Edwards signs contract with Roush

Carl Edwards made the right decision.

Edwards, 31, has signed a multiyear contract to remain with Roush Fenway Racing when his contract expires at the end of this year. FOXSports.com was first to report Edwards’ new deal early Thursday.

“Carl Edwards has achieved a level of success on and off track that would put him at the top of the list for any race team,” said Roush Fenway co-owner Jack Roush. “Carl and the No. 99 team are having a terrific season again this year, and we’re thrilled that our relationship will continue for many more."

After a bidding war between Roush and Joe Gibbs Racing for Edwards’ services in which financial incentives were fairly equal among the two operations, it is clear the ultimate decision was not about the money.

Whether loyalty won out or Edwards simply realized it was going to be difficult for a lame duck driver to win the 2011 Sprint Cup championship, his decision to remain with both Roush and Ford will pay off in more than just monetary dividends.

Since the start of the season, Edwards insisted he would choose a team that could offer him the best opportunity at winning championships.

“I sincerely appreciate the amazing opportunity that Jack Roush has given me in this sport and am honored to race for him,” Edwards said in a news release. “As an organization, Roush Fenway provides the resources I need to win, and as a driver, that’s the most important thing. We’re having a fun season on the racetrack as we’re leading the points and in great position for the Chase (for the Sprint Cup).

"That’s the result of a lot of hard work from the men and women at Roush Fenway, Ford Motor Company and Roush Yates Engines. I really enjoy competing with this group and looking forward to continuing that relationship into the future.”

Although this latest round of negotiations dragged on well beyond a comfortable time for shoring up 2012 sponsorships (most deals are finalized by July 1), Roush has never wavered from his admiration of Edwards.

“We saw great potential in Carl a decade ago, and it’s been a thrill to watch him grow into one of the sports’ premier drivers behind the wheel of the No. 99," Roush said. "We didn’t take our past success for granted when we sat down with Carl to talk about his future. As an organization, we approach each week with an intense focus on being successful in the race to come. Carl’s position atop the points is a testament to that diligence.”

Roush promoted Edwards to the No. 99 Ford in 2004. Since then, that team has evolved into the flagship operation at Roush Fenway Racing. While teammate Matt Kenseth delivered Roush his first Cup title in 2003 and Greg Biffle won the first championships for the company in both trucks and what is now the Nationwide Series, Edwards’ persona has opened doors well beyond the confines of RFR.

Despite a lack of Cup titles, Edwards’ brand has been used to promote NASCAR and Ford Motor Company on a level reserved for A-list athletes similar to the path forged by Jeff Gordon into mainstream America.

It’s not surprising Ford put on a full-court press to retain their top star. Those within Ford management, as well as those in the Ford Racing family, expounded on the company’s rich heritage in motorsports and the loyalty showered on its teams. What other manufacturer can boast a six-decade relationship through three generations as Ford has with the Wood Brothers? Ford’s relationship with John Force has led to 10 NHRA titles since 1997, and Roush Fenway Racing has won titles throughout NASCAR’s top three tiers and contributed to Ford’s 600 stock car wins and 16 manufacturer’s titles.

“Carl brings a tremendous amount to the table from both a marketing and competitive standpoint,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “He has one of the largest fan bases in the sport, is able accomplish so much for his sponsors and is second to none on the race track. We’re proud to have Carl as part of our roster going forward, a roster that includes some of the most experienced veteran champions on the circuit, and some of the sport’s most promising up-and-coming drivers.”

Edwards currently leads the points standings by 11 points over Jimmie Johnson and continues to be a perennial contender. His sole win this season came at Las Vegas, 17 races ago.

Edwards has finished in the Sprint Cup top 12 for each of the last six seasons. He broke through in 2005, finishing in a tie with teammate Biffle, 35 points shy of the title. He missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2006, but made it the following year when NASCAR expanded the Chase to 12 drivers. Edwards was back in the hunt in 2008, winning a career-high nine races and finishing second in the standings, losing the title to Johnson by just 69 points.

While Roush started out the 2009 season with Kenseth winning back-to-back races, the entire company went on a slide and didn’t win again until Biffle’s victory in the August 2010 Pocono race. Certainly, Roush’s sour cycle was exceptionally long, but once the organization got over the hump in midseason, the pace among all the drivers picked up and Edwards capped off the season with consecutive wins at Phoenix and Homestead.

This year, three of the Roush Fenway drivers — Edwards, Kenseth and David Ragan — have won four of the 20 races, and Edwards will make his 250th Sprint Cup start for Jack Roush at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.

Edwards has finished in the top two in the Nationwide Series in each of the past five seasons, winning the 2007 title. He has 34 career Nationwide wins, fourth on the all-time list behind Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick.

But the Sprint Cup title still eludes Edwards. With his future now secure with both Roush Fenway Racing and Ford, he can put all his financial worries behind him and concentrate on what matters most — winning races and sitting at the head table at the Sprint Cup banquet, this December and beyond.