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Did Carl Edwards drop hint he may not stay with Roush Fenway Racing after this season?

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Carl Edwards has played his cards extremely close to the vest on whether or not he’ll remain with Roush Fenway Racing once his contract expires at the end of this season.

But before Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway, Edwards was left flustered and stammered a bit when Fox Sports announcer Darrell Waltrip came right out and asked Edwards bluntly, “Can you win a championship at Roush?”

It was rather obvious Edwards was taken back by Waltrip’s question and was not prepared for it.

“That’s a good question,” Edwards said. “I think we can, I mean we’ve been very close. We sure looked real close at it, but we just haven’t got it done. It’s been 10 years and really, overall that’s my goal. I believe if I work hard enough and Roush works hard enough, I believe we can do it.”

But then Edwards may have inadvertently slipped and gave what appeared to be a potential hint that he very well may be in his last year at RFR.

“There’s not a better year than this year with Jimmy Fennig, the Chase format, and finishing Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead, so yes, I know we can and we have to do it this year. We’ve just got to keep digging,” Edwards said.

The key phrase in that quote: “We have to do it this year.”

Such a phrase, at least on the surface, gives the implication that winning a championship – or at least coming close – will be the ultimate decision-maker for Edwards to remain at RFR for another three seasons.

That, plus his comment about being at RFR for 10 years and having no Cup championships to show for it, are also good hints for clue hunters.

And, you could also draw a possible conclusion that Edwards wants — and needs — to win a championship this season because it very well may be his last with his current team at RFR. If he’s going to leave RFR, he apparently wants to go out as a champion.

Edwards has twice finished runner-up in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He actually tied Tony Stewart for the title in 2011, only to lose out when NASCAR was forced to settle things by the first tie-breaker: the most wins by both drivers.

Stewart won his third Cup crown by virtue of having five wins in that season – all which came in the 10-race Chase that season – to just one triumph by Edwards.

Not normally one to be flustered so easily, Edwards eventually regained his composure in the Fox interview, but did admit “You guys snuck up on me with that one.”

As for whether he has a timetable to make a decision to stay with RFR or go, Edwards went back to holding his cards close to the vest.

“It’s a big question, it’s something that I have to put a lot of thought into, and other than Darrell (Waltrip), I appreciate everyone giving me a lot of space to do this privately,” Edwards said with a laugh.

Edwards’ comments came one day after teammate Greg Biffle said he planned on staying with Roush Fenway Racing. (Or did he?)

During his weekly media availability with reporters at Kansas on Friday, it was pretty clear Edwards was not going to budge from his “no comment” line about potentially becoming a free agent and moving to another team.

“You guys know that I don’t like to talk about that stuff in the media,” Edwards told reporters. “To me, that is business and I have made the mistake of letting that turn into a big media thing before so I would rather not talk about that and keep that between me and Jack (team co-owner Jack Roush) and (RFR President) Steve Newmark.”

Edwards went through a similar process in 2011, when his previous deal was coming to an end. For several months, he had fans, media and even members of his RFR family whether he would be staying or going at the end of that season.

A spate of rumors back then had Edwards going to Joe Gibbs Racing, to be the driver for a fourth JGR team.

Eventually, Edwards decided to remain with RFR and signed a three-year contract extension, which is the same extension that expires at the end of this season.

Edwards has already seen former RFR teammate Matt Kenseth, who many thought would be a lifer with the organization, pull up stakes after the 2012 season and moved to JGR, where he enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013 with a career-best seven wins.

Edwards has also seen what Kevin Harvick has done – two wins thus far – since moving this season to Stewart Haas Racing from his long-time home at Richard Childress Racing.

When asked if some teams may be more enticing to him than others, Edwards wouldn’t give reporters any indication one way or other.

“Part of me not talking about it would be not answering that question,” he said.

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Chilton says IndyCar test debut went “swimmingly well”

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 12:  Max Chilton of Great Britain and Marussia speaks with members of the media during the Russian Formula One Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom on October 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Along with new Chevrolet aerodynamic components being tried out at the “it’s green in February and it’s never this green the later into the year we get” Sonoma Raceway, the other interesting storyline out of Wednesday’s six-car Verizon IndyCar Series test was that it marked Max Chilton’s testing debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 8 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Chevrolet.

Chilton’s made the announcement, addressed the media and had his sponsor confirmed within the last week-plus.

But it was on Wednesday that the talking stopped and the driving restarted, for what was not only the 24-year-old Brit’s first time in an IndyCar but also his first time at Sonoma.

“It’s a bit of a shock today,” Chilton said, via a track-issued release. “I haven’t been in a racing car in six months and that was an Indy Lights car, so I’ve got to learn the track today and the car.

“But I think the morning went swimmingly well. I was quicker than I thought I would be.  It’s a really nice kit and I can’t wait to explore it throughout the season.”

Here’s a few photos on social media, either ones he or the track shared, of his maiden day in an IndyCar.

Chilton’s next test comes later this week, still in California, at Auto Club Speedway for his first oval run in an IndyCar.

Chilton joined his three Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, for the test. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud also tested on Wednesday.

Pabst adds Jordan Lloyd as third USF2000 driver

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Pabst Racing has added a third driver to its Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda lineup, in the form of talented 19-year-old Australian driver Jordan Lloyd.

Lloyd raced the first two weekends of last year’s USF2000 season with John Cummiskey Racing before being sidelined due to financial woes, but he showed quite a bit of promise in those two weekends at St. Petersburg and NOLA Motorsports Park. He finished second in one of the NOLA races.

For 2016, Lloyd returns to the U.S. after winning the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 championship last year, and was thus awarded with the ‘Road to the World’ scholarship.

“I only touched the tip of the iceberg when I was here in 2015, so on a personal level there is a lot of unfinished business that needs to be tended to,” Lloyd said in a team release. “I am looking forward to a strong season.”

Lloyd, who will drive the No. 21 car, joins the previously announced pairing of Garth Rickards and Yufeng Luo at Pabst, the Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based team, as the USF2000 field for 2016 continues to grow both in terms of size and talent.

Luca Ghiotto steps up to GP2 with Trident

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Friday 27 November 2015.
Luca Ghiotto (ITA, Trident) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
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Luca Ghiotto will step up to the GP2 Series with Trident in 2016 after an impressive season in GP3 last year that saw him finish second in the championship standings.

Ghiotto made his GP3 debut at the end of 2014 with a four-race run-out for Trident before remaining with the Italian team for 2015.

It proved to be a memorable year as he won five races – more than any other driver – but fell eight points short of the title as Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon was crowed champion in Abu Dhabi.

Ghiotto will remain with Trident for 2016, stepping up to its GP2 operation after a successful test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.

“I can’t wait to line-up for this new adventure,” Ghiotto said. “Last year, it was tough for me to fight so hard and not winning the title. However, it has been an extremely useful experience with the help of the excellent teamwork among the whole Trident stable.

“I want to thank once again Maurizio Salvadori and Giacomo Ricci for their support, and the Italian Federation for believing so much in me. I really look forward to be back on-track.”

Newgarden on Phoenix: “You have to be really committed”

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Phoenix International Raceway replaces The Milwaukee Mile on the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2016 schedule as the lone one-mile oval the series competes on.

And that’s exactly where the similarities between the two end.

While Milwaukee’s nearly all-flat banking nature rewards those who find the setup early, and punishes those who don’t, Phoenix is going to be significantly faster and has a series of rises and falls that might make for a more interesting challenge.

Josef Newgarden, who took his first laps during a Chevrolet manufacturer test Monday at Phoenix aboard his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, had high praise for the commitment level it takes to nail a lap at PIR.

“Phoenix, you don’t need as much courage to be flat,” Newgarden told NBC Sports in a phone interview on Wednesday. “It just seems more crazy. From a commitment standpoint, the commitment level is higher, for different reasons.

“From a speed and physicality standpoint, it seems more of a commitment than Milwaukee. That was interesting to me. You really had to be committed… it was almost hard to breathe. It’s a very tough lap.

“It’s easier to be flat than at Milwaukee, and you’re generally flat out, but it seems higher commitment.”

Newgarden, who won his first career IndyCar pole position and dominated at Milwaukee last year, has lamented the loss of the oldest continually operated track from the schedule.

“I loved Milwaukee. It was a very difficult track. It took a lot more courage at Milwaukee to figure out how to get flat, or to get flat,” he admitted.

Newgarden hadn’t been to Phoenix previously and comments leading in – that the track serves as sort of a roller-coaster featuring the track’s legendary, albeit changed, dogleg in the backstraight – were apt.

“The whole thing is flat all around. The dogleg, there’s actually kind of a bit of a hill,” he said.

“You exit out of (Turn) 2, you run up the banking out of 2, then you get high enough, then run down pretty far and it’s kind of a downhill run into the dogleg, then you climb back up before 3. You’re almost constantly going up and down.

“I saw some NASCAR drivers describe it as a roller coaster, and that’s somewhat true. There’s a lot of elevation changes for an oval.”

How intense is the oval on the drivers, from a G-loading standpoint?

“Easy 4 to 5. I’d say 4.2 or 4.5 depending on downforce levels,” Newgarden said.

And that might be the most interesting thing to monitor for when IndyCar arrives at Phoenix, both for the Grand Prix-view open test February 26 and 27 and the race itself on April 2, is what downforce levels teams will opt to run to try to create better racing.

One of North America’s greatest open-wheel oval drivers, Rick Mears, has long been a proponent of less downforce.

Newgarden said less downforce will certainly create more separation and make the cars harder to drive, but it might not provide as close of racing.

“It’s hard to tell. I think if you want to see the cars racing and passing constantly, you’d need more downforce. If you trim it out and guys have to pedal them, it should separate the field better. I think more downforce would equal more racing around there. But it depends on what you want.

“Take Texas for example. Take the downforce away, it’s hard to drive, and there’s no passing. But it’s difficult on the drivers. There’s not as good racing. Add the downforce back, now everyone’s (sort of) packed up, but you’ll have amazing racing action. It really depends on what you want.”

Newgarden’s test was his first day in a car since he and team principal and teammate, Carpenter, tested at Texas Motor Speedway back in October.

A video from IndyCar featuring Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya from the Phoenix test is below.