BUYER’S MARKET Carl Edwards could be a catalyst for NASCAR musical chairs. Words Tom Jensen All images LAT
Brian Czobat/LATNigel Kinrade/LAT
y a wide margin, Carl Edwards is the hottest property in
this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup silly season. A consistent
top-five runner and a threat to win the championship
almost every season, Edwards has an impeccable driving record.
Combine that with his huge draw for female race fans and the
ability to throw out sponsor mentions like nobody since Michael
Waltrip, and Edwards is about to go from rich to very rich.
Through the first 19 races of the 2011 Cup season, Edwards
led the points driving for Roush Fenway Racing, the team
he’s been with since 2003 when he broke into the NASCAR
Camping World Truck Series.
THE POSSIBLE CAUSE
First-rate driver, first-rate team, a long (and, by all accounts,
mutually amicable) relationship means it’s a given Edwards
will re-up with Roush Fenway, right?
Not so fast. In this age of mega-million-dollar deals, it’s
not nearly that simple. Does Roush Fenway want to keep
Edwards? Absolutely. Does he want to stay? Almost certainly.
But sponsors pay the bills and dictate who drives the car. And
there’s the rub. RFR operates four Sprint Cup cars. It’s
already lost Crown Royal for Matt Kenseth next year, and
both Aflac (Edwards’s sponsor) and UPS (teammate David
Ragan’s) are in negotiations. Having already jumped from
Robert Yates Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing to Roush
Fenway, UPS has shown no hesitation about moving.
From team founder and co-owner Jack Roush’s perspective,
Edwards will cost top dollar – say, $12-$15 million annually in
salary and race earnings. To pay for him, Roush will have to
re-sign Aflac, move UPS over or, most likely, put together a