Commentary

Carl Edwards to trigger the dominoes

Updated: July 20, 2011, 1:44 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Let's chew the fat, shall we? Just a little scuttlebutt about everyone's favorite NASCAR subject -- Silly Season.

We'll start right at the top of the food chain with Carl Edwards. Actually, you have to start with Edwards because what he does determines what everyone else will do.

It's NASCAR's version of the domino effect. Two other potential free agents, Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya, could be waiting to see what Edwards does before they make a decision.

[+] EnlargeEdwards
Jerry Markland/Getty Images Carl Edwards' popularity with fans makes him a highly marketable commodity in NASCAR circles.

If Edwards leaves Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing, it opens a spot at RFR and changes the dynamic of the 2011 Silly Season.

So where do things stand with Edwards? Rumors were rampant at New Hampshire this past weekend that Edwards already has decided to move to JGR.

By the way, rumors in the Cup garage are more common than sleazy magazine racks on Hollywood Boulevard. A sewing circle at the nursing home has more substantive information.

You have to step through a lot of, well, you know, to find something that doesn't smell.

When Twitter started blowing up Sunday morning with rumors of Edwards going to JGR, I found Jack Roush in the garage and asked about it.

"I have no knowledge," Roush said.

That comment itself is a bit humorous coming from one of the most knowledgeable men I know, but I get it. Roush says he still doesn't know what Edwards is going to do.

Roush talked about it last week during an interview on "NASCAR Now."

"He has narrowed it down to us and one other team," Roush said about Edwards. "I'm optimistic. We are running well this season. He has to make his decision based on not only 2011 but what is best for him in 2012, 2013 and beyond. I respect that."

Here's what we do know about Edwards: It's down to staying at RFR or moving to Gibbs. So has Edwards made up his mind?

"No, I have not," Edwards said Monday on "NASCAR Now." "And the people who say I have, I wish they would let me know. It would make my life a lot easier.

"If it were up to me, I wouldn't think about this until after Homestead [the season finale], but it is a business. We are taking our time to look through everything behind closed doors. I would like to take care of it in private."

Good luck with that. Edwards knows this topic won't go away until he announces his decision. That likely will come soon. Marketing plans have to get going for 2012.

Big announcements often come the weekend of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, which always has a large media presence. But I seriously doubt Edwards wants to talk about it on one of the biggest weekends of the season, so maybe soon thereafter.

The deciding factor in these things usually comes down to sponsorship. If that's the case, Home Depot could be the key player here.

If I'm the CEO at Home Depot and I'm staying in NASCAR, this is a no-brainer. Do whatever it takes to put Edwards in your car.

If you really want to go head-to-head with Lowe's (Home Depot's No. 1 competitor), Carl is your guy. Jimmie Johnson has handed you your hat five years in a row on the championship trail.

Edwards can change that, and he's the most camera-friendly driver in the sport. Joey Logano, in his third season driving the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, might get there one day, but he's not ready to challenge Johnson. This is Home Depot's golden opportunity to outshine Lowe's.

So JGR could be in a position to offer Edwards more money, but it's not just money. Edwards will have to decide whether the Gibbs Toyotas give him as good a chance to win the title as the Roush Fords over the long haul.

Toyota has yet to win the championship since entering Cup in 2007. It almost happened last year with Denny Hamlin at JGR, and it could happen this year with Kyle Busch or Hamlin. JGR's last Cup title came in 2005 with Tony Stewart, but that was in a Chevrolet.

Edwards leads the points standings this season in a much-improved Roush operation.

Whatever Edwards does, he'll have to announce it soon. If he goes to JGR, he enters the dreaded lame-duck status at Roush. That's never good, especially for a title contender.

If it were up to me, I wouldn't think about this until after Homestead [the season finale], but it is a business. We are taking our time to look through everything behind closed doors. I would like to take care of it in private.

-- Carl Edwards

Take it from Kurt Busch. He's been there, done that. Before the end of the 2005 season, he announced he was leaving Roush Racing to go to Penske Racing in 2006. Roush sent Busch on his way two races before the end of the 2005 season.

"What I went through was hell, to put it lightly," Busch said this past weekend. "I went in there like a man to tell Jack that I was leaving. To see how it all turned out was very surprising to me."

So how would he handle it if he were Edwards?

"I would definitely tread lightly," Busch said. "Make sure you're saying what you want to say the proper way."

If Edwards stays, the show's over. All is well at Jack's house, except for lining up sponsors and trying to persuade UPS to stay with or without David Ragan.

It also could mean the other big free agents stay where they are -- Bowyer at Richard Childress Racing and Montoya at Earnhardt Ganassi Inc.

Brian Vickers and Mark Martin also are up for grabs, but the unknown future of Red Bull Racing could affect both drivers in 2012.

If Edwards leaves, it's a free-for-all. Roush will need to sign a driver for the No. 99 Ford, and Bowyer could be his prime target. Montoya, Martin and possibly Vickers would make Childress' short list if Bowyer leaves.

Stewart-Haas Racing also wants to expand, but Stewart might hold out for Danica Patrick and her GoDaddy dollars in 2013.

As always, all these moves depend on what sponsors do and whom they want driving the cars they finance.

But Edwards controls the whole show. He's throwing the Silly Season party. We'll see who gets an invitation.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter