FOX Sports Exclusive
Is a shake-up coming for your driver?
NASCAR Silly Season is in overdrive and there are some big names and teams in play.
Who’s staying? Who’s going? And who may not be around at all?
Carl Edwards: Edwards says his next move is all about winning championships, so why would he look beyond the company at Roush Fenway Racing that has helped him reach the top of the points standings for the past nine weeks?
Let’s face it: At 31 with two young children, Edwards is contemplating his future. In this economy, Edwards is the only available driver with a brand who can name his price, and Toyota appears to be the manufacturer willing to pay it.
On Sunday, J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said of Edwards: “The reality of it is, each year we have three cars. Whoever is in the rumor mill, it's since we have an opening, 'Are they going in your car?' We learned over the years, probably when we started the (No.) 11 car, the FedEx team, we learned some good lessons. Unless you have all those parts together — a sponsor, the right driver and team — don't do it.
“We're not in any hurry to do it. Carl is a gifted driver. He's doing great where he is. From our standpoint, we're going to focus on Denny (Hamlin), Joey (Logano) and Kyle (Busch). When we get that going right, we can worry about other stuff in the future. Right now that's all we're kind of focused on.”
Industry sources say sponsor Home Depot has not been pleased with the No. 20 Logano team situation, particularly when it is getting beaten on a weekly basis on the track by Lowe’s (with driver Jimmie Johnson) and Menards (with Paul Menard). Edwards is certainly a driver who could save that deal.
Other than being under the roof at Gibbs — or Hendrick Motorsports or Richard Childress Racing — Edwards switching to another team would be starting over. His next move should be a step up, not a step back.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer’s first choice would be to stay with Richard Childress Racing if sponsorship can be attained. If not, some team will acquire one heck of an addition. At 31, Bowyer has nothing but blue sky ahead of him. He would be a great fit for Roush Fenway Racing — although Richard Petty Motorsports has also made a public pitch for the driver.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Team owner Felix Sabates insisted in January that Montoya would continue driving for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing after this season. And as Montoya told FOXSports.com on Saturday, “We’re pretty darn close."
“I think I’m pretty happy right now where we are, and I think the faster we close the deal the better it’s going to be for the team and to try to give ourselves a chance to make the Chase,” said Montoya, who dropped to 15th in the standings Sunday.
Montoya’s urgency to expedite his contract came just days before word leaked of Red Bull Racing’s demise at the end of this season. Montoya was being heavily courted by RBR prior to Austria’s decision to pull the plug. An announcement could come this weekend at Sonoma or when the tour rolls into Daytona.
Mark Martin: A package deal with Martin mentoring Cole Whitt at Red Bull Racing seemed to be in order after Kasey Kahne's planned exit in 2012 for Hendrick Motorsports. But that scenario never materialized. Martin, 52, could be looking at a startup instead. A lot depends on whether Jay Frye is able to acquire the Red Bull assets or start a new team altogether. Another rumor that popped up this weekend had Martin driving for Phoenix Racing team owner James Finch, but Finch had not heard from the Martin camp for a while. Another scenario has Martin driving a full Nationwide Series schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Danica Patrick: Patrick’s contracts are up in IndyCar and NASCAR. While she could run the full Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports and still compete in the Indianapolis 500, it would be impossible to run both tours. While Patrick will not elaborate on concrete plans, her sponsor GoDaddy.com appears ready for a full-time gig with her in NASCAR. The general consensus in the IndyCar garage has Patrick moving on. After a full season in Nationwide, a move to Stewart-Haas Racing appears to be in order.
Brian Vickers: Vickers future is dependent on Red Bull Racing’s status. At 28, Vickers still has plenty of racing ahead of him despite experiencing health issues last year. It’s unlikely that Vickers would be a fit at any of the four powerhouse organizations, but he would be a solid fit for a second-tier operation. A position at Michael Waltrip Racing would allow Vickers to remain in the Toyota family.
Kimi Raikkonen: Things appear quiet on the Raikkonen front, and many are surprised that he did not secure a ride for Sonoma. However, the management group on the NASCAR side has made recent inquiries for Watkins Glen and Homestead.
David Ragan: Ragan is one of the nicest kids in the garage, but nice doesn’t always equate with results. Ragan has made gains this season — by earning his first career Cup pole and finishing a career-high second at Charlotte. But these are accomplishments that sponsors expect well before the fifth year in a driver’s development. Ragan is 18th in the points standings. If he has any shot of saving his career, he will need to win a race before the end of the season.
Joey Logano: J.D. Gibbs appeared to stand by his boy Logano this weekend, but that doesn’t mesh with the word on the street. Logano and Home Depot are the worst driver/sponsor marriage since Kasey Kahne and Budweiser. Plus, in the home improvement wars, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard outrun Logano on a weekly basis.
Moving Logano to Cup was premature. Don’t be surprised if at the end of the year “Sliced Bread” turns to toast. In order to keep crew chief Greg Zipadelli from jumping ship to Stewart-Haas Racing to reunite with Tony Stewart, Gibbs better find a wheelman for the seat. Despite Zippy’s contract running through 2013, he’s not a happy puppy and might just leave anyway.
Trevor Bayne vs. Ricky Stenhouse: These drivers are the future of Roush Fenway Racing. Both have had solid moments when asked to step up in Sprint Cup. Their future racing endeavors will be dependent on what happens in the big house. If one seat opens — with the No. 99 or No. 6 — certainly one of these races could get the call.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior will likely retire from Hendrick Motorsports. Although Earnhardt’s contract is not up until after 2013, a new contract is in the works that will keep him in the Hendrick fold until 2018 when he will be 43.
Cole Whitt: After a sizeable investment in NASCAR it’s likely that Red Bull’s continued support will be only be in personal services contracts with specific drivers -- including Whitt, who the company has developed over the last few years. Whitt, who turns 20 on Wednesday, most likely will continue the original plan to gain Nationwide seat time at Michael Waltrip Racing -- which could roll into a full-time program next season. Or Whitt could be drafted by a championship-caliber organization such as Kevin Harvick Inc. He does not have a personal services contract with Toyota.
Red Bull Racing: Red Bull Racing will pull out of NASCAR at the end of the year. A surprise visit by race director Thomas Ueberall had crew members scrambling for job openings at Michigan this weekend.
With the success of the Team Red Bull Formula One operation, it’s not surprising that the Austrians would pull the plug on the NASCAR effort, considering that it’s struggled since its inception in 2007. In five years and an estimated $500 million investment, there’s been a revolving door of drivers, with Brian Vickers being the lone victor of one race and qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup only in 2010. Employees were told that a new group of investors will be coming in but job security was not assured.
Two scenarios have been mentioned for the existing equipment; one involves general manager Jay Frye bringing in investors and starting a new operation with Mark Martin as the driver and engines from Hendrick Motorsports — a plan that Frye had tried to expedite over the past two years with pushback from Austria.
The other hot rumor of late has been the return of Ray Evernham in an ownership role similar to Tony Stewart’s at Hendrick Motorsports satellite SHR, with Red Bull as the sponsor. On Monday, Evernham told FOXSports.com he “had zero desire to be an owner again.”
“I want to help Rick (Hendrick get) some of his dealership stuff going,” Evernham said. “I would like to be more involved with Hendrick Motorsports than I am. . . . It’s hard to get involved when you don’t want to be there all the time.”
Evernham said he had no knowledge on a Red Bull deal. Only two positions would entice him enough to return to the track on a weekly basis: working with NASCAR or a request from Rick Hendrick.
“It would depend on the deal, and it would depend on whether it was something Mr. Hendrick would want me to do,” Evernham added. “I just don’t have the desire to be on the road 40 weekends a year.”
Another dilemma with the situation is what happens to Whitt, who will remain a Red Bull athlete. Certainly, if Frye acquires the assets, Whitt must be part of that plan.
Calls to Frye were not returned.
Joe Gibbs Racing: On top of JGR’s possible expansion plans, there was talk this weekend that its Nationwide program will move to Kyle Busch Motorsports, similar to the deal that Kevin Harvick has with Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has with Hendrick Motorsports.
Richard Petty Motorsports: The team owner has talked about expansion since taking over the operation last winter. But wouldn’t it make more sense to get the two current teams competitive first?
The Wood Brothers: The No. 21 driver seat will likely be predicated on what happens with the four Cup rides at Roush Fenway Racing.
Aflac: Aflac race inventory was shuffled off on fellow sponsors Scotts, Subway and Kellogg's. While it remains a primary, it will account for only a partial deal.
General Mills: This longtime NASCAR sponsor will likely re-sign with RCR but not at the original commitment.
UPS: Agents from the UPS marketing arm have reached out to Clint Bowyer. It would be surprising if they keep their current involvement with David Ragan.
Army: Army will likely be back with SHR and Ryan Newman, but the No. 39 team remains underfunded.
More Stories From Lee Spencer