CONCORD, N.C. - Carl Edwards' victory in the Sprint All-Star Race was a very, very expensive win.
Not for Edwards, who claimed the $1 million prize with his first win in NASCAR's annual showcase event. But his celebratory drive through the infield grass at Charlotte Motor Speedway tore up the front of his Ford, and rebuilding that car will be costly for Roush-Fenway Racing.
That's just a small part of it, though.
Edwards is in a contract year, and Saturday night's victory likely upped his worth should he reach the free-agent market. He ranks among the elite drivers in NASCAR and it's assumed his current deal with RFR puts him among the highest-paid in the sport. NASCAR contracts are sensitive and secret, and nobody really knows exactly what anyone gets paid. The only thing that's certain, though, is Edwards couldn't have picked a better year to be a free agent. He's the current Sprint Cup Series point leader, with one win and nine top-10 finishes in 11 races this season, not including the All-Star victory.
He's also got three wins in the second-tier Nationwide Series, and finished second to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. yesterday at Iowa after flying through the night to the event from the All-Star race.
There's zero doubt team owner Jack Roush wants to keep Edwards in his camp. Asked about his driver Saturday night, he called him "a rock star" and lauded his entertaining celebratory backflips, and his penchant for going into the stands with the fans after wins.
"Some of the drivers wouldn't go up in the stands like that after a race, and for good reason. But Carl, he's well thought of and he's out there doing things that other people wish they thought of first," Roush said. "And he drives the hell out of our race cars. He was the cornerstone of our organization today. He's a draw for sponsors and a rallying point for his team."
There's talk in the garage that some of the top teams have interest in Edwards, most notably Joe Gibbs Racing, which has room to add a fourth car. But others don't believe he has any intention of leaving RFR, and all conversation with other teams is simply testing the market and gauging Edwards' value.
Edwards dodged any consequential discussion about his contract on Saturday night, and hasn't even indicated if staying at RFR is his first choice.
"All I'll say about that is we're running really well right now and it's because of Jack Roush, Ford, all these people's hard work," Edwards said. "Those talks are going on behind closed doors and we'll hopefully get something done. But, right now, we're running well and that is fun. What I'm trying to do is focus on that because we have a championship to win this year. That's the No. 1 goal."