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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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.