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Carl Edwards surprises: Signs a new NASCAR contract with Ford's Jack Roush

  Carl Edwards (L) and team owner Jack Roush (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   POCONO, Pa.
   In a dramatic turn, Carl Edwards has decided to stay with Ford Motor Company and team owner Jack Roush, after weeks of heavy speculation that he could be leaving and moving to Toyota's Joe Gibbs team. It's official, and announcement is expected early Thursday morning.

   Edwards, who has been the NASCAR tour points leader most of the season and takes the lead into Sunday's Pocono 500, has declined to discuss his contract negotiations through the year.
   However the situation became more intense at Loudon, N.H., three weeks ago when it appeared Gibbs and Toyota had won the battle – either to put Edwards in a fourth team car or in the Home Depot sponsored car current run by Joey Logano. Gibbs and his son J. D. Gibbs have refused to comment on any of the reports or on the situation with Edwards. However drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have both said they would welcome Edwards.
   On the Ford-Roush side, last week was apparently the showdown week, with Ford saying it was offering Edwards an "unprecedented" position as part of its bargaining.
   As Edwards continued his negotiations, and his silence, there were indications that things could be getting testy between Edwards and his large fan base if he were to leave the man and the company that gave him his big break in this sport back in 2004.
   And Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne have been a formidable duo during their years together on the Sprint Cup tour. Though they've only won once this season, they've been in contention to win several times.
   Why would Edwards even think about leaving Roush and Ford?  Apparently because Gibbs' sponsor Home Depot has been extremely anxious to figure out a way to beat arch-rival Lowe's, whose sponsor Jimmie Johnson has won five straight Sprint Cup titles. And that apparently upped the bidding for Edwards.
    However in the end common sense seemingly won out.
    It certainly wasn't a coup that Roush re-signed Edwards. Rather, it was something that should have happened months ago.
    And is the question now 'Why did it take Edwards so long to sign again with Roush?' or rather 'Why did it take Roush so long to sign a new contract with Edwards?'
    Was Roush too complacent in thinking that Edwards would continue to remain loyal?
    And what really was Edwards' thinking in all this? Just to get the biggest deal, the longest deal?
    Being with a team that can win the championship, Edwards says, has been the key. And either Roush or Gibbs could provide that. In fact before Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson went on their hot streak, these two had each won two of the previous four titles. Roush had won two titles (2003 with Matt Kenseth, 2004 with Kurt Busch), and Gibbs had won two (2002 and 2005 with Tony Stewart). And of the last six championships Roush men had three runner-up finishes to Gibbs' one.
   Out on the track in 2010, Gibbs' men did outperform Roush, with 11 wins to Roush's four.
   But Gibbs this season has had engine issues, 11 blown motors at last count. And Ford's new FR9 engine has clearly shown an edge.
   However technology comes and goes in this sport. Up today, down tomorrow. Just ask Johnson, who heads into August with still but one tour win.

   Roush and Edwards are both reported to be 'traveling' Thursday and plan to delay any comment until Friday at Pocono Raceway. 

    So did Edwards, who says he does all his own negotiating, prove to be a master negotiator and win the day?
    Did Edwards take the dealing right to the brink and walk away the big winner?
    Or did Edwards simply make the most obvious choice after all?
    Was the Gibbs-Toyota dealing just a negotiating ploy?
    However at Indianapolis the Roush-Ford camp, while insisting it was going to let Edwards take as long as he wanted to make up his mind, seemed almost resigned to probably losing Edwards to Gibbs.
    Did something change in the past few days? Did fan reaction -- check out Edwards' Facebook page -- play a role?

    Did Edwards and Roush misjudge the PR aspect of such extended negotiations?
    Still, why did it take Edwards and Roush so long to come to terms anyway? A move from Roush to Gibbs would be only a parallel move (though Gibbs has won more races this season, 4-3, and has been more consistent the past several years). So money or length of contract would seem the only significant reasons for Edwards to make a move.
   Certainly the money figures mentioned -- $10 million a year – would be enticing.
   Still, it just really didn't make much sense for Edwards to leave Roush, considering all the success they've had together.
   On the other hand, rule-of-thumb in NASCAR is never let a contract get into the final  year; always negotiate a new contract well before the old one is up.
   In that sense, it is odd that Roush did not lock up Edwards and Biffle last year.
   Roush and Biffle came to terms earlier this year (amid speculation that Biffle, 39, took a lower offer than Edwards, 31, would have taken, after the two – supposedly – made a tacit agreement to make similar deals with Roush).
   Logic says that after Edwards won the final two events in 2010, and that it was clear Ford had caught  back up technologically with its rivals, after an 18-month slump, that Roush and Edwards would have signed a new contract during the off-season and gone into 2011 with a clean road ahead.
   Did Roush misjudge what it would take to sign Edwards again? Or did Edwards demand more than Roush anticipated?
   Certainly Roush and Ford have seen not only Edwards's talents on the the track and on the PR end of all this  but also the rivals who would love to sign him too.
   And if there were rivals in the bidding (Jeff Gordon even mentioned last weekend that Rick Hendrick had, back in 2008 when that contract was up, had talks with Edwards), why didn't Ford and Roush make a preemptive strike and sign Edwards, sponsor or not?
   Is Edwards suddenly more valuable now than he was last fall? Probably not. After all he came within 35 points of winning the 2005 championship, and he's been a heady driver and big winner in Nationwide.
   Signing Edwards without a sponsor cleanly in hand?
   Well, consider attempting the alternative, signing a sponsor without Edwards in hand.
   And if Edwards were to have moved on, what were Roush's options: seemingly Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Daytona winner Trevor Bayne.
   Now both Stenhouse and Bayne are promising up-and-comers, but Bayne, despite winning the sport's biggest race, has still not attracted a major full-time sponsor and is still running Cup only part-time. And Stenhouse has made just one Cup start.  So it might well be hard to get a $20 million-plus sponsorship  for either man right now, particularly in this economic climate.
    Of course it's not at all clear how well Edwards now fits into Roush's four-team lineup. Edwards and Matt Kenseth have had run-ins; and Greg  Biffle was quite pointed in his comments last weekend about Edwards' dragging his feet on making a deal.
   But then maybe it all boiled down to Ford corporate pride. The company may have simply decided it couldn't afford to lose one of its top stars.
   Ford, remember, had Jeff Gordon at one time but lost him to Chevrolet; and Ford had Kasey Kahne at one time and lost him, first to Dodge, now to Chevrolet.
   And Ford would certainly like to win this year's NASCAR championship.
   Jamie Allison, Ford's NASCAR boss, was asked 'Why it took so long' for Edwards and Roush to come to terms.
   And Allison insisted it didn't matter how long the process took as long as Edwards stayed in the Ford camp.
   "Everything in due time, in due course," Allison said. "Carl wanted some space and time.
   "It doesn't matter how it starts, but how it finishes…
   "And Carl is validating that the Ford program is where he wants to be and where he can win championships."
   Still, why so long?
   "These are negotiations, he is the top driver in the sport, and this is what negotiations are," Allison said.
   "At the end of the day Carl is validating that this is the best program for him to go out and win."
   However the fact that Edwards was apparently willing to leave, or at least willing to consider leaving, what does that say about loyalty?
   "It was very straightforward to me -- Carl is a Ford driver," Allison replied. "What Carl was going through in his  own mind…he was airing out what he had on their mind, and I think it's completely all right."
   Was the Ford camp too complacent in assuming Edwards would stay?
   Was Allison really worried that Edwards would indeed leave?
   "I don't want to make too much out of what might have happen, what could have happened," Allison said.
   "We wanted to give Carl space and time…..it was one of those cases where we wanted patience….and that approach helped us arrive at this decision."

   The Roush camp issued a brief statement making the deal official.
   Roush, in the statement, said "Carl and the team are having a terrific season again this year, and we're thrilled that our relationship will continue for many more."
   And Roush pointed out the break he first offered Edwards when the driver was still unknown: "We saw great potential in Carl a decade ago, and it's been a thrill to watch him grow into one of the sport's premier drivers."
   One reason, behind the scenes in the talks, for Edwards' looking around was the 18-month slump the Roush camp suffered. Yes, Roush teams turned things around last summer, and Greg Biffle showed that by winning here one year ago, and Edwards closed the season with back-to-back wins at Phoenix and Homestead. However there apparently was some question in Edwards' mind about how solid that turnaround might be. So, it appears he decided to wait a few weeks or so into this season to make sure what he was seeing was for real. And Edwards came within a nose of winning the Daytona 500, then followed with victory at Las Vegas.
   However why Roush and Edwards couldn't come to terms soon after that isn't clear, or obvious.
   Roush conceded as much: "We didn't take our past success for granted when we sat down with Carl to talk about his future."
   Edwards himself, in the statement, expressed his loyalty: "I sincerely appreciate the amazing opportunity that Jack Roush has given me in this sport and am honored to race for him.
   "As an organization, Roush Fenway provides the resources I need to win, and as a driver, that's the most important thing."
    Why look elsewhere? Edwards has yet to address that.
   The man really on the hot seat in all this has been Steve Newmark, who runs the business side of the Roush operation. Newmark took over this year after long-time business boss Geoff Smith decided to go into 'semi-retirement.'
   Newmark has not only had to deal with Greg Biffle and sponsor 3-M – both re-signed-- but also Matt Kenseth and sponsor Crown Royal – that sponsorship has been dropped – and the Edwards-Aflac situation. No word yet on Aflac.
   Newmark, in the statement, spoke to Edwards' marketing clout and racing talent: "Carl brings a tremendous amount to the table from both a marketing and competitive standpoint.
    "He has one of the largest fan bases in the sport…is able accomplish so much for his sponsors…and is second to none on the race track."
    However no word from any of the key figures as to what offers were on the table, how much money is at stake here, why the negotiations dragged on so long, and what might finally have swung the deal away from Gibbs and Toyota and back to Roush and Ford.



I hope that all the Ford

I hope that all the Ford drivers take note of how this works. I was under the impression that many drivers had actually taken a pay cut because of this ecomony. In case Mr Ed has forgotten there are 1000 drivers on short tracks all over this country that would eat his lunch. I was hoping Gibbs was going to get Mr Ed so he could have Hamlin, Busch and Edwards.
Ford might have gotten their boy (yes I said boy) but they slapped all their other drivers in the face. Do any other Ford drivers think their are going to get the same stuff since its all Roush/Yates.

For years I defended Nascar when people would say its the same a WWF. Now I say nothing. For years myself an a group of 10 others guys would travel to Darlington, Charlotte and Rockingham. Now 3 of us sit in my garage and watch a few races a year and turn the TV off so we don't have to see the burnout.

One more thing, just how long is it going to take for Nascar to figure out how to eliminate or reduce the aero push.

Sorry to ramble but it breaks my heart to see the state of Nascar.

I suggest to the bitter and

I suggest to the bitter and jealous WRB, if NASCAR is so bad, just move on and don't post on message boards about it. I am VERY glad Edwards re-signed with Roush. Edwards has a right and duty to negotiate the best deal he can get, and he clearly got it. Good for him. Good for Ford. And a good deal for true fans of the sport. We don't want star drivers driving toyotas.

Why is it that the media

Why is it that the media always has to turn things into a soap opera? With all due respect to Mr. Mulhern, who the heck cares why it took so long. I, along with probably all Ford fans, are just glad it's done and that Carl will be in a Roush Ford. Who cares how much he makes when we read that an NFL qb is getting 90 million. Who cares if Rouse misjudged what it would take? Who cares if Carl was trying to get his best deal...that's what he's SUPPOSED to do. Quit turning it into a soap opera. Ford fans are just happy he's staying.

4Now, go win that championship Carl.

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