Now that we know Carl Edwards is returning to Roush Fenway Racing next season, expect the rest of the Silly Season dominoes to start falling quickly. But even though the Edwards drama is over, there is an aspect of the rumored move by Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing that seems to have been overlooked by some folks. If Edwards did indeed end up taking over the #20 Home Depot ride, there was talk that JGR would start a fourth team with sponsorship from NAPA. That sounded a little unbelievable considering NAPA currently has a deal with Martin Truex Jr. and Michael Waltrip Racing through 2012. But in a recent article by Lee Spencer over at FOXSports.com, J.D. Gibbs admitted that NAPA had submitted an RFP to JGR regarding sponsorship. So while they may have a contract with MWR through 2012, it appears the auto parts retailer could have an out in their deal and are exploring their options.
A possible reason why NAPA could be looking at other teams to sponsor for 2012 and beyond is the performance of MWR and Truex’s #56 team. Since coming to MWR following the 2009 season, Truex’s results have been disappointing. In 56 races, the #56 car only has one top five and thirteen top ten finishes. This lack of performance led MWR to replace crew chief Pat Tryson in June (we questioned the move then), but a big turnaround has yet to happen. Truex’s average finish in the seven races with new crew chief Chad Johnston has improved from 19.7 to 18.4, but the team has actually dropped two spots in the points. And after nearly two seasons together, NAPA may have seen all they need to see.
Besides a possible fourth JGR entry, there are plenty of top tier teams in need of backing for 2012 and beyond. Of the four Roush Fenway cars, only one (Greg Biffle’s #16) has sponsorship for next season. Clint Bowyer appears to be on the cusp of re-signing with Richard Childress Racing, but sponsorship for his #33 has yet to be announced. We’ve heard RCR might be close to locking down funding for Bowyer, and it’s not unrealistic to think NAPA could be in play here. There could also be a million other possible combinations with Stewart-Haas needing more funding, drivers like Mark Martin and Brian Vickers available, or the possibility of a deal with a young driver (Trevor Bayne & Ricky Stenhouse Jr. come to mind). The point being that NAPA has plenty of options.
Whether NAPA actually makes a move remains to be seen, but their availability could add a new wrinkle to what’s left of the Silly Season. If they’ve already submitted an RFP to JGR, we’ve got to believe that they’ve inquired with other teams as well. And like we mentioned on Twitter earlier today, don’t believe anything (like denials in this case) until a deal is actually done.