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Ford Performance boss believes Carl Edwards will come back

Carl Edwards stunned the NASCAR community when he announced an unscheduled sabbatical last January.

Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards
Daniel Suárez, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards wipes a tear from his eye as he announces his retirement from NASCAR
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Dave Pericak, Ford Performance Director
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

But no one, including the top brass at Ford Performance--that's right, Ford--would be surprised if Edwards' return to racing was just as swift and abrupt as his departure.

It may not have seemed that way two months ago when Edwards, 36, just two years into a new stint driving the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, said he was stepping aside.

Edwards’ decision caught many off-guard, particularly since he had enjoyed his best season since losing the Cup title to Tony Stewart in 2011. Edwards had his best career qualifying effort with six poles and an average starting position of 7.2. His three wins were the most victories he had posted since 2008 when he won nine races with Roush Fenway Racing. And his fourth-place finish in the standings was his best result in five seasons and the only time Edwards had advanced to the Championship 4.

Those results showed promise of better things to come, but they weren't enough to keep Edwards in the car. But there have been indications recently that the desire for competition may be an itch Edwards needs to scratch.

At Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago, Edwards, with his driving suit and helmet in hand, looked ready to run 500 miles. Sure, he was at the track to mentor Daniel Suarez. But the same driver who insisted he needed a little personal time three months ago appeared eager to climb back in a race car.

The future of Carl Edwards

Ford Performance boss Dave Pericak anticipates a return by Edwards.

“I don’t know what Carl’s future looks like,” Pericak said. “We’ve had no conversations about that at all. I can tell you that, honestly. I personally believe that Carl’s coming back. That’s just a Dave Pericak thought, but I have no idea what’s going on with him.

“No conversations, but you’ll see Carl Edwards in the sport again. That’s my two-cents worth.”

Speculation from every direction

Since Edwards’ departure, the rumor mill has run wild with speculation. Will he replace Danica Patrick in the No. 10 car next year? How about bumping Kasey Kahne from the No. 5 team? Will Team Penske start a third team for Edwards? Could he replace Matt Kenseth following his former teammate’s retirement tour?

Or perhaps Edwards will stay true to his word and concentrate on his family life back in Columbia, Mo. But if he opts for racing, would Ford Performance be open to welcoming Edwards, back into the Blue Oval fold? After all, he scored 23 wins and an Xfinity title behind the wheel of a Ford.

“In that press conference, I thought he said that if he comes back, he was going right back to see Mr. Gibbs,” Pericak said. “Listen, who wouldn’t want a championship-caliber driver such as Carl Edwards in their camp? But I don’t think that’s his intention. I think his intention is to go back to Joe Gibbs Racing.”

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