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Edwards speculations take centre stage

NASCAR's own drama of pitched negotiations, big bucks deals and brinksmanship to match the US debt crisis all centre on Carl Edwards: who will he sign for in 2012, and when will we know?
Back in May, the fact that championship leader Carl Edwards had not yet announced a new contract beyond the end of this season was a matter of passing interest and the occasional comment. But realistically, no one thought there were any real doubts that Edwards would re-sign with Roush Fenway Racing sooner or later.

Even when it continued to drag on with no news, and gossip grew about Joe Gibbs Racing aggressively pursuing Edwards with offers, it still seemed that it was just the usual contract negotiations at work, playing one hand off another, and that Edwards was just doing his best to get the best deal he could out of team owner Jack Roush.

Then we hit July, and all those experts who had been confidently predicting that Edwards was staying put in the #99 started to wobble; and by the end, the odds had shifted so far in the JGR direction that as NASCAR headed into Indianapolis last weekend many were suggesting that the only reason there had been no word was because Edwards had indeed decided to leave and wanted to delay announcing it to minimise the damage it would do to his Cup campaign.

Besieged by questions about his status, Edwards needed a new line at pre-race press conferences at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and boldly announced to the assembled media: "I have signed a contract," only to then immediately deflate the reporters by adding, "That's the contract I signed in 2008 to race for Jack in '09, '10 and '11 and try to win the championship, so that is my mission. That's the only contract that I have signed right now and that's the one that I'm going to honour, so that's what I'm doing."

The big unknown right now is whether the lack of an announcement is because of the genuine lack of a decision - or down to not wanting to derail his season. After all, 2011 is proving to be the best chance that the 31-year-old former Nationwide champion has yet had of clinching his first Cup title.

"Let's say he's going somewhere else: they're done," said Jeff Gordon about Edwards' title hopes in 2011. "I just don't see them winning the championship knowing that they're leaving. I might be wrong. But if he stays, it might have just been a blip and then get back on track."

That feeling is backed up by Kurt Busch, who drove for Roush Fenway in 2005 and who announced mid-season what he was leaving to go to Penske. He was stunned by the backlash he got from the team owner as a result.

"The experience I went through was hell," Busch confirmed. "I went in there like a man to tell Jack that I was leaving, and to see how it all turned out was very surprising to me ... I would definitely tread lightly."

The potential animosity of the situation is ramped up because of the engine marques that the two teams represent: Roush Fenway is the standard bearer for Ford, while Joe Gibbs Racing is the poster boy for Toyota. Both engine companies are aware of the potential PR value of signing Carl Edwards at this stage, with Toyota already believed to have been involved in upping the money offer to Edwards in recent weeks.




Related Pictures

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Carl Edwards climbs into the Michigan International Speedway grandstands to celebrate his Alliance Truck Parts 250 victory with the fans. [Picture Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images]
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet, talks to his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, on the grid prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Comcast Business Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, April 17, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is 21st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 11, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Mortal Kombat X Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Mortal Kombat X Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Mortal Kombat X Toyota, celebrates by saluting the crowd after a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Mortal Kombat X Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #20 GameStop/Mortal Kombat X Toyota, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #18 ARRIS Toyota, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR XFINITY Series O`Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses after winning the Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses after winning the Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 AXE Chevrolet, goes through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, goes through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

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