On the surface, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer are in enviable places. Both drivers have had the luxury of developing into successful drivers with top tier teams. Edwards joined Roush Fenway’s Truck program in 2003, and eventually replaced Jeff Burton in the No. 99 Ford in August of 2004.
Richard Childress spotted a young Clint Bowyer driving an underfunded ARCA ride at Nashville in 2003, and was rather impressed. He swiftly signed Bowyer to a developmental contract, and by 2005, he was contending for the Nationwide (then-Busch) Series title. In 2006, he joined RCR’s Cup program, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the Rookie of the Year standings.
Edwards currently leads the standings with one victory, and Bowyer is well within striking distance of entering Chase eligibility. So, why are the two free agents still unsigned for 2012 and beyond?
For Bowyer, it is about sponsorship. At RCR, a sponsorship package has yet to be arranged, and the team is in negotiations with current sponsors General Mills and BB&T for 2012. Because of the sponsorship uncertainty and the fact that Childress’ grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon are developing at a rapid pace in lower divisions, Bowyer apparently considered joining Red Bull Racing only because of the guaranteed sponsorship attached to the deal, and the fact that he would become the flagship driver. When Red Bull announced that they are abandoning their NASCAR program, Bowyer’s backup plan diminished, therefore the pressure is even higher to sign a deal with RCR, which has always been Bowyer’s first choice.
Weeks after the Red Bull announcement, there is no indication that a deal is close to being completed for Bowyer and RCR.
Edwards’ circumstance is different. While Bowyer is vocal regarding where he wants to drive in 2012, Edwards is vague. He has not stated exactly where he wants to drive. All he says is that he wants to drive for an organization that gives him the best opportunity to win a Sprint Cup championship. Well, is there a better organization than Roush Fenway Racing?
Hendrick Motorsports is out of the equation. Joe Gibbs Racing and RCR are the only other groups that would be considered equal to Roush Fenway. RCR is a highly unlikely candidate, and it is reported that Edwards’ decision has come down two teams.
Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor Home Depot highly covets Edwards, who is not only marketable and sponsor-friendly, but is one of the few true threats to dethrone the Lowe’s-sponsored Jimmie Johnson, unlike Joey Logano, who is developing slower than many anticipated.
The only thing we really know is that Edwards will either drive for Roush or Gibbs in 2012. The longer it takes for him to reveal his decision, the more it appears as if Edwards will jump ship to the Gibbs organization. If he was going to remain with Roush, I believe he would have said so by now.
Let us hope that Edwards does not pull a LeBron James.
Here is a quick possible scenario-
Edwards to the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, with Logano moving to the fourth team, the No. 19 Gamestop/SportsClips Toyota.
Bowyer will have the best of both worlds, with Red Bull sponsorhip on the No. 33 RCR Chevrolet.