Intensity to Sign Edwards Heats Up

5 years 3 months 2 weeks ago July 09, 2011 Jul 9, 2011 Saturday, July 09 2011 Saturday, July 09, 2011 12:08:36 AM CDT in Sports
By: Don Coble

SPARTA, KY - The competition to win Carl Edwards' driving services for the future are expected to intensify as the racing season moves nine races away from the playoffs.

His contract with Roush Fenway Racing ends at the end of the season, and he's reportedly listening to some pretty good offers.

Car owner Jack Roush is trying to keep him in the No. 99 Ford in the future; while it's widely anticipated that car owner Joe Gibbs is trying to put together an attractive offer as well.

To keep him at Roush, a different kind of sponsor lineup may be needed. Aflac's contract ends at the end of the season, too. So does UPS's deal with David Ragan, while Matt Kenseth already knows he's lost primary sponsor Crown Royal.

Finding new sponsors if tough enough, but finding one that can afford Edwards will be extremely tough. His current employer, however, remains "cautiously optimistic," team president Steve Newmark said.

"This is like a parallel dimension that's not where I was eight or 10 years ago at all, so I'm very, very fortunate," Edwards said. "I feel like from my perspective, I've been given a lot of opportunities by a lot of different people and I do my very best all the time to make sure I repay those people in any way that I can, and I definitely think about that with any decision I make.

"Every day I make sure I treat people right and that I don't take advantage of a situation, so in relation to my contract and stuff like that, that will be a big part of any decision that I make, just as it is every day with every smaller decision."

Toyota and Home Depot would like Edwards in one of Gibbs' cars, especially with Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet and Lowe's combining to win the last five series championships. Team president J.D. Gibbs admitted he's interested in Edwards.

"The thing I'm going to do is keep working on it and working on it privately," Edwards said. "I think that is the best way for me."

While Edwards is the biggest potential free agent, Danica Patrick is another striking target. Her contract in IndyCar racing and with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports ends at the end of the season, and she's considering a full-time move to stock cars.

Like Edwards, she's trying to keep her options open - and behind closed doors.

"These things, as I've said from the beginning of the year, are complicated and they take time," she said. "Whether I'm coming here or not has yet to be signed, sealed and delivered. I might not be. Only time will tell.

"That timeline on my side of things, I'm really not sure. All I know is that I'm told I have a job to do in the car and you do your job and we'll do our job and they fill me in from time to time. But it's only July."

Her longtime sponsor has been sold to three private equity firms, including K.K.R. and Silver Lake. The new owners said they plan to keep Patrick as the face of the company.

Whether it's back in IndyCars or in NASCAR, Patrick should have a sponsor. That makes her even more popular.

"It comes down to my gut and my desire and where I feel like I'll be the happiest and where I feel like I'll be able to have the most success," she said. "And then from those thoughts my team explores the options. But it always starts with where I want to be."

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