3 August 2011
Edwards speculations take centre stage
Reports suggest that Ford have belatedly entered this negotiation as well, adding a signing fee and topping up Roush Fenway's salary offer to match JGR's purported $8m a year deal - plus prize money and not including any separate sponsorship deals. It's believed to be the first time in their history that Ford have stepped in to negotiate directly with a driver. If it happens, it would make Edwards Ford's "representative" on a personal services contract, not unlike the deals Chevrolet have with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and which would finally cement Edwards' position right at the top of the NASCAR food chain.
But is Ford's intervention too late in the day to save Edwards' seat in the #99 with Roush Fenway? And maybe it's not all about dollars and cents in any case. "I don't think it's about the money," suggested Lee White, president of Toyota Racing Development. "There's something else there."
If Edwards genuinely hasn't yet made a decision, there are plenty of people who feel that he should and that he owes it to others to make one sooner rather than later.
"Eventually, he's gonna have to make a decision and it'll be best for everybody so, one, we can plan for sponsorships and drivers and teams and people," said team mate Greg Biffle. "There are a lot of people's jobs on the line - if we're gonna be three teams or four teams - so the sooner the better."
In fact, Biffle's tone at Indianapolis notably tipped toward the exasperated over the whole Carl Edwards line of questioning - with perhaps an implication that he expected Edwards to depart. "It's obvious that it's coming to a head," he said. "At some point he's gonna have to say that 'I'm not coming back.' He's not gonna be able to wait until [season finale] Homestead, we all know that, so Carl is a big boy, he's a man and he has to make his own decisions."
That wearing of patience at Roush Fenway was notably in contrast to suddenly warm relations between Edwards and his potential future JGR team mates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Carl and Kyle have had a combative relationship in the past, but recently seem to have kissed and made up in just the way that good prospective team mates would.
"If Carl came over to Gibbs, certainly it would be beneficial," Kyle Busch said, "because 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 he's been around ... I feel like Carl would certainly mesh well and fit in and we could certainly have better results if we could make it a four-car team."
"I think it would be good for our team," Denny Hamlin agreed. "Having a guy that has already contended for championships and wins on a weekly basis can't be a bad thing."
The one JGR driver notably less enthusiastic about jumping on the Edwards bandwagon is young Joey Logano - since it's his seat in the #20 Home Depot car that Edwards would be taking, the longtime sponsor desperate to get on even terms with arch business rivals Lowes' Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR. The likelihood is that even if Edwards moves to JGR, Logano will stay on - albeit bumped to a new fourth car team, lacking the financial backing of Home Depot and the proven success of pit crew chief Greg Zipadelli.
"I wouldn't want to see Joey go anywhere," confirmed Kyle. "I would hope that we could work it to where Carl is our fourth guy."
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