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.’

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994