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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]
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
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Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, leads the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, places the winner`s decal on his car after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Cheez-It Ford, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Cheez-It Ford, pits during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. CPT Travis L. Patriquin, US Army, is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael S. Duskin is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualifies for ninth position, Thursday, May 21, 2015, for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Larson is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. All 43 drivers will be participating in
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, stands on the grid prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 21, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 21, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 21, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. HM3 James R Layton is honored on the car as part of the 600 Miles of Remembrance program. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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