In The Pits: Edwards again has everybody guessing

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm •  Published: May 12, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Social media was abuzz all weekend as Carl Edwards celebrated his return to Kansas Speedway: Carl sat with Joe Gibbs Racing at the driver meeting! Carl was flustered when asked if he can win a championship at Roush Fenway Racing!

Here we go again.

It's another contract year for Edwards, and everybody is talking about his future. Well, everybody except Edwards.

When Clint Bowyer removed himself from the free agent market last week by re-signing with Michael Waltrip Racing, attention turned to Edwards, the top available driver. The gossip and speculation is nearing a fevered pitch, and all signs point to Edwards ending his 12-year run with Roush to move into a fourth car with Gibbs.

It's a sensible move for Edwards, who was heavily courted by JGR in 2011 as he found himself in the hunt for his first Sprint Cup championship.

Edwards went back and forth, weighing both offers, dragging the process deep into the summer. It was practically unheard of for a points leader to consider leaving for another team while also racing for the title, but Edwards looked beyond the moment.

He rides a performance roller-coaster at Roush, where one season could produce multiple wins and a solid run at the title, only to go winless the next year and watch the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship from the sidelines.

That's not changed since Edwards scored a huge payday — thanks to a big assist from Ford Motor Co. — by signing a three-year extension that year. He went on to lose the 2011 title to Tony Stewart on a tie-breaker and hasn't been a threat since. Edwards went winless in 2012 and missed the Chase, and although he made two trips to Victory Lane last season, he finished last in the 13-driver Chase field.

Now it's time for Edwards to negotiate a new contract. It comes as he sits fifth in the standings with a win at Bristol that should be good enough to lock him into NASCAR's championship field.

Good enough to make a case for staying at Roush, right?

Not if he's again using a wide lens to look at his options. Edwards should see clearly that he's got just 14 top-five finishes since 2011, when he had 19 in one season. That JGR grass has to look a whole lot greener right now, especially after Matt Kenseth bolted Roush last season and racked up seven wins, 12 top-fives and raced Jimmie Johnson to the finale for the championship.