Carl Edwards in Better Spot for NASCAR Sprint Cup Title at Joe Gibbs Racing

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Carl Edwards in Better Spot for NASCAR Sprint Cup Title at Joe Gibbs Racing
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We tried to tell you that winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on the tricky road course at Sonoma in June wasn't going to be enough to keep Carl Edwards from leaving Roush Fenway Racing.

The fact that Edwards is moving on became official when Roush Fenway decided to announce its 2015 driver lineup, sans Edwards, prior to the running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Sunday. The timing was curious, to say the least, and unprofessional at worst, according to FoxSports.com television analyst and columnist Larry McReynolds.

"Honestly, I thought to make that announcement on the morning of what I consider our third-biggest race of the year -- behind the Daytona 500 and Homestead -- was very unprofessional," McReynolds wrote.

Yet the announcement, although certainly better suited for a Tuesday instead of three hours before a big race with little or no advance notice to the assembled media, was inevitable in some form.

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And the reasoning is simple: Edwards, no longer quite the young gun in the Sprint Cup garage that he once was, will have a much better shot at winning his first Sprint Cup championship with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 and beyond than he would have by remaining at RFR.

Edwards, who will turn 35 in less than a month, has not yet made it official that he's going to JGR and likely won't for at least another month or so, according to Tom Jensen of FoxSports.com. But it is official that he's leaving Roush and the Ford camp, according to statements from both of those organizations that were made public Sunday.

Edwards obviously saw the writing on the Cup garage wall.

Roush Fenway is a sinking ship headed nowhere. It would not be a shock if within the lifetime of Edwards' contractual association with JGR, assuming that's where he's headed (he is), RFR slowly fades from the NASCAR scene as a competitive force or merges with another organization in a last-ditch effort to remain relevant.

Meanwhile, JGR is finally ready to expand to four cars and will have a driver lineup that includes not only Edwards, but also Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and 2013 Sprint Cup runner-up Matt Kenseth.

The only other Cup team that fields a four-pronged driver stable anywhere close to that powerful is Hendrick Motorsports with six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champ Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

Take a closer look, though, at the ages of the drivers from the two organizations. Kenseth, at 42, is the oldest at JGR and will be followed by Edwards, then Hamlin (34) and Busch (29). Over at Hendrick, Gordon will celebrate his 43rd birthday this Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt will turn 40 (yes, 40!) in October, Johnson will turn 39 in September and Kahne is 34.

Get the picture? With Edwards added, JGR will have a group of four veterans spaced out so that as Kenseth finally begins to fade out of his prime (he's currently driving like that won't be anytime soon), Edwards and Hamlin will still be in theirs, and Busch, well, Busch is only 29.

As great as they are, Hendrick's top three drivers are all getting older at once. Good thing Chase Elliott is waiting in the wings.

And what's left behind the wheel(s) at Roush Fenway? Greg Biffle, at 44, is no longer what he once was, along with two unproven Cup youngsters in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.

Stenhouse, a two-time Nationwide Series champion, has been a disappointment in his first two years in Cup—although it's sometimes hard to tell if it's him or his equipment. He's in a seemingly never-ending battle just to stay in front of his girlfriend, Danica Patrick, in the back end of the points standings. Forget about contending for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Bayne will be a full-time driver in the Cup Series for the first time next year—and yes, he shocked the world by becoming the youngest winner ever of the Daytona 500 at age 20 in 2011. But more than three years later, that still remains his only top-five Cup finish, and he hasn't exactly lit the Nationwide Series on fire, either.

Jack Roush told the media (per Jay Pennell of FoxSports.com) that he made Edwards a contract offer. He also said that what his company is doing is keeping with the same tradition of bringing in young drivers that once led to an unknown Edwards getting a chance back in 2004.

What Roush left unsaid is that Bayne will cost him millions less to employ. And this isn't 2004 anymore.

Times have changed, and while Joe Gibbs Racing has evolved since 2004, when it fielded two full-time teams, to what appears will be a four-car powerhouse next season, Roush Fenway Racing has faded (partly because of NASCAR rules) from the mega-team that fielded five full-time cars in 2004 to one that has shrunk to three and still has trouble finding sponsorship money to run those competitively.

Edwards' decision was a no-brainer.

He twice finished second in the championship race while at RFR. The first time, at age 28 in 2008, he won a series-high nine races and finished runner-up to Johnson. The second time, at age 31 in 2011, he won only one race and eventually lost out on the title to Tony Stewart via tiebreaker.

The bottom line: He hasn't won enough races at RFR, where he's won no more than two in any season since he won the series-high and career-high nine in 2008. That likely has far more to do with a muddled infrastructure back at the shop than it does with a lack of talent behind the wheel.

Yes, Edwards has won two races this year and will be in the Chase. But even before the announcement that he won't be back with Ford or Roush, he was a long shot at best to actually contend for a championship that usually is won or lost over the final 10 races on mostly the 1.5-mile tracks, where RFR has had no clue this season.

Edwards has a finite number of years left to contend for a championship, and leaving one organization in duress for another that appears poised to challenge Hendrick Motorsports for supremacy in the Sprint Cup going forward is about the only move he could have made that makes sense.

 

Joe Menzer has written six books, including two about NASCAR, and now writes about it and other sports for Bleacher Report while also helping cover NASCAR for FoxSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @OneMenz.

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