|The 2015 Joe Gibbs racing lineup, from left, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Edwards, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch|
NASCAR's worst-kept secret has finally been revealed and one of the sport's most coveted free-agents is now off the market.
Joe Gibbs Racing announced today they have signed Carl Edwards to a multi-year deal to drive for a new fourth car to their Sprint Cup team for the 2015 season.
Edwards will drive the no. 19 Toyota Camry with sponsorship from telecommunications company ARRIS Group, Inc. for 17 races.
"My career as a driver for the last 10 years I've worked as hard as I can to go win championships – that's been my goal," said Edwards. "I felt like this time in my life and my career – a change might be something that would help me reach that goal."
Edwards, a two-time Sprint Cup championship runner-up, will join a stable that includes Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and former teammate Matt Kenseth.
Joe Gibbs Racing has long hinted at starting a fourth team and the "Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing" rumor goes back as far as three years, back to the first time Edward's contract was up for re-renewal. After Edwards became a free-agent this past summer, it was clear that JGR was the front-runner to land the former Nationwide Series champion.
"This is one of the biggest days in Joe Gibbs Racing's history," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "To be able to bring a driver the caliber of Carl Edwards on board to launch our fourth team is just a thrill.
"Over the years, people kept asking us ‘are you going to add a fourth car?' We want everything that we have going with our three cars to try and win championships, so it had to be the right sponsor and right driver. We were very careful with it, and we felt this was the right time and we feel having Carl and Arris is the perfect fit."
The move marks one of the biggest moves in Edwards' career, after a 12-year stint driving for Roush-Fenway Racing in all three of NASCAR's major touring series, including 2003 Rookie of the Year honors in the Camping World Truck Series and a Nationwide Series title in 2007.
Driving for Roush in the Sprint Cup Series, Edwards brought home 23 victories and finished second in the title race twice – first in 2008 to Jimmie Johnson and again in 2011 to Tony Stewart in the closest points finish in NASCAR history.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]However in the last two seasons, Edwards' numbers continued on a downward trend, managing only a 13th-place finish in last season's Chase for the Sprint Cup field.
Edward's departure from Roush was rumored as far back as last season, but was finally confirmed by team owner Jack Roush in July, when the team announced their driver lineup for 2015.
At JGR, Edwards will be re-united with former teammate Matt Kenseth, who joined the team after leaving Roush following the 2012 season, a move that jump-started Kenseth's career – winning seven races and finishing second in the points standings behind Jimmie Johnson.
Edwards admitted seeing the impact the move to JGR had on Kenseth's career was a factor is his decision to sign with the team.
"There were a lot of factors, to be honest Matt's success over here was a big eye-opener for me," said Edwards. "It felt like it was time to make a change. One of the biggest reasons I started racing was how much funs it was, and learning new things and just the adventure of it and I figured that if an opportunity like that comes along in life, I didn't want to ever look back and say ‘I wish I would have done that.'
Matt Kenseth and I have a lot of history. Over the years, he's been the guy I can go to and talk about anything, not just racing. And seeing Matt make the change, it seems in this sport just change on its own can be huge – look at Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, change was a huge positive. Even if it's not one specific factor, it's the idea of doing something different. "
Among the details yet to be announced include a crew chief for team as well as additional sponsorship, although Gibbs said sponsorship for the remaining 19 races have been sold and will be announced soon. It is rumored that some of Edwards' current sponsors, such as AFLAC and Subway, may follow him to JGR.
JGR also announced they have added Daniel Suarez, the current NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series points leader, to their Nationwide Series lineup and well as a limited truck series schedule for 2015 with sponsorship from ARRIS.
The team is also partnering with Escuderia TELMEX to launch a new diversity initiative to develop Mexican and Latin American drivers for NASCAR.