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Notes from the battlefront at Daytona....and just how many drivers are looking to renew contracts or move on?

 What next for Carl Edwards? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  By Mike Mulhern


  Notes from Media Day, the first day of SpeedWeeks, and the fact that this season a number of star drivers have contracts running out is a hot topic.
  Judging the economic climate for contract negotiations and relegations with sponsors is not easy at the moment. But it seems clear that the economic climate is certainly not as great as it was three years ago when these drivers last signed their deals.   -- Carl Edwards, on his contract renegotiations with car owner Jack Roush:

   "The thing I'm going to do is to do whatever is best for me to go win the most championships I can win.
   "That's what I want to do…and I would like to get it done as quickly and privately as we can, so we can go focus on racing, because that's the best thing. 
   "There's no benefit to having a long, drawn out, messy process.
    "I'm free to do whatever I'd like to do.  I'd rather not talk about the specifics of my contract."
    There has been speculation that Toyota's Joe Gibbs might want to make another run at signing Edwards, for a long-proposed fourth Sprint Cup team.
    Might Edwards consider moving to another team? "I have had a great relationship with Jack Roush, and I just want to do whatever is most likely to let me go win championships. The dream would be to do that at Roush in the 99 car with Aflac on board.  That would be the dream. But we just have to sit down and go through everything and see where everybody is at."
   Edwards' contract with Roush three years ago, for an undisclosed but reportedly very significant amount, set a standard. Can Edwards expect to do as well this time? And then some sources point out that Edwards in fact could have gotten more money from another team at that point.
   "I haven't looked at it and really analyzed it and had the in-depth conversations that I would have to have to understand exactly where everything is, but times are changing, and things are changing in the world – especially our U. S.  business world," Edwards says. 
    "I'm assuming the next deal that I make will be different in a number of ways.  Some of them may be really good. 
    "I have some ideas…and some people around me have some ideas that could make this next sponsorship negotiation a lot of fun for me and the
    "We have just a lot of different ideas.  We'll have to hash them out and talk about them. But I have a whole year left to race here.
    "I'm not in any rush, and I definitely don't want to use you guys and have this out in the media.
    "I feel like the right thing to do is to make your business deal in a normal manner and not through the media."
    Nevertheless, as hot as Edwards was the last half of last year – and he posted one of the best overall finishing averages among all drivers, plus winning the tour's final two events, he concedes the early weeks of this season could be crucial for him in getting a new contract.
   "I think it is…but I'm a little wiser than that now," Edwards says cautiously.  "I understand that this sport goes in waves."
   A new man, Steve Newmark, is running the business side of Jack Roush's operation this season, with long-time boss Geoff Smith in semi-retirement.
   Newmark not only has Edwards to re-sign but also Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, and several sponsors.
   "I think Steve Newmark being on board is huge…but we haven't really sat down and talked about it," Edwards said. "And I haven't gone out and looked at the greater market to see what it looks like.  I guess I ought to get on that pretty quick.
    "But I really and truly am just focused on winning here. 
    "The funny thing about racing is when you win a bunch and everything is going really well, it all kind of works out.  So I'm really trying to focus on that."
   Roush, in the last negotiations with Edwards, played on the fact that he was the man who gave Edwards his big break. Plus Edwards had just made a great run at the championship.
   Does Edwards want to stay with Roush, or play the field? And of course rivals interested in Edwards would like to roil the waters.
   "All I can really officially say is I have a great relationship with everybody at Roush, and my first goal would be to race that 99 car with Jack and for
Aflac," Edwards said. "That would be the dream deal. But I'll just have to look at everything and say 'What's the best thing for performance?' 
   "That's what this boils down to, because you want to perform well."

  --  Brian Vickers, whose contract with Team Red Bull is apparently up this season, declined to talk about his contract or any negotiations he might be having. Vickers, at 26 one of this sport's hot young drivers, is coming back to the tour after being sidelined since last May because of serious health issues.
  Vickers says that he's been given a clean bill of health by his doctors and that he is taking no medications. Still, his medical condition is something of a subject of interest, and his early-season performance could be key in any negotiations or renegotiations.

  -- Mark Martin, whose contract with Rick Hendrick is up at the end of this season, again Thursday declined to talk about what he might do in 2012, except to reiterate he wanted to stay with Hendrick and planned to be racing in NASCAR, at some level, next season.

   -- Ryan Newman? Isn't his contract with Tony Stewart up at the end of this season?
   "Is it? I don't know. No, I don't think it is," Newman says.
   "I think I signed up for four when I signed up. I think I don't remember.
   "When he says 'Let's go to Burger King,' I know it's time to talk about the contract."
   But Newman last season was certainly driving so hard that it looked like he might be thinking contract.
   A four-year driving contract? That's not very common.
   "You know for our situation I think it was a good deal…obviously because we were starting all over with a new program, and you wouldn't just want to do that for one year or two years," Newman said. "You would want to do that for four. 
    "And obviously I had the intention -- and wouldn't have signed the contract if I didn't believe in the situation.
    "You have guys out there with a lifetime contract, and you have guys out there with one-year deals. 
     "So four years isn't too bad of a deal. And at least it gives me some security."
    However sponsorship contracts might be a hold up here. The Army contract isn't a full 36-race deal, and what the U.S. government might be doing next is unclear. Most, if not all, military sponsorship contracts are year to year.
    It the money's not there, there could be issues.

   --  Brian Vickers, on his 'bucket list' of big things to do?
   "There are some mountains I would like to climb, maybe K2," Vickers said.
   "But I don't have time to train for it.  
    "I don't have the time to go do it, much less train for it.
    "Someone actually proposed a rather interesting idea that sounded pretty awesome: I was going to try to do this in the offseason with a buddy, but scheduling didn't work out -- To go hunt wolves from a helicopter in Russia. 
   "That sounded pretty awesome. 
    "I love being outdoors, I love nature, and all those things, and I enjoy hunting.  I try to be respectful about it, and I don't just randomly shoot things.  Usually 99 percent of the time if I shoot something, I'm going to consume it -- or eat it, or use it in some form or fashion. 
    "The hunting of the wolves in Russia: they are extremely overpopulated, and if you don't hunt them, they have to do something to maintain a healthy population.  A lot of people don’t realize that. 
    "You always get the liberal left that says 'You hunt them.'  But the whole species will die out if you don't maintain the population, because they don't have a natural predator.  
     "Something like that would be cool."
    But how about something really thrilling. Like, with death on the line?
    "I would like to try to go through Navy Seal training. 
    "A HALO jump would be incredible."
    That's High Altitude, Low Open parachute jumping. Like from a plane at 30,000 feet, with scuba gear and a warm blanket, opening the chute at says 2,000 feet.
     'One of my best friends, who I grew up with, ended up becoming a Seal.  I think that would be pretty cool to go through the training. 
    "Not just the HALO jump, but other stuff as well.  I always found that pretty fascinating."

   -- Remember Homestead, the season finale, and Kevin Harvick dumping Kyle Busch late in the race?
   Is Busch going to forgive and forget?
   Fat chance.
   "You would like to say that you can wipe the slate clean," Busch says.
   "When you go from a shot at finishing fourth in points to finishing eighth in points, that's an awful lot of money…
   "Do I care whether or not I have a grudge against Harvick?  No. 
    "Do I feel like I need to do something about it?  No. 
    "If something happens, to where it won't hurt me: Woops."
    Hint: Don't put too much money on Harvick to win another Shootout.

   -- Looking for a driver here with a chip on his shoulder?
   Consider Martin Truex Jr.
   Top-notch racer….who hasn't had things go his way lately.
    "I'm a fighter, and obviously the last few years haven't gone the way I wanted them to go," Truex says. "But I continue to come out every day and give everything I have. 
    "I feel I'm a better driver than the stats show.  I feel I should have won a lot more races than I have.
    "It just seems I've been followed around the past few years by this black cloud of bad luck, and every time I have a shot to win I get a flat tire, something falls off my car, everybody else can make it on gas and I can't.
   "It's always something. 
    "The biggest thing is I always fight.  I always come to the track every weekend with a new attitude; I leave last week behind."



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