The first shoe dropped Sunday morning. It was almost certain when Jack Roush revealed that Trevor Bayne would be driving the No. 6 Ford in 2015. Roush has only had three cars in recent seasons because of the lack of sponsorship, and it was almost unbelievable that he would field four in 2015. Of course, there was always a possibility that it would be Greg Biffle or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that was leaving, but all along we knew.
The announcement came first via email, Facebook and Twitter from Roush Fenway Racing. It simply announced the driver lineup for 2015. It was minus Carl Edwards. Fastenal, Edwards’ lead sponsor would go to Stenhouse. Later on Jack Roush and other RFR principals commented. Edwards would not be part of the team in 2015. The usual “we’re going to race just like always with Carl and get a championship” line was spoken as well as the “he’ll always be a part of the RFR family.” Bull. This was payback.
The last time Edwards’ contract came up, he played it just like he did this year. No comments and no news, just the usual “proud to drive a Ford for Jack Roush.” The ball was in Edwards’ court, and it probably didn’t sit well with Roush. Ford had bent over backward to keep Edwards then. There was talk of stock options and commercial deals in addition to his contract with the race team. Edwards was Ford. There was almost a championship in 2011 and struggles since, but no driver ever mentioned Ford so much in post-race interviews, win or lose. After all of that, Edwards told Roush in May that he had a contract with another team. Which team? He didn’t even tell Roush which team he was going to. Despite all the talk that he is part of the family and that they are still running for a championship, there is bad blood there.
Then there is the Toyota thing. Everyone knows Roush despises Toyota. Remember the battle of words between Roush and Lee White when he was at Toyota. He just saw Matt Kenseth go over to the Japanese brand and now probably Edwards. It was the second or third most prestigious race on the circuit. What better time to announce his 2015 team minus Edwards. Here, take that, Carl. Oh, in public, there will be nothing but good will expressed, but this act on the day of the Brickyard 400 speaks volumes. If the mission was to embarrass Edwards, mission accomplished.
Now we wait for the other shoe to drop. It won’t be much of surprise if the rumors are correct. Everyone agrees that his new ride will be with Joe Gibbs Racing in a fourth car with unknown sponsorship. Many felt that the key was Edwards taking sponsorship to Gibbs or wherever he went, but the Fastenal announcement seems to have quieted that theory. As is Edwards’ custom, he’s not talking, and probably won’t until October in Charlotte.
Would better performance have kept Edwards at Roush? Not likely. Neither would loyalty. Even though Roush put him in his first major truck, Nationwide car, and Sprint Cup ride, Edwards wanted to see what it was like to drive someplace else. I’m waiting for Edwards to utter that old tired line, “it’s business.”
Indeed it is, and the rest of the season will be tough for Edwards. Very few lame duck drivers do well once they announce, or someone else announces they are leaving. Kevin Harvick was an exception last year, but that’s unusual. Edwards was a long shot for the championship anyway. The announcement Sunday morning made those odds longer.