In media interviews this week, both Clint Bowyer and Richard Childress seemed resigned to the end of a working relationship between the two that has lasted the whole of Bowyer's NASCAR Cup career.
Bowyer said it would be "heartbreaking" if he were to end up leaving Richard Childress Racing when his current contract expires at the end of the season, after eight years and 206 Cup starts together.
"[RCR] is family to me and it means a lot to me. I don't forget where I was standing when I got a phone call to get me this opportunity and change my life. It would be big," he said.
"But the world goes on. You have to make decisions and those are performance-driven, business-driven, life, family, everything," he continued. "It's just a lot of decisions you go through and everybody goes through those in life. Us racers are no different."
Asked if a split is now likely, Bowyer conceded "That's fair [to say]. We're just working on everything, that's the biggest thing, just trying to get everything done as far as the future."
"You know, we've tried and we've really worked really hard to put the deal together to keep Clint," said Childress in an interview on SiriusXM Radio's NASCAR channel on Thursday. "It's not 100% off the table, but it's getting tougher and tougher as the day goes by."
A contract renewal had initially looked a formality once Carl Edwards re-signed at Roush Fenway and taken one possible alternative avenue off the table for the 32-year-old Kansan. But once rumours started that contract talks between Bowyer and Childress were stalled over money - Bowyer reportedly having a greater sense of his dollar worth to RCR than Childress was willing to agree to - the offers started to come in, with Bowyer the last of this year's big-name free agents not to have re-signed with their current team.
Richard Petty Motorsports' majority owner Andrew Murstein went public by revealing that RPM had made Bowyer an offer, and it's also rumoured that Joe Gibbs Racing has made an approach as they seek to set up a fourth car, originally hoping to snag Edwards himself for the ride.
"Clint's got a couple of really good opportunities there facing him," conceded Childress. "For us, it just didn't seem that we could get everything worked out."