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Carl Edwards Update: Still nothing to say....but teammate Greg Biffle says it's time to talk: 'jobs on the line'

  Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle: Edwards isn't talking, but Biffle says jobs are on the line (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   By Mike Mulhern


   Jeff Gordon's trip to an African refuge camp in the Congo last week, part of his new work with the Clinton Global Initiative, was more than just eye-opening: "It was an experience that will change me forever.

   "I really hope with our efforts there, and our fact-finding mission, we can help.
    "You can't ever prepare yourself for that.  I mean, it wasn't like I saw just sick children and people everywhere.
    "Seeing two-year-olds walking around barefoot on the side of the road, with nobody really watching them, we're driving by 30 mph covering them in dust, and they just wave at you as you go by…Groups of women carrying large sacks of coal on their backs for hours walking to get $10.
    "Those things I just didn't expect. You can't grasp that until you're there.
    "It's hard to talk about it and really say you're making a difference if you haven't truly experienced it."
    Next up for Gordon in this venture is a December trip planned to Rwanda.



Joey Logano is Home Depot's man at Joe Gibbs today. But word is HD wants a driver who can beat Lowe's Jimmie Johnson for the championship. Carl Edwards is the hot button item at the moment, apparently. Wonder what Kyle Busch thinks about that? Wonder if Kyle Busch might want to make a bid of his own for the deal, if it's as lucrative as it appears? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Meanwhile, on a more mundane level, in the big picture of life, Gordon considers this year's looming championship playoffs and says Carl Edwards, despite the distractions of his contract negotiations, still has a good shot at the championship. After all Edwards is atop the NASCAR standings.
    But Gordon points out the longer Edwards goes without making an announcement the more of a distraction that will be.
    And Gordon says he might have some insight to Edwards' thinking: "I spoke to Carl years ago when he stayed with Roush.  We (Rick Hendrick) talked to him, as he talked to every team.  I saw his negotiating tactics at that time.  It's not surprising to me (that Edwards keeps stalling)."
   However the tension will almost certainly build.

   Edwards himself continues to keep silent when pressed on the state of negotiations: "We're working hard on the contract stuff.
   "I've head a lot of different ideas out there….but it still remains the same – I'm going to make the decision that is the best one I can make, and I'm going to do that outside of the media."
    Any timetable?
   "I can't tell you," Edwards says. "I'm not purposely withholding anything. When I'm able to talk about next season, if it's appropriate, I will talk about it."  
    But teammate Greg Biffle says that will probably have to be sooner rather than later: "it's obvious that it's coming to a head.
   "At some point he's going to have to say 'I'm not coming back.' He's not going to be able to wait till Homestead.
   "Carl is a big boy, he's a man, and he has to make his own decisions. Eventually he's going to have to make a decision, and it'll be best for everybody, so we can plan for sponsorships and drivers and teams and people. There are a lot of people's jobs on the line, if we're going to be three teams or four teams. So the sooner the better.
   "I understand contract negotiations take a long time, and there is a lot to them. But if you know, or you've made a decision, then it's time to give everybody enough opportunity to make their decision on the backside of it."
    Biffle, in that, appears to be raising the question of whether or not the Roush operation would continue to be a four-car team if Edwards were to leave. Sponsorship issues are already on the table, with Diageo's Crown Royal leaving.

   "I said early in the season I thought these guys were going to go on a tear and be unbelievable," Gordon says.  "Carl is a great driver; so you know if you put him in a strong car, he has the ability to dominate."
    Gordon does note that Edwards' early-season dominance though seems to have faded a bit, because "the competition has caught up.
    "But this is a big event, and you're going to see that come back into play here. When we get to Indianapolis, the teams that are capable of taking it to that next level seem to always find a little bit more.  So I wouldn't be surprised to see them very strong this weekend.
    "But for the rest of the season -- I still think they're a major threat for the championship, but I don't know if they're going to do it in as dominant a fashion as I thought they were earlier in the season."
    Because of those contract talks.
    Edwards, though he continues to dodge the issue, is widely speculated to have decided to leave Jack Roush and Ford and move to Toyota and Joe Gibbs – will  be a distraction, Gordon says:
   "Whether or not he's staying or going, it's a big distraction…a lot on his mind.
   "It's unfortunate in some ways, because I think this is the best year I've seen Carl have, with a team and a car capable of winning the championship.
    "But let's say he's going somewhere else -- they're done.  I just don't see them winning the championship, knowing they're leaving. 
    "I might be wrong. If he stays (with Roush), it might have just been a blip, and then they get back on track.
   "But anybody that's going through a contract renegotiation year, things are up in the air, it's always going to be a distraction. "


   Goodyear's tires looking good so far at Indy. In fact some crew chiefs are even complaining the tires this season have been "too good." (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Goodyear's tires here look exceptional so far, with little wear, and no unusual wear patterns. And the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track is rubbering in well.
   That should put premium, again, on fuel mileage in Sunday's Brickyard 400. Crew chiefs say the contenders will have to average at least 4.2 miles per gallon.
   If it comes down to speed, rather than gas mileage and/or track position, then the men who qualify in the first four rows in Saturday afternoon's pole runs (2:10 p.m. ET) should have a decided edge.
   In Friday's first afternoon practice session, Matt Kenseth was quickest, at 181.203 mph, just ahead of Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.
   In the afternoon's second runs, teams concentrated on long runs, to check tire wear, and speeds were slower.
   On the down side, Hamlin blew an engine late in the day.
   Also on the down side, the grandstands, which seat 257,000 or so, were virtually completely empty, though there were a lot of fans wandering the infield area.

   Yet more on Carl Edwards and his negotiations on a 2012 contract:
   Ford executives are still in the game, apparently, and are reported to have made a substantial counteroffer to Edwards to remain with Jack Roush.
   However the speculation about the Joe Gibbs/Toyota/Home Depot pitch to Edwards for a 2012 deal is still amazing, though of course still all unconfirmed: one report is that Edwards may have been pitched a $10 million a year contract for three years with a $10 million signing bonus. That would  be stunning, if true, especially considering the general economic climate.
   And it seems clear now that both sides are putting heavy pressure on Edwards to make a decision. Gibbs and Home Depot would seem to need a quick answer too, since signing Edwards would come at one price point, while signing a new deal with Joey Logano might be at a much lower price point.
   And there have been questions raised about Home Depot in another respect too – after 'losing' five straight championships to arch-rival Lowe's and Jimmie Johnson, might the home improvement giant becoming disenchanted with NASCAR, perhaps even to the of pulling out, if Gibbs can't come up with a driver who can go door to door with Johnson for the Sprint Cup championship?
   Edwards, yes, is one of the tour's most impressive spokesmen – the way he handled/spun last year's series of run-ins with Brad Keselowski was dazzling, and Edwards' talents at explaining difficult technical issues is superb.
   However that lucrative contract Edwards signed with Aflac in 2008, for a reported $27 million over three years….well, how many NASCAR Sprint Cup victories has Edwards delivered over that contract so far? Just three. Winless in 2009, two tour wins in late 2010, and a win at Las Vegas earlier this season.
   And if Edwards were to accept a big Ford offer to stay with Roush, how would that set with his lesser-paid teammates.
   More worrisome for the Ford camp is the seemingly possibility that team owner Jack Roush, if Edwards does indeed leave at the end of the year, may have to cut back to three Cup teams in 2012. Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle would be solid, in that case, but that might leave David Ragan, Trevor Bayne, and Ricky Stenhouse all vying for that third sport.
   That scenario of course would depend on sponsorship. But 3M (Biffle) appears to be the only full sponsor so far signed for 2012.



  How much is Home Depot willing to spend to get a driver who can keep Jimmie Johnson from winning another NASCAR championship? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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