How Carl Edwards' Move to Joe Gibbs Racing Will Change NASCAR's Balance of Power

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How Carl Edwards' Move to Joe Gibbs Racing Will Change NASCAR's Balance of Power
USA Today

Now that Carl Edwards' signing with Joe Gibbs Racing is official, per Tom Jensen of FoxSports.com, everyone involved in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series can get on with their racing lives.

That includes Edwards, JGR—and Roush Fenway Racing, the organization Edwards is leaving to run a fourth car for Coach Joe Gibbs and his son, JGR team president J.D. Gibbs. 

For Edwards, it means a better long-term future and a better shot at winning Sprint Cup championships. It won't be easy. It's not like JGR has been cranking them out; the company's last of three came in 2005 when Tony Stewart was behind the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet.

Since the JGR switch in manufacturers from Chevy to Toyota beginning in the 2008 season, Denny Hamlin finished second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2010, and Matt Kenseth did the same last year during his first season driving for JGR after also departing Roush Fenway. But there have been no championships.

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The addition not only of Edwards but of a fourth car and all the benefits expected to come with it should help JGR break through on the championship front sooner rather than later, although we're talking 2015 and beyond. This year, it appears to have been behind Hendrick Motorsports' Chevys and Team Penske's Fords from the start with little evidence that it'll catch up.

(That, too, will be addressed in 2015, according to Toyota, with David Wilson, president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A., Toyota's racing division, telling FoxSports.com that engine improvements are on the way).

It's not just that Edwards needed a fresh start. He did, and he has acknowledged as much.

"This is going to be a blast. I'm ready to go race, win and contend for championships," Edwards said, per Jensen.

So it's clear that Edwards is pumped about a change of scenery after a season in which he has struggled to keep up with the competition in his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

But JGR also will now have data every weekend from a fourth car to share with the rest of its teams. With the performance—and number of cars—falling off this year at Michael Waltrip Racing, which runs Toyotas and shares limited technical data with JGR, this is a counter-move to combat Hendrick Motorsports' current structure.

Not only does Hendrick run four competitive teams that share data and shop secrets, but it also has a close technical alliance with the four teams at Stewart-Haas Racing. That arguably gives them a huge competitive advantage—one that JGR hopes to close with the signing of a big-name driver like Edwards, who should help them make their fourth car competitive immediately.

"This is one of the biggest days in Joe Gibbs Racing's history," said Joe Gibbs, the former NFL coach who is founder and owner of the company, per Jensen. "To be able to bring a driver the caliber of Carl Edwards on board to launch our fourth team is just a thrill."  

For several years, Joe Gibbs and J.D. Gibbs frequently were asked if they planned to start a fourth team. They always deflected the question by saying they would consider it when the time was right.

With Edwards coming available and sponsorship deals set for said fourth car, the time obviously is right now.

The organization that must be watching all this with a curious eye cast toward the future is Team Penske. This season, a two-car operation is working well for Penske with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, two of the best young drivers in the sport, piloting its Fords.

But how long can a two-car team remain competitive in NASCAR's changing environment?

Penske is only loosely aligned now with the other supposed Ford stalwart, which is Roush Fenway Racing. But the loss of Edwards is simply another big blow that seems to have knocked RFR further down the road of irrelevancy in the Sprint Cup Series.

Bob Brodbeck/Associated Press

Next year's RFR driver lineup of Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne scares no one—unless Jack Roush looks in the mirror and is totally honest with himself. Then he would be frightened, for the future of his organization looks bleak.

By extension, how can Penske look to keep the heat on the mega-teams from Hendrick and JGR going forward if it gets less help from Roush Fenway instead of more?

Meanwhile, look for both Edwards and JGR to benefit from their merger. Hendrick will continue on being Hendrick, meaning it remains the organization to which all others will be compared and aspire to become.

That's what was behind the JGR move to add Edwards, which is a net gain for it and a clear net loss for Roush Fenway Racing—a floundering race organization that appears to have no counter-move in the works that will make up for it.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all information was obtained firsthand.

Joe Menzer has written six books, including two about NASCAR, and now writes about it for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @OneMenz.

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