Saturday, July 30, 2011
Updated: July 31, 12:21 PM ET
Ford all-in with Roush for Carl Edwards
By David Newton
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ford Racing has gone to what officials call unprecedented measures to help Roush Fenway Racing keep Carl Edwards from going to the Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing.
"We've helped out with an offer we have never done before for another driver,'' said Ford racing spokesman Kevin Kennedy before Saturday's qualifying for the Brickyard 400. "It was important enough for us that we were trying to make it unprecedented.''
Kennedy would not give specifics into what Ford has offered other than to say top executives in the organization have been closely involved with RFR in negotiations.
"If he's around, it's something that will help him in terms of continuing to promote Ford products,'' Kennedy said of Edwards, who has become the face of Ford Racing. "We've been in racing for 110 years and I don't think we've ever done this before.''
Steve Newmark, the president of RFR, acknowledged that Ford has gone above and beyond to help keep Edwards in the fold. Newmark added that the total package offered to this year's top free agent shows just how important officials believe he is to the future of the organization and manufacturer.
"I hope everybody understands Roush Fenway is very intent on signing Carl,'' Newmark said. "We understand he is trying to make a decision that is best for his future.''
Edwards declined on Friday to say whether he has made a decision amid speculation he is headed for JGR to drive the No. 20 currently occupied by Joey Logano with Home Depot and Aflac as his sponsors.
Newmark and Kennedy said Edwards has told them no decision has been made. Newmark added that no ultimatum or deadline for a decision will be made even though RFR wants it done sooner rather than later to prepare for next year.
"He's told all of us he wants to make it soon, because he realizes it's best for everybody involved,'' Newmark said.
Sources said Edwards could earn more than $40 million over three years. Newmark said money hasn't been a major factor in RFR's negotiations.
"Money does not come into any of the discussions,'' Newmark said. "You guys have been around Jack Roush enough to know his sole focus is on winning.''
JGR president J.D. Gibbs would not comment on the Edwards situation. But he did say JGR would look at expanding to four cars if the right driver and sponsor came along.
Newmark said regardless of what Edwards decides every effort will be made to help the No. 99 team win this year's Sprint Cup championship.
"That's going to be our focus,'' Newmark said of winning the title. "We owe it to our sponsors. Carl will still be under contract. Jack's focus at the end of the day is to win championships. Jack is agnostic about who he wins it with.''
Edwards argued the same point on Friday when told four-time champion Jeff Gordon from Hendrick Motorsports said the team is "done'' if Edwards announces he's leaving RFR.
"I feel like no matter what happens we have a great thing going," said Edwards, who has a seven-point lead over five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson heading into Sunday. "Jack Roush and Ford and Aflac, that is our mission right now -- to win the championship.
"That is all of our goals. Whatever happens, happens. But I believe that is reasonable to believe that could happen no matter what."
Should Edwards leave, Newmark said the replacement likely would come from in house with developmental drivers Trevor Bayne or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He said no driver outside the organization has been contacted.
Newmark also discounted a comment made by RFR driver Greg Biffle that Edwards needs to let the team know where he's going so the organization can decide "if we're gonna be three teams or four teams'' in 2012.
"Every year you evaluate,'' Newmark said. "Our goal and our intent and plan and expectation is to be four Cup cars. As we do our plans for 2012, that is how we're planning.''
Newmark added that he remained as he was in May "cautiously optimistic'' that Edwards will re-sign.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.