Edwards still focused on winning 2014 title: ‘That’s the mission’
Sunday morning’s news that Carl Edwards is leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2014 is almost certain to overshadow much of what the veteran driver does on the track the rest of this year.
Edwards wants to make at least one thing clear, however. He insisted he’s 100 percent dedicated to finishing his time at Roush — the company where he began his Sprint Cup Series career in late 2004 — on a high note.
"I came over here this morning and talked to (crew chief) Jimmy Fennig and all of my guys, and we’re all on the same page," Edwards said Sunday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Right now we need to win this championship … and that is the mission. I drive for Jack Roush, I drive the No. 99 Fastenal Ford, and that’s what I do right now. So from a housekeeping standpoint Roush has to announce what they’re going to be doing next year. I’ll soon announce what I’m going to be doing next year, but I just want to be real clear the focus is to win the championship this year."
Edwards confirmed Sunday that he knows which organization he’ll be driving for in 2015, but was unwilling to elaborate further. He is widely expected to join Joe Gibbs Racing in a fourth JGR Toyota. Ford Racing also released a statement Sunday from Jamie Allison, the company’s director of racing, saying in part: "Carl Edwards has been a part of the Ford family for a decade, and it will certainly be tough to see him leave Ford and Roush Fenway Racing."
I just want to be real clear the focus is to win the championship this year.
"I’d like to wait until I announce exactly what I’m doing and maybe get a little farther away from this season, and what I have to do here, before I talk about my hopes and expectations for 2015 and beyond," Edwards said. "I mean, you guys know what I’ve been through from a competitive standpoint. I’ve been really close as a driver to some championships and I know what one point and one race and all that stuff can do, so the last thing I’m going to do or Jimmy Fennig’s going to do is let next year and beyond affect our ability to win this championship. That’s the mission."
Edwards has twice finished runner-up in the Sprint Cup standings, doing so most recently in 2011 when he lost the championship to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker.
Despite Edwards winning two of this season’s first 19 races and thereby locking up a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Roush Fenway Racing has struggled to match the speed of several other top organizations, including its fellow Fords at Team Penske.
"Part of the reason I’m a race car driver is I like the adventure of it, and I like going and doing new things and learning new things and, sometimes, whether it’s a race-car driver — or anyone — sometimes you just want to make a change, and opportunities sometimes present themselves," Edwards said. "And you say, hey, I don’t want to look back and say, ‘What was that like to not take that opportunity?’"
Also speaking Sunday morning at Indy, RFR co-owner Jack Roush confirmed that the organization made an offer to retain Edwards’ services next year.
"Cup racing is a big-time sports entertainment thing today," Roush said. "Like football and baseball and basketball, athletes move around. We wish it wouldn’t happen, but there’s curiosity about what another team’s situation would look like, and I think that although I shouldn’t speculate, I think Carl wanted to try something different before he saw his career get in its middle term and its final years."
Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark likewise expressed disappointment in Edwards’ decision to move on.
VIDEO: Carl Edwards discusses decision to leave Roush Fenway Racing
"I think everyone is aware that we pride ourselves on being a driver development program," Newmark said. "It’s in our DNA and our heritage. In an ideal world all the drivers and crew chiefs and the over-the-wall guys that we bring up through the system you would retain forever. The reality of it is that that doesn’t happen for a variety of factors."
Did Edwards mention any of his decision-making factors to Roush Fenway’s team principals?
"I think he keeps a lot of his reasons to himself," Newmark said. "The only insight that he shared with me and that we talked a lot about is that the reality of sports today is that athletes don’t generally stay with one time for their entire career. I think he was reflecting on what was going on in other sports, including our sport, and I think he just thought that when he retires at some point off in the future, he didn’t want to wonder what it would be like to be in a different situation, so that was the primary discussion that we’ve had."
Edwards wasn’t ready on Sunday to discuss the bittersweet aspect of leaving an organization where he has spent his entire Cup career and achieved tremendous success — including 23 wins.
"To be honest with you, I’m not in that mode today," Edwards said. "On race day it’s hard to talk about stuff. I think there will be a time probably towards the end of the season when we’ll talk a little more about that, but let me put it simply: I’m not at another shop preparing for something. I’m 100 percent driving this 99 car and focused on our championship, so I haven’t even started the process of building next year. That’s not on my mind right now. It’s all about winning right now."
A look back at Carl Edwards’ win at Sonoma earlier this year