Somewhere, our dear old friend Gomer Pyle is regaling all who'll listen with his catchphrase: Surprise, surprise, surprise!
One of the worst-kept secrets in the entire history of NASCAR racing - some would say it was three years in the making - was finally made official Tuesday at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, NC, with the announcement that Carl Edwards will leave Roush-Fenway Racing and join the Gibbs camp starting in 2015. The Missouri native will race a fourth Toyota Camry emblazoned with the No. 19, joining a stable that already features perennial contenders Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Edwards' former teammate at Roush, Matt Kenseth.
ARRIS, a leader in telecommunication products and components and a company that you've probably never heard of - key in their decision to get involved in NASCAR racing to begin with - will back Edwards in 17 of the 36 Sprint Cup races next season. Other partners, expected to include Edwards' longtime personal sponsor Subway, will be announced at a later date.
In addition to Edwards' Sprint Cup ride, ARRIS will also back Mexican up-and-comer Daniel Suarez in a full slate of races in what is currently the NASCAR Nationwide Series, with partial schedules in the Toyota Mexico Series and the Camping World Truck Series (driving for Busch's team) also on his calendar.
For the Gibbs operation, the addition of a fourth car comes ten years after their last expansion. The No. 11 FedEx car was added in 2005, originally with the late Jason Leffler before Hamlin won the audition for the full-time seat that fall. There had been rumors nearly every season since, perhaps beginning with the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sweepstakes in 2007, that Gibbs would be adding a fourth team to their stable.
The rumor mill also churned three years ago with heavy speculation that Edwards would be replacing Joey Logano in the team's No. 20 car. After Ford threw their hat into the negotiations, he re-signed with Roush for another three seasons. A year later, Kenseth was named driver of the No. 20 and responded with a career-best seven wins in 2013.
Edwards, who celebrated his 35th birthday on August 15, has been a part of the Roush family since the 2003 Camping World Truck Series season. The following August, he replaced Jeff Burton in the No. 99 Ford in the Sprint Cup Series. Since then, he has been a consistent sight near the front, winning 23 races (including two this season) and finishing second in the championship race in 2008 and 2011 (actually tying champion Tony Stewart on points but losing the tiebreaker based off wins). His two wins thus far in this campaign guarantees that he will be a part of the 16-man Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, the eighth time in 10 full-time seasons that he made NASCAR's version of the playoffs.