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Martin, Edwards and Bowyer among potential free agents at end of 2011

By admin | February 2, 2011

By Richard Allen

Have you ever noticed how often baseball and football players who have contracts about to expire suddenly have ‘career years’ as they renegotiate their new deals? Perhaps it will be seen this year whether or not that same maxim is true in NASCAR racing.

Every year there are bound to be drivers who have contracts to expire. In 2011, there is a bumper crop looking to either re-sign with their current teams or move elsewhere. Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer are joined by Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, David Ragan and Brian Vickers as potential free agents seeking long-term security for the future.

In all likelihood, most of these drivers will wind up staying with their current teams. However, there is at least the possibility any or all could move until new contracts are signed.

One of these drivers in particular, Clint Bowyer, has already had mention made of him by another team. During the recent Sprint Media Tour, Andrew Murstein, the financier who invested in Richard Petty Motorsports, noted that the current Richard Childress Racing pilot was on his list of potential drivers for his team.

It would seem unlikely that Bowyer would consider leaving one of NASCAR’s top teams to join an organization that under its current ownership has yet to prove itself as a solid contender on a weekly or yearly basis. However, large amounts of money can speak loudly so never completely discount the possibility until the contracts are signed. And more, Bowyer’s flirtation with one team could serve as an indication to others that he is at least willing to listen to offers.

Along with Bowyer, RCR driver Jeff Burton is also without a deal beyond the 2011 season. At age 43, Burton remains highly competitive but it has to be considered that not many victories have been amassed by drivers over the age of forty throughout NASCAR history.

While Burton may well continue to drive for RCR beyond this season, it probably would not be with the length of contract that will be offered to the younger Bowyer. One thing to consider is that RCR has added a fourth team with driver Paul Menard which could factor into future driver signings.

Edwards joins fellow Roush Fenway Racing drivers Ragan and Biffle in the ranks of drivers without a long-term deal beyond this season. During the Sprint Media Tour Edwards declared that, “I’d like to be able to get it(contract) done so that we can just keep focused on winning, and that’s the most important thing.”

It would be difficult to imagine RFR allowing either Edwards or Biffle to get away. During his turn at the microphone in front of the media team owner Jack Roush said he expects all three drivers in question to return to his organization but quickly pointed out that he was not involved in the day to day negotiations.

In the case of Ragan there is the complicating matter that he has had little success in RFR’s #6 car and his sponsor, UPS, will have its contract run out this year. It would seem as though Ragan might be on less steady ground than his teammates who have proven the ability to win races.

Vickers situation is somewhat clouded in two ways. Last year, he had to take a leave of absence from his team due to health concerns. Although he has been given a clean bill of health as far as racing is concerned, any car owner looking to sign him may wish to wait and see for sure that his medical situation has cleared up. And more, his current organization, Team Red Bull, has been inconsistent which may cause him to want to wait and see what other offers may be forthcoming as well.

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the potential free agents is Martin. It is known that he will definitely be replaced at the end of the year by Kasey Kahne in the Hendrick Motorsports #5 car. Although he recently turned 52 years old, he has proven himself to still be very competitive and there is no question he wishes to return in 2012.

“I’m absolutely, without a doubt, going to be driving race cars next year, just not going to be in any hurry to worry about that,” he recently declared. “I’m focused on 2011 and really enjoying being a part of Hendrick Motorsports.”

We know Martin will be somewhere else next year. We can be reasonably sure that Edwards and Biffle will remain in place for the foreseeable future. We can guess that it is most likely Bowyer and Burton will stay with RCR. Vickers’ health and the strength of his team could play a role in where he ends up while Ragan most likely has to perform better.

Because these things may only be guessed as of now, there are not definite answers until the contracts are signed.

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7 Responses to “Martin, Edwards and Bowyer among potential free agents at end of 2011”

  1. Kevin Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 11:34 am

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me for any of these guys to switch it up. I don’t see and advantage to having Biffle vs. Bowyer vs. Edwards unless one can be had for cheaper than the others. If for some reason Vickers health is not ok, then perhaps Red Bull throws huge money to lure one of these guys away from their current ride, then all bets are off. Otherwise I see the status quo remaining with perhaps Martin heading to Petty. With that being said, if Biffle or Edwards are up for leaving RFR, RCR may choose one of them to upgrade Burton’s ride, but he’ll want to get Bowyer signed, sealed and delivered before opening up that can of worms.

  2. Kevin Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Just read that Ragan’s contract with Roush is through 2014, it is only UPS that is up at the end of the year.
    The same article said that Montoya & Newman’s contracts are up at the end of 2011 as well, though Montoya is close to resigning with EGR. However, if Newman doesn’t look like he may make the chase, will Stewart look at upgrading that team with a driver who can?

  3. Richard Allen Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Roush said during the Media Tour that Ragan’s contract ended in 2011, unless it has been renewed in the last few days or Roush was mistaken.

  4. Kevin Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Top-NASCAR-Sprint-Cup-drivers-are-in-contract-years-in-2011-020111

    Editors note @ the bottom of the article

  5. Jay Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I don’t think Newman has anything to worry about. He and Tony are close friends and Newman is competitive. He has a win, and made the Chase in 09, so he’s doing pretty good for the team.

  6. sylvia richardson Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    AM I FOR MARK ALLTHE WAY…BE SAFE MARK.GOT KICKED IN THE TEETH AGAIN. NOTHING NEW TO YOUR GREAT FANS.WE KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN {AGAIN}WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS WITH YOU BEFORE {I SURE HAVE 25 YRS OF BS FOR MARK.

  7. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Bowyer I think is still soured by his lost ring and I feel Cousin Carl could be going St. Elsewhere like Kenseth and Jeff Burton, but Kenseth and Burton will go back to Nationwide.