- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2011

Carl Edwards spurned an offer from Joe Gibbs Racing, and signed a multi-year contract extension with current team Roush Fenway Racing.

The deal was announced Thursday and puts Edwards, the current Sprint Cup Series points leader, in position to compete for his first Cup championship.

“I sincerely appreciate the amazing opportunity that Jack Roush has given me in this sport and am honored to race for him,” Edwards said in a statement.

“As an organization, Roush Fenway provides the resources I need to win, and as a driver, that’s the most important thing. We’re having a fun season on the race track as we’re leading the points and in great position for the Chase.”

As the top free agent in NASCAR, Edwards had diligently researched all his options and appeared close to bolting for JGR. But Edwards was under increasing pressure to make a decision, even though he was steadfast in negotiating privately.

But four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that there was no way the contract talks weren’t a distraction to Edwards, and Edwards had no chance to win the title should he decide to leave Roush.

Roush teammate Greg Biffle then intimated Edwards was leaving the organization and needed to make the announcement so RFR could begin its plans for life post-Edwards.

Edwards again dismissed the chatter, and insisted he and crew chief Bob Osborne were professional enough to keep their focus on the track and not let the contract issues interfere with a championship run.

With the new deal, he doesn’t have to discuss it again and can focus on winning a title. Edwards goes to Pocono Raceway this weekend with an 11-point lead over five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Carl Edwards has achieved a level of success on and off track that would put him at the top of the list for any race team,” said co-owner Jack Roush. “Carl and the No. 99 team are having a terrific season again this year, and we’re thrilled that our relationship will continue for many more.”

Edwards has been with Roush since 2002, when the team gave him his break in NASCAR. It came in the Trucks Series, but Edwards was in Cup by 2004 as a late-season replacement for Jeff Burton.

He was a four-time Cup winner the next season and a bona fide NASCAR star, backflipping off the winning car in celebration of each victory.

Edwards‘ best season was 2008, when he won a series-high nine races and finished second to Johnson in the championship race. The next year, though, was a winless campaign, and the struggles of 2009 are thought to have played heavily in his decision to test the market.

But it was hard to argue that RFR had not come full circle since then, particularly with how well Edwards and teammate Matt Kenseth have run this season. Edwards won at Las Vegas and the All-Star race, and has been the points leader for 14 of 20 weeks this season. Kenseth has two wins and is ranked fourth in the standings.

Roush apparently sold Edwards on even more growth for an organization that has risen to the top of NASCAR and presently has the best engines in the Sprint Cup Series.

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