Ford and Roush Fenway Racing are feeling a sense of urgency to re-sign Carl Edwards.
Edwards, 31, who currently leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, is in the final year of his contract with Roush. For the last month, Edwards has been rumored to be headed to Joe Gibbs Racing. Earlier this season, JGR president J.D. Gibbs acknowledged that the organization would be interested in talking to Edwards if sponsorship could be acquired for a fourth team.
Although Edwards has not elaborated on his contract negotiations of late, he has remained steadfast that his number-one priority in making his next career move would involve seeking out an organization that can provide him with the best opportunity to win races.
Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newman called the Edwards’ negotiation “a slow and steady process.” Both Roush and Ford have worked diligently to entice Edwards to remain in the blue-oval camp but are starting to feel the pressure from Toyota.
“We have constant conversations with Carl,” Newmark said. “I still remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll get something done, but as we’ve talked about before, the process that we’re going through, we want to make sure that we have everything in order going forward and Carl’s main focus is on making sure he’s going to a place where he can win championships.
“We’re confident that he’s at that place right now, as evidenced by the fact that he’s leading in the points. But I think we all recognize that he wants to make sure that his home for the next how many years is the right one for him to maximize his talents."
Newmark understands that Edwards is shopping the market and “has no issue with him engaging in discussions.” Now the challenge for Roush comes in offering the most competitive package for Edwards and his future. At the same time, Newmark has the challenge of locking up Roush sponsors Aflac, UPS and Crown Royal. Newmark locked down both 3M and Greg Biffle for a multi-year deal in April.
“We’re engaged right now in discussions with all of his existing partners about putting together the right package,” Newmark added. “We’re always looking at bringing in new partners. … The focus, and this is something that’s important to me and something in the sport I hope we can do a better job going forward, is continuity. I think we got away from the continuity over the last few years with sponsor switching and team switching and driver switching. So our focus, and we’ve said this to all of our partners, is to try to maintain the continuity. I think that’s the best arrangement you can have from a brand perspective as well to make sure you build equity in a relationship.
“That said, the reality of the sport is that some sponsors come in and out based on their objectives at the time. So we’re always looking for new ones. We’ve obviously had discussions with lots of different sponsors about the available inventory that we have and we’ll continue to engage in those discussions until we lock up these programs.”
Newmark is not actively seeking a replacement for Edwards — yet. With Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse in the pipeline, there’s really no need to. Bayne, 20, made a name for himself out of the box with the Wood Brothers Racing team by winning the Daytona 500 in his track debut. Stenhouse has been a bright light in the Ford camp and finished an impressive 11th behind the wheel of the No. 21 Ford in the Coca-Cola 600 in his Sprint Cup debut.
Edwards joined the Roush organization full time in the Camping World Truck Series in 2003 and was promoted to the Sprint Cup Series the following year. In his seventh full year on the Cup tour, Edwards has amassed 19 victories and has qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup in five of the six years he has been eligible for the postseason. Edwards finished a career-best second in the standings in 2008.