Carl Edwards is not taking his talents to Joe Gibbs Racing after all.
Edwards, the franchise driver for both Roush Fenway Racing and Ford's NASCAR efforts, ended his lengthy decision-making process on Thursday morning when the team announced he signed a contract extension to remain at Roush.
"As an organization, Roush Fenway provides the resources I need to win, and as a driver, that's the most important thing," Edwards said. "We're having a fun season on the racetrack as we're leading the points and in great position for the Chase.
"That's the result of a lot of hard work from the men and women at Roush Fenway, Ford Motor Company and Roush Yates Engines. I really enjoy competing with this group and looking forward to continuing that relationship into the future."
The 31-year-old decided to stay with his longtime NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team after a serious flirtation with Joe Gibbs Racing. In fact, it seemed even teammates had started to believe Edwards would leave Roush despite the No. 99 team's championship-caliber season thus far.
The rumors reached a fever pitch at Indianapolis last week, where it became clear they were becoming a distraction to not only Edwards and Roush, but Gibbs and driver Joey Logano. Edwards, acting as his own agent, apparently realized the time had come to make the call.
Edwards' departure would have been a disaster for Ford and a major coup for Toyota. But ultimately, Ford executives worked with Roush to make sure that wouldn't happen.
"We are pleased with Carl's vote of confidence in Roush Fenway and Ford," Ford Racing director Jamie Allison said. "This signals he believes he is with the right team and the right automaker to win races and championships. Now we can continue to focus on winning the 2011 championship."
Roush Fenway Racing owner Jack Roush said the team "didn't take our past success for granted when we sat down with Carl to talk about his future."
That became clear as Edwards seemed poised to become the biggest free agent to jump teams since Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch in 2007. Ultimately, unlike LeBron James, Edwards decided to stay at home.
That comparison was not lost on Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark, who tweeted shortly after the announcement:
@NewmarkRFR: Thanks to all for patience in this process and thanks to Carl for not booking a 30-minute TV special to announce #thedecision.
The main question now: With the Edwards domino out of the way, which driver will be next to sign an extension or jump teams in NASCAR's silly season?
Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya seem likely to re-sign with their respective teams at this point, and Joey Logano might now be safe at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Can the same be said for David Ragan at Roush? And what will happen to Brian Vickers? The answers to both of those questions remain unclear at this point.