(Edwards will stay at Roush Fenway Racing but who will sponsor the No. 99 entry in 2012?)
When Carl Edwards signed to stay at Roush Fenway Racing the general consensus was the dominoes throughout the rest of the garage area would begin to fall.
But so far “Silly Season” has been nothing more than “Snoring Season” with not much else announced for 2012 driver, team and sponsor line-ups.
Danica Patrick will formally announce her Nationwide Series intentions to run a full year with JR Motorsports in a day or so but the other part of her NASCAR move isn’t as locked down.
There’s anticipation Patrick will also compete in a handful of Sprint Cup Series races with Stewart-Haas Racing next season but as of last week in Michigan that was news to team owner Tony Stewart.
“It’s like I’ve always said when we have something to tell everybody we’ll tell them but there’s nothing to tell yet,” Stewart snapped at reporters when questioned on the proposed alignment. “I know there’s a lot of speculation but there is nothing to really talk about yet.”
Patrick’s part-time Cup program is far from the only plans still up in the air.
Clint Bowyer would like nothing more than to extend his contract with Richard Childress Racing but despite both the driver and owner publicly admitting their desire to remain together, nothing has been announced.
Bowyer has tried to put on a brave face but the distraction of trying to finalize his future while concentrating on the current Cup effort isn’t an easy one.
“It is what it is,” Bowyer said before last week’s Michigan race. “That’s, unfortunately, part of this business every three years, but right now I’m focused on these next four races. I care about the future, but I’ve got to set that aside and focus on getting myself in the Chase.”
The reported hold-up is around finding necessary sponsorship for the RCR No. 33 entry, which will lose General Mills at the end of this season. Current Steven Wallace Nationwide Series sponsor 5-Hour Energy continues to be in the mix as a potential replacement but right now there is no agreement.
The same scenario stares David Ragan in the face. The resurgent Roush Fenway Racing driver has been impressive during his summer stretch, which has included a career first Cup win at Daytona Independence Day weekend. But sponsor UPS hold the cards and Roush Fenway Racing is still hoping to keep the company in the fold and in turn Ragan behind the wheel of its No. 6 Ford.
"What I think about is what I can control," Ragan said a few weeks ago. "I do think about (the future) some, because I've had a great time with UPS and I feel like we have a good relationship and a good thing going and I look for it to continue, but that is something that the management at Roush and UPS will work on.
"Hopefully, I can uphold my end of the deal and keep that Ford up front."
Ragan and UPS are not the only sponsorship challenges for the Roush organization with only Greg Biffle’s 3M backing locked down on the No. 16 entry. Matt Kenseth’s ride is without a full-time commitment for 2012 and even prized free agent Edwards doesn’t have a complete season worth of funding for his car.
Aflac is expected back in a limited role but the Michigan garage area was rampant with rumors Home Depot, who reportedly coveted having Edwards as its spokesperson had he made the move to Joe Gibbs Racing, might find its way to the 99 car.
The home improvement giant has been a staple of the JGR sponsor stable for years, dating back to its two Sprint Cup championships with Tony Stewart. However since Joey Logano took over the ride from the departed Stewart, the struggling performance level for the young driver has forced Home Depot management to watch arch rival Lowes grab the spotlight for five years running with Jimmie Johnson’s title runs. Some restlessness within Home Depot’s corporate offices would be more than understandable.
Sponsorship doesn’t appear to be an issue for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Target said to be staying on the No. 42 Chevrolet. However Juan Pablo Montoya has yet to be inked to a contract extension on his deal that runs out at season’s end. The former Indy 500 winner does expect the process to become a formality in short order.
"We're pretty close. I think we're pretty close, yeah," said Montoya. "We'll see. When it's ready you will know."
One other major piece of the “Silly Season” puzzle lies with the Team Red Bull organization and the two seats currently occupied by Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers.
Kahne is headed to Hendrick Motorsports for its No. 5 entry in 2012 but Vickers’ future is very uncertain even if team general manager Jay Frye is able to find investors to keep the organization afloat after Red Bull ceases its ownership stake.
The possibility of Red Bull staying in NASCAR, either with the new team or with another organization, remains alive but several sources familiar with the company say the longer time passes the less likely the company inking a sponsorship-only deal becomes.
In the past most of the maneuverings and signings for the following campaign were put to bed by this time in the season. But not in today’s NASCAR, where the continued rough economy and its impact on sponsorship continues to keep some major players in a state of flux.
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