Announcement of Edwards’ exit from Roush Fenway had some strange timing

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This Sunday morning at Indianapolis got a bit more distracting for Carl Edwards, crew chief Jimmy Fennig, and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team.

Hours away from one of the biggest NASCAR races of the year, Jack Roush revealed that Edwards would not be returning to the team next season. Instead, the Cat in the Hat will have Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne in his 2015 stable.

We’ve known that Edwards leaving Roush at the end of 2014 was a distinct possibility, even as Edwards himself has constantly chosen to stay silent on the matter.

But while the announcement isn’t exactly a surprise, the timing most definitely is. In a brief interview with reporters that was captured by Fox Sports, Edwards tried to keep focus on today’s Brickyard 400 and the remainder of the 2014 campaign.

“Our mission is to go win this race today and the championship,” Edwards said. “From a competitive standpoint, that’s the key and so, that’s where I’m at today.”

“When it’s time to talk about [2015], I’ll tell you guys and we’ll do it,” he added before being hustled off to a pre-race sponsor function. But before he went away, Edwards said this:

“It is unfortunate that all of this is happening on a race day. Because that’s the number-one focus.”

Or rather, it should be the number-one focus – especially going into this particular race. Instead, Edwards is having to deal with the aftermath of this announcement and ward off questions about his future.

And when he steps out of his Ford Fusion at the end of today’s race, he’ll likely have to deal with it all again. Even if he wins.

Far be it from me to question a team owner that has made countless decisions through more than 25 years at NASCAR’s top level, but Roush did not do Edwards any favors by announcing this today.

Why now? Why not do this the mid-week before or perhaps the Monday after?

Additionally, you would think Edwards’ solid year would have earned him some courtesy on this matter. He has been Roush’s standard-bearer this season – sixth in points with two trophies from Bristol and Sonoma.

Overall, the team has been a couple of steps behind in performance. Yet Edwards has remained steady and will be among those racing for a championship this fall in the Chase. Heck, he could be the only Roush man in the post-season if Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. don’t pick up a win themselves in these final seven regular season races.

But apparently, that didn’t matter.

Once Edwards gets inside the car today at IMS, it’ll be down to business. But right now? He and the rest of his team have got to be thinking, ‘We did not need this.’

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne