Thursday, June 19, 2014

COMMENTARY: Edwards To Gibbs Makes Perfect Sense

Is Edwards the new Candy Man?
Published reports from's Lee Spencer are making public today what’s been discussed around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage for months now. Carl Edwards will leave Roush Fenway Racing to drive a fourth Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing next season, with sponsorship from M&Ms.

The deal makes perfect sense, for a number of reasons.

At age 34, Edwards is hardly long in the tooth as NASCAR drivers go. However, statistics show that racers tend to peak in their early 30s, meaning that the Missouri native’s best years could already be behind him.

Roush Fenway Racing is in the midst of a severe competitive spiral, their second such downturn in the last six years. Last time around, RFR and Ford Motor Company calmed Edwards’ contractual nerves with promises of improved performance and a generous weekly paycheck. After failing to follow through on those competitive promises last time around, Jack Roush is unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt from Edwards again.

Unleash The Beast!
From this vantage point, it is impossible to assess how long RFR may need to regain its competitive form. Those inside the walls, however, seem pessimistic about the team’s ability to become a title contender again, any time soon. Matt Kenseth bolted the RFR stable two years ago for a spot at Joe Gibbs Racing, promptly enjoying one of the best seasons of his NASCAR career. This year, both Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle have seriously investigated leaving the Roush fold, as well.

When the rats start jumping overboard, it’s generally a sign that the ship is taking on water, and nobody knows more about the state of affairs at Roush Fenway Racing than people like Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle, who enjoy an insider’s view. And while it appears that Biffle will re-sign with RFR after all, that decision is less an affirmation of Roush Fenway’s future than an admission that no better offers were available. Edwards has earned just three checkered flags in the last three seasons, and with no immediate improvement in sight, it is difficult to imagine him signing-on for more of the same.

When Edwards bolts the RFR camp – and he will -- there is only one logical destination; Joe Gibbs Racing. No other Ford team will poison its own well by poaching Edwards away, and a move to Richard Petty Motorsports or Michael Waltrip Racing would be lateral, at best.

JGR has said repeatedly in recent years that they will field a fourth when (and only when) the sponsorship becomes available. And with the possible addition of Monster Energy Drink to JGR’s Sprint Cup sponsor lineup, the backing in question could finally be at hand.

But why would Mars, Inc. – parent company of M&Ms – hitch their chocolate candy brand to the wagon of a well-known health nut like Edwards?

In a word, marketability.

Edwards has amassed 22 victories in 352 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, and ranks as one of the sport’s most visible, popular and successful drivers. He has four Top-5 finishes in the championship points -- including a pair of runner-up showings in 2008 and 2011 – and in `11, actually tied for the series championship, losing the title to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker.  

Busch has won 25 Sprint Cup races under the M&Ms banner, and is also one of the circuit’s most prolific winners. He is notorious, however, for wilting under the pressure of the postseason title chase; never finishing better than fourth in the championship standings and recording only two Top-5 point finishes in his 11-year career.

Perhaps more important, the Las Vegas native has a knack for generating negative publicity for both himself and his sponsors. In 2011, NASCAR took the unprecedented step of barring Busch from a Sunday Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, after the mercurial driver crashed former champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. under caution during that weekend’s Camping World Truck Series event. The crash ended Hornaday’s championship hopes, and prompted Mars to pull their sponsorship from Busch’s No. 18 Toyota for the final two races of the season.

Most sponsors shy away from that kind of unpleasantness. In Monster Energy Drink, however, Busch has found a backer that actually embraces his occasional bouts of “on the edge” behavior. Monster Energy’s prime demographic is the younger, flat-billed baseball gap crowd. Their current advertising slogan urges consumers to “Unleash The Beast,” and they not only understand the urge to buck authority from time to time, they identify with it. Rumors have circulated for months that Monster might be ready to upgrade its NASCAR program to the Sprint Cup level, but only with Busch as their driver.

Now, with a popular wheelman like Edwards available to carry the M&Ms colors, Joe Gibbs Racing may finally experience the perfect sponsorship storm.


  1. Anonymous7:00 PM

    Very interesting piece, Mr. Moody. Thought provoking, to say the least.

  2. You have to wonder if Carl is thinking about the success Matt had jumping teams. You, also, have to wonder how Matt feels if Carl does make the move to JGR. Ford should be extremely disappointed after investing money in Carl, Subway also.

    And what about Carl's current sponsors who might follow Carl, stay at RFR, find another driver to back, or leave the sport.

    Things are looking more interesting in the game of musical chairs we call silly season. The behind the scenes stuff is more captivating then the on track action right now.

  3. Let me get this right,so the man that gets bashed for 8 hours a day on Sirius Nascar radio has full time sponsors waiting in the wings. So Kyle Busch the man that callers call in to have him fired, is going to be instrumental in Joe Gibbs finally getting a fourth team going. I heard from a very good source that Kyle and Monster energy could have been in Harvicks new ride last year. The way Gibbs cars are running this year, I bet he could kick him self. But that's the price you pay for being loyal to Gibbs I hope Edwards gets the entire 18 team intake with Dave Rogers. Then Kyle maybe can build his new team from the ground up. I heard Kyle has been pushing for a man named Chris Gabehart to be the crew chief.
    The relationship between Kyle and Dave Rogers has really been strained this year, given the fact that pit stop after pit stop with Rogers adjustments makes the car worst. Not to mention the Richmond call two years ago. O well I am ready already have a Monster jacket and drink 10 sugar free Monster engery drinks a day. Mixed wiith something . HHHHHHHHHHppppp

  4. Anonymous1:45 AM

    Nah. Edwards is a Ford guy, just like Earnhardt is a Chevy guy and Smoke is a Chevy guy . I don't think it will happen, If the energy drinks get hammered by the FDA there goes that sponsorship vein. Unless the Mars family is going back on their commitment to Kyle, which I don't believe they will, this is just posturing on Edwards part. Unless Ford and Toyota catch up to Hendrick, all this is moot anyway

    . Additionally, it must burn Toyota of America that Panasonic went with Hendrick. If all of this 'hot air' were true, Panasonic would be the player on Edwards' new car not Gordon.

    Personally, I see the hand being played as Gordon retiring or reducing his schedule and Edwards filling that seat. THAT is more realistic than him going to Toyota,

    And then there is the quiet team of Richard Childress. Unless I'm wrong they NEED a name more than anyone. And that makes Childress a player too.

    Mr. Wonderful

  5. Anonymous3:27 AM

    Eddie Haskel popular? That ship has sailed some time ago. It amazes he still has big name sponsors. Blame his performance on The Cat and The Hat, but I say it is not that cut and dry. But then again we don't call him Eddie Haskel for nothing, Isn't that right Mrs. Cleaver?

  6. Anonymous10:03 AM

    Edwards = Traitor

  7. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Picture this commercial: Kyle Busch is raging as he usually does when he has a bad day on the track. Someone hands him a Snickers and says "You're not you when you're hungry". He eats it and turns into Carl Edwards.

    Or Mars could have step into the role of educating kids to get outside and play and exercise and be active. Candy is okay in moderation. It's about smart choices. I mean, I can go into Subway and order something healthy or I can get a BMT slathered in mayo and extra processed cheese on a yoga mat bun.

  8. Dwayne in Memphis12:46 PM

    Remember back when "silly season" started after the October Charlotte race?

  9. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Edwards has lost races several times this year due to his own errors. You forgot to mention that.

  10. Anonymous3:49 PM

    Carl's "nice guy" image is just that, nothing but an image. He's a bigger jerk than Kyle, he just doesn't show it as often. Just ask Brad Keslowski. I'd rather not see him get any ride other than at Roush because those two bozos deserve each other & watching the entire RFR team in it's death spiral is actually a real pleasure. I'm hoping that Ford invests it's efforts with Roger Penske more & lets RFR wither & die like it deserves to.. The Captain has always been a class act, unlike Jack Roush.

    As to the comment about Edwards going to Childress, even though I dislike Carl, as far as a winning team, RCR is in the same boat as RFR, & might even be further down the ladder, with the loss of Harvick, whom I dislike even more than I do Edwards, but I will say he was all that made RCR competitive. I don't think Edwards has the same level of talent as Harvick, so he wouldn't be doing any better at RCR. That's another lateral move at best.

  11. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Why would anybody want Carl is beyond me. When his last contract was signed it was the same scenario. Ford gave him a bunch of stock on top of his contract to stay and he was set for life. Even tough the performance has been off some his time has come and gone. he is not hungry no more