In trying to convince Carl Edwards to stay in his racing family, Jack Roush put all his cards on the table. In Roush's words, he "showed everything" to Edwards, from where Roush Fenway Racing has been to where the company is going.
It was a risky move for Roush, for had Edwards packed his bags and signed with Joe Gibbs Racing, the competition would have been armed with all his secrets, leaving Roush exposed for who knows how long. But it was a gamble Roush had to take.
Supporting a competitive four-car operation carries a hefty price tag, one that cannot be paid without big-dollar sponsors. And though Matt Kenseth is a past champion and Greg Biffle a perennial contender, neither carries anywhere near the marketing caché that Edwards does.
Yes, Edwards is leading the points and certainly he is among the favorites to win this year's championship. But more than winning, Roush needed Edwards' ability to attract deep-pocketed sponsors.
As Roush said, this was a "watershed year" at Roush Fenway for sponsors, meaning a lot of contracts are up. UPS has not yet signed on for 2012, Crown Royal will not be back next season and Aflac hasn't re-upped, obviously waiting to see where Edwards landed.
Of Roush's four cars, only Biffle's No. 16 has a primary sponsor lined up for 2012.
So Roush weighed the risk of opening his mind's vault to Edwards and determined it's what he had to do. And really, it was, for without Edwards and the sponsor dollars he brings in, the organization was going to suffer – secrets kept or not.
"If Carl had made the decision not to come back, I was going to feel really stupid for having shown him all the things," Roush said Friday at Pocono Raceway. "We lined up every manager and every brilliant person we've got, and among the 416 there's a lot of 'em that are very superior at what they do. [Carl] had a chance to consider the breadth and the length of every person and every thought on what would be good going forward. And I would feel horribly exposed if he had not come back."
In going through this free-agent process, Edwards, who served as his own agent, said he asked himself two questions: "What would I do if money weren't a factor and what would I do if I didn't care what one person thought about my decision?"
There wasn't one thing that swayed him to stay with Roush, he said. No, Ford didn't come in with a last-minute offer to keep him with Roush instead of taking a very lucrative deal to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. And there's no truth, Edwards said, to some of the figures that have been thrown around: $8 million a season. In fact, Roush went as far as to say that money never came up once throughout the entire process.
(Was Edwards ever close to signing with JGR? According to Denny Hamlin, maybe not. "I'm wondering really how close he is so I asked Coach [Gibbs] myself and he's like, "Trust me, if it ever got to that point I would let you know first.' So, I knew that it never really had gotten very far along I don't believe.")
While it may be hard to believe money never came up, it could be true based on the simple fact that there was no way Edwards was going to be lowballed in this process. From the very beginning he held the holy triumvirate of good contract negotiations – marketability, championship talent and multiple offers – that shielded him from the pay cuts his peers have and are taking in their own negotiations.
"I just decided this is the right place for me," he explained. "If I would have made that decision three months ago, I might have had more second thoughts; I might have felt not as sure about it.
"For me, this is really about where can I be the most successful; where can I perform the best," he continued. "That's what this is about."
Had he been making the decision a year ago, Edwards would have been gone. He was 10th in points and riding a 56-race winless streak. Today, he's on top of the standings, having led 14 of the 20 weeks so far.
There's his decision right there. It's really that simple. For Roush, the timing couldn't have worked out more perfectly.
- Roush Fenway Racing
- Jack Roush
- Joe Gibbs Racing