Carl Edwards briefly explored free agency before deciding to stay with Roush Fenway Racing for the next several years.
Edwards said Friday he signed a multiple-year contract extension to continue driving the No. 99 Ford, a decision that takes NASCAR's most sought-after free agent off the market.
"I'm staying with Roush," Edwards said. "I looked at everything and I talked to everybody and, for me, the number one thing is looking into the future and saying, 'Where can I win the most races and have the most success?' I just feel like for me, personally, this is where I want to be for the near future."
With 10 career Cup victories, including three this year, Edwards topped the list of drivers available at the end of this season. Now Tony Stewart is presumably in the mix, with the two-time Cup champion testing the market a full year before his deal with Joe Gibbs Racing expires.
But Edwards didn't want to wait to see how the Stewart situation unfolds, even if it meant the No. 20 Toyota eventually opened up.
For him, it was about loyalty to a program that signed him to a Truck Series ride in 2003, then made him a star when Edwards was promoted to the Cup level with 13 races left in the 2004 season. He's also the reigning Nationwide Series champion.
"I didn't picture Carl going anywhere," said Jamie McMurray, one of his Roush teammates. "When you're winning the amount of races he has, and he's had a chance to win even more than what he did so far this year, a guy would be crazy to want to leave Roush Fenway and go somewhere else."
Team owner Jack Roush said there was at least one competing offer for Edwards, and that Edwards signed what Roush believed is a three-year deal.
"We've certainly been challenged there by another team, and Carl heard that challenge and considered very carefully what was there for him from a performance point of view and what the economic impact was of the offer we could make," Roush said. "That put us in a competition there that I'm happy came out favorably, but I was not thrilled to find out we were in that competition."
Edwards ultimately determined Roush was the best place for him to win Cup championships. Although he's currently only 10th in the standings, he was docked 100 points in March for a missing oil tank lid following his win in Las Vegas. The penalty knocked him out of the points lead, which he had assumed for the first time in his career with that victory.
He negotiated the contract himself with Geoff Smith, president of Roush.
"It took us about a week and a half of going back and forth with just little things and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world for the contract I got," he said. "If I was dealing with someone that I didn't trust or that I felt like I couldn't just kind of air everything out with, then I'd probably have to have an agent, but dealing with Geoff from day one has been very easy at Roush for me, so it was really pretty simple.
"Besides, I feel like I know what I need more than anyone else. I know what I want to make me happy and this is cool."
It's not clear if sponsor Office Depot will remain on the car. A spokeswoman for the company said only it is continuing negotiations with Roush.
Meanwhile, Greg Biffle said he remains committed to staying at Roush Fenway and is only negotiating with that team.
"My 100 percent intent is to work out an extension with Roush," Biffle said. "I've sat back and thought about what else is out there. There are a lot of great teams and great opportunities out there, but I don't know how you look at it, but do you look at it as are they better than what I have now or how are they different than what I have now?
"I'm making my decision kind of how (Dale) Earnhardt Jr. did, and it's about winning races and championships and contending for the title and having good equipment. There are lots of teams that have that, but I feel comfortable where I'm at with Roush Fenway. I've been there 10 years and we've got great equipment."
Roush said he considered a deal with Biffle to be done.
"If he has the greatest interest of being here because of what we've got to work with, then I'll make the same effort for him that I did with Carl to round up the absolute best offer we can make," Roush said.
That leaves Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman as the top remaining free agents. Dale Earnhardt Inc. holds an option on Truex that it wants to exercise, but Truex has to agree to the terms under the language of his existing deal.
Newman said he's happy at Penske Racing, and hasn't talked to many other teams.
"Tony's opened up, or is in the process of opening up, potentially more doors," he said. "I wouldn't say that my phone hasn't rang off the hook. I'm in a different situation. I'm not dissatisfied where I'm at. I just haven't signed up. We'll create the correct process and get the final answer when the time comes."