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’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.