Carl Edwards was my pre-season pick to win the Sprint Cup Series championship.
Is there any way I can get a do over?
It’s odd to say this about a driver who leads the series point standings the first week of August and who has one win and ten Top 10s, but given the current circumstances I don’t see how Edwards can contend for a title.
The contract negotiations and uncertainty surrounding Edwards and the Roush Fenway Racing team have become such a distraction, I’m not sure how the 99 team even functions on a daily basis.
Edwards made it clear again over the weekend in Indianapolis he is not closeto announcing what his future plans are at this point and remained adamant about not accentuating the situation through discussion in the media.
“I’m going to make the decision that’s the best one I can make, and I’m going to do it outside of the media,” Edwards said Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But despite Edwards’ wishes the topic has taken on a life of its own and the longer his future is unknown the more the hotter the spotlight will become.
Several sources have reported Edwards’ move to Joe Gibbs Racing and the Home Depot Toyota is already a done deal with a formal announcement slated to come in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend. The Georgia city by the way happens to be home base for the home improvement retail chain.
Edwards maintains nothing has been decided and doesn’t see his situation as a deterrent to the matter at hand for the Roush Fenway Racing team, which is winning more races and this championship.
“There are a lot of distractions in life, but we’re doing really well,” Edwards said. “We’re leading the points and we’re doing well. We’re doing what we need to do, so I’m a competitor. My job is to do the job that I’m hired to do and whatever distractions there are out there I have to be able to shut those off and go race, and that’s what I do.”
Others don’t agree, including RFR teammate Greg Biffle who thinks the circumstances are hindering the entire organization, not just Edwards’ team.
“Eventually, he’s going to have to make a decision and it’ll be best for everybody so, one, we can plan for sponsorships and drivers and teams and people,” Biffle said. “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 truly if you know or you’ve made a decision, then it’s time to give everybody enough opportunity to make their decision on the back side of that.”
Not to miss a beat on an opportunity to play some head games with the points leader, Edwards has listened to other competitors chime in on their view that his contract negotiations are derailing any chance to win this season’s crown.
“Let’s say he’s going somewhere else, they’re done,” Jeff Gordon said. “I just don’t see them winning the championship knowing that they’re leaving.
“I might be wrong. But if he stays, it might have just been a blip and then get back on track. So I think that’s definitely playing a factor. I’m not saying that just for Carl. It would with anybody. Anybody that’s going through a contract renegotiation year, things are up in the air—it’s always going to be a distraction.”
My gut tells me Gordon’s right on a couple of counts. There is too much smoke to not believe the fire is burning brightly for Edwards to take over the JGR ride and become the next driver of the Home Depot Toyota. There was a Joe and J.D. Gibbs sighting at the company headquarters last week and also a report of Edwards-H.D. merchandise already in production. So although I’m far from a betting man, I’d probably lay a few pennies on the prospect that Cousin Carl’s favorite color becomes orange very soon
And when that announcement finally does come, I don’t see any way the No. 99 team can contend for the title. You’ll hear all the right things how Carl’s still a part of the team, this is the common goal for the entire Roush organization and how everyone wishes Edwards well in the future and will pull together to win a championship while he’s still there.
The chemistry and cohesiveness of a NASCAR team is a very fragile entity. We’ve seen very talented groups capable of winning races and titles fall short because of one kind of mental mistake or another.
Well I’m not predicting al all out mutiny, there will certainly be animosity and a feeling of betrayal on the part of some key personnel if and when Edwards tells them he’s indeed abandoning ship at season’s end.
Had I known any of this was a possibility when my prediction for the 2011 Sprint Cup champ was due my vote would definitely had been cast for a sixth straight Jimmie Johnson crown.
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