By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
(July 29, 2011)
INDIANAPOLIS—“I have signed a contract,” Carl Edwards said, and those within earshot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway leaned closer, much like a scene in one of the old E.F. Hutton commercials.
“And that’s the contract I signed in 2008 to race for Jack (Roush) in ’09, ’10 and ’11 and try to win the championship, so that is my mission,” Edwards continued. “That’s the only contract that I have signed right now and that’s the one that I’m going honor, so that’s what I’m doing.”
Accordingly, NASCAR racing’s marquee free agent is still a free agent for the time being, despite persistent rumors that place him in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing, with current No. 20 car driver Joey Logano moving to a fourth JGR car.
What was obvious in Edwards’ answers to reporters’ questions Friday at Indy, however, was the change in language from earlier responses. In the final year of his three-year deal with Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards had been saying he hasn’t made a decision yet. He didn’t say that Friday.
“I’d rather not say,” Edwards responded when asked point-blank if he had decided where he’d drive next year.
“I’m not purposely withholding anything, other than to just be able to get the business side of everything done. When I’m able to talk about next season, if it’s appropriate, I will talk about it, and I’ll tell you guys.”
There have been clues that suggest Edwards may be headed for Gibbs. At Michigan, Edwards talked in a conciliatory way about JGR driver Kyle Busch, with whom Edwards has had issues in the past—most recently at Phoenix in February.
At Indy, Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin were equally full of happy talk.
“If Carl came over to Gibbs, certainly it would be beneficial,” Busch said, “because he’s really good at what he does, he’s got great communication, he’s got good feedback, and he’s been one of the top three or four guys in the sport every year he’s been around, or every year that Roush has had good stuff and they’ve been competitive.”
Hamlin’s response was strikingly similar.
“I think it would be good for our team,” Hamlin told Sporting News. “I think that the dynamic of the three drivers that we already have is good. Having a guy that has already contended for championships and wins on a weekly basis can’t be a bad thing.”
From the sound of it, the welcome mat is already in place.