|Jack Roush loses another driver|
Roush Fenway Racing announced its 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lineup yesterday, and with all due respect, the biggest news concerns who does not appear on the roster.
RFR confirmed that it will field three Sprint Cup teams next season for drivers Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Fastenal Ford) and Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Advocare Ford). Noticeably absent from that lineup is Carl Edwards, who has served as the face of both RFR and Ford Racing since joining NASCAR’s senior circuit in 2004.
Edwards is universally believed to be headed for a fourth Toyota entry at Joe Gibbs Racing next season, and for the second time in the last three years, RFR majority owner Jack Roush has spilled the beans with an unusual July announcement concerning his driver roster for the following season. Two years ago, Roush outed Matt Kenseth’s departure plans in similar fashion, announcing that the former Sprint Cup Series champion would not return to the fold in 2013.
|Roush and Edwards: Game over|
There is no love lost between Jack Roush and Toyota Racing. Never has been, never will be. After spotting an employee’s Toyota truck in the RFR parking lot years ago, Roush famously paid that employee in Japanese yen. He repeatedly refers to Toyota as “the dark side” and enjoys trumping the rival automaker at every turn. Losing Edwards to Toyota rubs salt in the still-open wound inflicted by Kenseth two years earlier, and Roush reacted – perhaps predictably -- by launching a pre-emptive strike that takes much of the air out of a future Edwards/Gibbs announcement, whenever it may occur.
Ford Racing Director Jamie Allison said Sunday that the automaker “did everything to facilitate keeping Carl a part of the Ford Racing and Roush Fenway family,” lamenting that “in the end, that option did not come to fruition.” Indeed, for the second time in the last three years, Roush Fenway Racing and Ford Motor Company have been spurned by a top-tier, championship caliber driver, left to watch helplessly as one of their brightest lights crosses over to the dark side.
"I will always be thankful for Carl's contribution and the role he played in many Roush Fenway wins and championships," said Roush, mouthing all the platitudes required of an allegedly amicable split. "We wish him well for the future (and) are excited about continuing our quest for a championship with Carl and the No. 99 team in 2014.”
Make no mistake about it, however. Roush does not “wish Edwards well.” In fact, if Carl never wins another Sprint Cup Series race after 2014, it’ll be too soon for Jack.
That’s why Roush took the unusual step of announcing his 2015 driver lineup last week, rather than waiting until September or October, as is customary in the industry.
No other NASCAR team has publicized its 2015 deals at this early date, preferring instead to focus on the job at hand; qualifying for a 2014 Chase that is now just six weeks away. Only the “Cat in the Hat” has chosen to let the cat out of the bag, with a statement clearly designed to shove it up the collective tailpipe of Edwards and JGR.
For his part, Joe Gibbs continues to keep mum on the topic, saying, "We don't have anything right now to announce. Anything that we're going to do will be coming up in the future. I'm not sure exactly what the time line is.”
There's no beanstalk this time around, no flesh-eating giant to bellow "fee, fie, fo, fum" while striking terror in the hearts of the townspeople. But for JGR, the damage has clearly been done.
Their much-anticipated Edwards announcement is no longer a question of “if.”