landing to begin briefing him on what to expect.

All three entered drivers had to drop to the rear of the field due to their cars being qualified Friday by substitute drivers Johnson, Owen Kelly (Ambrose) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (Bayne).

Owner/driver Joe Nemechek joined them in drop-back mode, but he took a different route from Michigan to Montreal.

"I hauled [butt] after qualifying [Friday at MIS]," Nemechek said through a smile Saturday morning at CGV. "No one was flying [privately] back to Charlotte, so I had to fly commercial, then jump on the race day shuttle [weekly charter from Charlotte to NASCAR venues] at 5 this morning."

Nemechek's car was qualified Friday by Kevin Conway, while J.J. Yeley ran a couple laps of Cup practice Saturday morning at MIS in Nemechek's No. 87 Toyota.