July 31, 2011
Carl Edwards, make up your mind!
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
INDIANAPOLIS - Carl Edwards is caught between two warring forces that threaten to unhinge the best chance of his career for a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
On one side is his loyalty and genuine affection for Jack Roush, the co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, where Edwards has spent his entire NASCAR Cup career.
On the other is a bid for his soon-to-be free agent services from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota outfit.
It is not an easy choice.
But to choose the Gibbs deal — that is rumoured to be about $15 million US a season — would surely end his chances this season for a championship in the No. 99 RFR Ford.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said as much in a question-and-answer session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Whether or not he’s staying or going, it’s a big distraction, a lot on his mind,” Gordon said. “I think it’s unfortunate in some ways because I think this is the best year I’ve seen Carl have with a team and a car capable of winning the championship, if those things are all playing out — let’s say he’s going somewhere else, they’re done.
“I just don’t see them winning the championship knowing that (he is) leaving.”
Even Greg Biffle, one of his RFR teammates, said that Edwards needs to make a decision — one way or the other — for the sake of the team.
And he strongly hinted that he thinks Edwards has already made up his mind to leave.
“At some point he’s going to have to say ‘I’m not coming back,’ ” Biffle said. “He’s not going to be able to wait until Homestead (the last race of the season), we all know that.”
Biffle said that Edwards’ decision will affect more than just him, but a lot of folks who work at RFR.
“There are a lot of people’s jobs on the line — if we’re going to be three teams or four teams — so the sooner the better,” he said.
As for Edwards, he is staying tight-lipped about what direction he wants to take his career.
“We’re working hard on the contract stuff,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of different ideas out there, but it still remains the same.
“I’m going make the decision that’s the best one I can make and I’m going to do that outside of the media.”
Edwards also refuses to believe that the ongoing contract talks with both RFR and Gibbs is hurting his Cup championship chances.
And he won’t discuss anything beyond that talks are continuing.
“I can’t tell you,” he said to media members at the Brickyard 400. “I’m not purposely withholding anything, other than to just be able to get the business side of everything done. When I’m able to talk about next season, if it’s appropriate, I will talk about it and I’ll tell you guys.”
There is also a certain delicious irony to suggestions that a deal with Gibbs has already been negotiated.
Edwards and Kyle Busch — the star of the Gibbs team — have famously feuded over the years.
Yet this week at Indianapolis Busch appeared to take a very positive view of having Edwards as a possible teammate.
“If Carl came over to Gibbs, certainly it would be beneficial,” Busch said. “He’s really good at what he does, he’s got great communication, he’s got good feedback, and he’s been one of the top three or four guys in the sport every year.”
If, by the way, Edwards does move to Gibbs it will be in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, with current driver Joey Logano going to a fourth JGR car.