After months of speculation, the biggest Silly Season move in NASCAR this season is finally official. Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday morning that Carl Edwards will be joining the organization in 2015, driving the No. 19 Toyota.
“It’s a thrill to have Carl here,” team owner Joe Gibbs said in a press conference welcoming Edwards to the program. “I know we have a lot of racing left this year in these four racing for the championship. I think we have reached an agreement in that he’ll pull over when he sees one of our three guys coming – I’m joking, obviously.”
The serious stuff begins next season, when Edwards signs a multi-year deal to complete the first full Sprint Cup expansion for Joe Gibbs Racing since 2005. The team has hinted at growing, in past years and heavily pursued Edwards during his last free agency period in 2011 before landing him the second time around.
“It’s a great addition having Carl Edwards join our race team,” J.D. Gibbs added. “I think Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin will all gain from Carl and he’ll gain from them likewise. We’re just excited as we think each of them will make the others better. Carl is a big mountain biker and skier – which is a lot of the things that I do – so I just ask [Carl] that [he doesn’t] get hurt.”
Arris, a broadband and video delivery technology company, will be the main sponsor for Edwards, covering 17 of the races. As for the rest of the schedule, Gibbs says that they almost have all those races fully funded, with an announcement forthcoming in the future. Sources claim only one of Edwards’ Roush Fenway partners, Subway Restaurants, was allowed to jump ship and join him in this new program.
“It’s a thrill to be where we are,” Joe Gibbs added. “I think the last few months have been one of the most exciting times that I’ve been through. Where do you get a chance to put together relationships and know you’re going to win? That’s the goal here. Looking at the sponsors here, we are very fortunate to have the sponsors that we have. We have some of the greatest partners in the world and are fortunate to be paired with some of the greatest companies.”
Arris is a new financial backer to the sport, joining the team at a time when many major companies, such as Home Depot and the National Guard are departing NASCAR. An injection of fresh energy and funding has both sides excited about the financial stability and national marketing offered by the long-term deal.
“This is a big day for us,” Bob Stanzione, Arris chairman/CEO, commented. “It’s sort of a coming out party for Arris. We’re one of the largest companies that gets our services out there to give to companies to provide entertainment and services, but a lot of people don’t know about our products and that we make them. We wanted to get the brand recognition and the association with NASCAR. Joe Gibbs Racing is about speed and integrity – and we prize that a lot.”
Edwards has spent his entire career to date at Roush Fenway Racing, currently eighth in the championship standings with two wins. He has 23 Sprint Cup Series victories, as well as 38 in the Nationwide Series since joining RFR through the Truck Series in the early 2000s.
“It means the world to me to have this opportunity,” Edwards said. “It means a lot to have Kyle, Denny and Matt here – I look forward to learning more from you. I appreciate everyone here at JGR for making this possible. For Arris to be this big of a player out of the gate, it’s exciting for the sport. Bob has already told us that our cars have to be as fast as his modems so if I’m not fast, I’m in trouble. I’m going to try and make it tough on you as I can for the rest of the year, but it’ll be exciting to work with you and Arris next year. I’m excited to be here and racing for championships.”
Edwards said that he made the decision to join Joe Gibbs Racing as he feels that it’s the right time for him to make a change in his career towards working at the goal of winning a Sprint Cup Series championship. RFR has struggled in recent years, with Edwards missing the Chase in 2012 and finishing dead last in the postseason contest (13th) last season.
“I was very fortunate in the number of teams that I talked to,” he explained in terms of going through the free agency process. “I had some amazing conversations that I had to pinch myself in the middle of them. Looking across the landscape of the sport, everybody has spoken highly of Joe and I’m excited to be here.”
Additionally, JGR announced that Daniel Suarez will continue his climb up the ladder, running the full Nationwide Series schedule behind the wheel of the No. 18 Arris Toyota next season as well as a part-time Camping World Truck Series slate. The rest of the team’s 2015 Nationwide Series plans will be announced at a later date. Suarez currently leads the NASCAR Mexico Series standings with four victories, one of the most well-known stock car drivers south of the border. He also has two wins, four top 5s and seven top 10s in 12 NASCAR K&N Pro East Series starts this season.
“Daniel is a great guy to get to know and he’s done a good job so far,” J.D. Gibbs added. “We’re confident that he’ll make an impact in the Nationwide Series as well.”
Suarez, just 22 years old made his Nationwide debut with JGR this year, running 19th at Richmond. The Monterrey, Mexico native and Drive For Diversity graduate feels he’s ready to take the next step in the sport.
“This is great. This is a dream come true,” Suarez said. “I can’t thank Joe Gibbs Racing for all this confidence and support. This has been amazing. All the support for 2014 and 2015 – full-time Nationwide and also some races in the truck series with Kyle Busch Motorsports – this is amazing. I can’t wait to learn from all these guys. Thank you to Max Siegel and Rev Racing for all his support in the Drive For Diversity Program.”
Finally, JGR announced a partnership with Carlos “Slim” Domit and Escuderia TELMEX, with support from Arris to provide development opportunities to deserving Mexican and Latin American candidates in both the NASCAR Toyota Series in Mexico and other NASCAR divisions.
“He’s a great guy to get to know. He’s down to earth and regular,” J.D. Gibbs said of Slim. “You go into his office and he understands the sport. He gets what we do in NASCAR, he’s passionate about racing, and he’s shown a huge partnership in developing Mexican/Latin drivers in NASCAR. I think what makes this special is what Toyota does in developing diversity in NASCAR. There’s a lot on his plate, and our plate, and we hope to do it well.”
“We’re happy to be here,” Slim added. “This is a big step for us in our history in motorsports. We have been involved in motorsports for a long time. Motorsports is a sport where the attachment between the sponsors and the sport is really close. We see motorsports as a project in where everybody wins and grows the partnership together.”
It’s a great series of positive announcements for Toyota, whose Camrys have struggled this season on NASCAR’s top level. Toyota teams have gone two Sprint Cup races without leading a lap and have just two victories in 23 events, both with Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I think I’m the most excited person from this day forward,” said Bob Carter, Toyota’s Vice President of Motorsports Operations. “To have Denny, Kyle, and Matt driving a Camry, but also Carl driving a Camry and then Daniel driving one – it’s a huge day for us. Everybody in Toyota loves this sport. When I sit in this room, back in 2007, when we first joined JGR and Toyota together, we wanted to enter NASCAR in a good and long way. We love this sport, we love the fan base, but most of all we love the relationship with gentlemen like those sitting on this stage. Toyota is a big organization, but we try to operate it on a family level with relationships. So Carl, welcome to the family. Joe, thanks for doing what we do in representing the brand.”