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Carl Edwards and Jack Roush speak to their long contract drama. Neither says very much or offers many details, but both are relieved

   Jack Roush and Carl Edwards, together for more years, relieved that negotiations are over (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   By Mike Mulhern


  Championship cage rattling?
  Well, it was certainly more than a bit distracting.
  And there has been no shortage of drama in the battle over contract rights to Carl Edwards, the NASCAR tour leader, the past six weeks.
  But now the Edwards – Jack Roush drama is finally over....though with a heck of a lot of questions still unanswered.

  Neither man was in much of an answering mood here Friday, when discussing the conclusion of the duel between Roush/Ford and Joe Gibbs/Toyota for the rights to put one of stock car racing's best drivers behind the wheel in 2012.
   In fact both sides seemed to want to put it all behind them, the winners and the losers.
   How much money and all was really at stake, no one would say.
   How long the deal was, no one would say.
   But clearly the word of the day was 'relief.'
   For Roush and Ford, re-signing Edwards may be as much about not losing him to arch-rival Toyota and Gibbs as anything.
   How close Edwards may have come to moving from Roush to Gibbs? No one is saying.
   "There were some sleepless nights," Roush conceded. "I think Carl and I both got a better night's sleep Friday than we probably had for awhile.
    "If Carl had made the decision not to come back, I was going to feel really stupid for having shown him all the things we did."
   "I'd really rather not discuss the actual process," Edwards said in brushing off questions about the negotiations.
    "I learned a ton; I
learned a lot about Roush Fenway Racing; I learned a lot about Jack as a
person. I learned a lot about myself and what’s important to me."

   The focal point of Friday's session was essentially to hold hands and vow to move forward and win the championship, rather than analyze the last six intense weeks, in which Edwards, seemingly, was on the verge of leaving.
   If Edwards had gone to Gibbs, he was expected to get the Home Depot sponsorship, because that company is extremely anxious to stop Jimmie Johnson and Lowe's, who have won five straight Sprint Cup championships. And Edwards on that roster would have made Gibbs even more powerful, with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Gibbs already has won more Cup races the past three years than any other NASCAR team owner.
   What was Edwards really doing during these many months? Good question. The Roush-Ford camp versus the Gibbs-Toyota camp would really seem to be something of a toss-up. Both operations are well run. And Edwards has been with Roush on the Cup tour since 2004, so it's hard to envision how much more he could have wanted to learn.   

   Perhaps Edwards was just trying to measure his worth on the open market. Certainly nothing wrong with that.
   But the Roush camp insists it only made one financial offer to Edwards, and that was early in the talks. What Ford executives might have added to the pot is at the moment unclear, though they did describe it last week as "unprecedented," though without clarifying just what. Some insiders say Edsel Ford himself stepped in to make the deal work.
   And with Edwards out of the Gibbs picture, the two questions over there are clear -- what will Home Depot do now, and how does Logano fit in?
   Logano, though quite young, has not measured to championship material yet, and Johnson is on line for a run at a record breaking sixth title.
   How many other men on the tour might be able to beat Johnson in a title run? Not many at all. According to some in the picture, Home Depot, if Gibbs were unable to sign a man who could beat Johnson head to head, might be willing to leave NASCAR. Certainly Home Depot at the corporate level had to have answers sooner rather than later, considering the millions of dollars in sponsorship money at stake.
   But while questions are hanging in the air, Roush and Edwards Friday were eager to look to the future instead.
  "Words can't describe how happy we are, to extend his association with us," Roush said. "It's a positive indication of all the work Carl did in evaluation. His questions were the most in-depth of my 24 years.
   "Glad for the patience of our sponsors….to let us reach this conclusion.
   "Thanks, Carl."
   "Thank you, Jack," Edwards said. "I'm thankful that Jack and everyone at Roush Fenway gave me the time to make our decision.
   "The process went very well.
   "This team is in a position we've never been in before; we're fast for all the right reasons. I'm glad this is behind us, and now we can race for the championship."
    Edwards, though never mentioning Gibbs or Toyota in his 25-minute talk, says the big dollar numbers ascribed to the the potential contract were "incorrect." At one point people familiar with the situation were insisting a Home Depot-Carl Edwards deal could set a NASCAR record. But Edwards was not at all pleased with such a description.
    However neither Roush nor Edwards offered much in depth about the lengthy negotiations or any of the details.
   The dealing itself apparently was not set until sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.
    However both expressed relief that it was all finally over.
    Indeed Roush, Edwards and Ford execs appear extremely anxious to get this story in the books and closed, so they could all move on down the road as quickly as possible.
    Edwards insisted there was no last-minute game-making move that led to his decision....though Ford officials strongly indicated otherwise.
    Did Edwards take it all right to the brink, in order get the best possible deal? Perhaps. But no one was saying.
    Edwards said it was all about doing 'due diligence' in making sure that Roush's operation was the best operation for him. However Edwards has been working for Roush since 2003....
    Then perhaps Edwards might have been swayed a bit by fan reaction to his possible move, which could have had negative implications for him:  http://www.facebook.com/carledwardsmotorsports

    Now though Edwards and Roush may have to figure out how to smooth things over in their camp with the three other teams. And it is still unclear how Edwards' own crew might have looked at all this controversy and the distinct possibility Edwards would be leaving them at the end of the season for a rival camp.
    In an odd twist, teammate Greg Biffle said Friday he hadn't heard that Edwards had re-signed with Roush. Last weekend at Indianapolis Biffle had been pretty pointed about insisting that Edwards couldn't drag this thing out much longer "because jobs are at stake," referring to the 90 or 100 crewman and families on each team. Roush has some 400-plus people working for him.
    Denny Hamlin, while conceding "we would have liked to have had him," said after talking with his own team owner, Joe Gibbs, about it, he wasn't thinking Edwards and Gibbs were close to any deal.
  The Gibbs side too tried to downplay the drama. Hamlin said he was "not really surprised" that Edwards stayed with Roush.  "I talked to Joe, and I asked 'You hear the rumors, and you hear 'he is' or 'he isn't,' and I'm wondering really how close he is.'
   "So I asked Coach, and he's like 'Trust me, if it ever got to that point I would let you know first.'
  "So I knew that it never really had gotten very far along, I don't believe. 
    "Whether his intentions really were to leave or not, it's tough to say.  Nobody knows but really him. 
    "For us, we were obviously interested in having him, and things just didn’t work out."
   What NASCAR executives might have thought about the situation?
   Well, if Edwards, 31, had moved, he would have joined the very young Gibbs lineup -- with Kyle Busch, 26, Hamlin, 30, and Joey Logano, 21. That would have been a very young and very potent lineup.
   And on the other side, Roush's Matt Kenseth is 39, Greg Biffle is 41, and David Ragan is 25. Kenseth and Ragan still have uncertain sponsorship for 2012.
   Busch, Hamlin's teammate at Gibbs, says "I don't think there’s any sense of disappointment.  Certainly it would have been great to have him...and certainly it’s great that Roush Racing gets to keep him.
    "I don't think there are any hard feelings there. That's a part of the negotiation process and how Carl felt he wanted to handle things...and where he ended up is where he ended up."
   "I'm just glad it's over," Ragan said of the drama. "I wish it would have happened six weeks ago. That's been the top priority at Roush the last six weeks."
    Ragan, remember, just won the Daytona 400, which he's hoped would be springboard to signing a new sponsorship contract with UPS. No word on how those talks are going.
    Roush, who appeared more relieved than thrilled while discussing the situation, was quick to point to the championship run ahead, more than the behind-the-scenes drama just played out.
   "What makes me feel really good about our prospects going forward is that we do not have a weakness," Roush said.
   "We do not have an area where we are deficient."
    Edwards said his game plan for these negotiations was simple: "What would I do if money were not an issue, and what would I do if I didn't care what one person thought about my decision?
   "This decision was important to me because of all the work I've put in.
   "That's what made this simple for me.
   "Whenever I would start to feel the pressure creeping in, I would say 'Okay, let's get back to basics here.'"
   Any second thoughts about how it all went?   
    "First of all, I wish I would have never confirmed that our term was up, because it would have been a lot quieter," Edwards said.
    "I looked at a lot of things. But at the end of the day, our negotiations and our deals, and the things that I look at competitively, are private matters, and I appreciate you guys respecting that."
   However Edwards is one of the top drivers in the sport, and it might have been unrealistic for him to expect the NASCAR media simply to accept his request and roll over.
   Roush said now that he's got Edwards signed, he can start looking for sponsorship: "We just opened negotiations in the last 48 hours with the existing sponsors to see what’s there.  There are a couple of new sponsors, potentially, in the wings that we can attract and embrace and have them get involved. 
   "It’s a reality today that we see that given the economic circumstance and the complexity of the racing and how many people it takes behind a team.
   "This thing is extraordinarily expensive; it's extraordinarily complex. And in today's economic environment I think it's beyond the means and interest of most sponsors to take the whole car. So we're sorting out through the sponsors to find out who the anchor will be (for Edwards). Then we'll fill in around that.
    "We don't expect to have a shortage of sponsors for Carl."
    And after Edwards' deals are lined up, Roush said he'll be working on the other deals.
    "Everything is pretty much in a state of flux," Roush said.
    And he offered no hints as to who might be on the lists.
    "Since the negotiations are private and they are ongoing, I choose not to speculate on who would be in and who would be out and who the new players would be," Roush said. "But suffice it to say that there's a list I believe to be sufficient that I think we're going to be fine with four teams."



I thought Edwards handled

I thought Edwards handled this contract negotiation, discreetly and correctly. It sounds like Roush opened up his books to Carl, probably something the family-run JGR was unwilling to do. But it was Ford's last-minute, creative deal that got the renewal signed.

However, the big loser in this is JGR, who has been warned about the #20 team's performance by Home Depot. Worse, Joey Logano does not even crack the Top 10 on the Joyce Julius exposure value charts, an inflated metric that used to favor the teams' negotiating position, but is now being turned on them by dissatisfied sponsors.

I agree that Gibbs has some

I agree that Gibbs has some issues to deal with. But I'm still not convinced we've gotten the full story on Carl Edwards and Gibbs.....

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