Carl Edwards Reflects On His NASCAR Career And Explains Why He’s Stepping Awayby Hunter Thomas January 11, 2017
In a shocking press conference at Joe Gibbs Racing on Wednesday morning, 28-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner, Carl Edwards announced that he’ll step aside from full-time NASCAR competition and not race in 2017. Following Edwards’ announcement, Joe Gibbs Racing officially named 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, Daniel Suarez as the driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for this upcoming season.
Edwards, a Columbia, Missouri native is coming off one of his most competitive seasons of his 13-year career in NASCAR’s premier series. The 37-year old finished out the 2016 season fourth in the championship standings with three wins, nine top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. On Wednesday, Edwards never used the word, “retire”, but he’s certainly not eager to get behind the wheel of a race car any time soon.
“Absolutely,” said Edwards about competing in a race car in the future. “I don’t know what ‑‑ what I’m doing right now, and I hope you guys will accept this because I know it’s hard for ‑‑ Coach (Joe Gibbs) and I have had these talks. I don’t have any intention of going back to full‑time racing. I don’t have a plan to drive a race car right now.
“But I know enough about ‑‑ I just know how things work, and if it comes up and the right opportunity is there and at that moment, it’s the right thing, then for sure I’d entertain it. But like I said, the first person I’d talk to is Coach.”
During the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2016, Edwards was caught up in a late-race accident that ended his championship hopes. On a restart with 10 laps to go, Edwards made a bold move to protect the inside line, but instead, he was clipped by fellow Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor, Joey Logano and sent spinning back into traffic. Edwards’ car then got airborne after hard contact from Kasey Kahne. Afterwards, Edwards showed probably the most class that the sport has ever seen. He got out of his car and walked away from the carnage in Turn 1 to apologize to the Team Penske No. 22 team on pit road. Following the season-ending race, Edwards took some time to reflect on his life and career. Prior to Christmas, Edwards met with team owner Joe Gibbs and discussed the idea of not competing in 2017.
“This was such a surprise, I was all set for the holidays, to have a little R & R, and to hang around the house and everything, and I was in a meeting, and they said, hey, Carl stopped by,” Gibbs said. “And I figured it was going to be, hey, have a great Christmas and everything. And when he sat down in front of me and shared what he was thinking, I was totally surprised.
“The first thing I did, I said, look, this is a huge decision here. I said, let’s spend some time thinking about this. And so we took four days, let Carl really go back, spend time with the family, and then we got hooked up again on the phone, and I could tell that he was really committed, okay, to stepping away from racing.”
So the big questions is why would a race car driver, who has a top NASCAR ride all the sudden step away at possibly the peak of his career? Well, Edwards explained all of that on Wednesday as he gave three reason on why he’s not going to compete full-time anymore.
His first reasoning was that he’s satisfied with his career.
“I mean, initially, first time I stepped on the throttle of my dad’s race car, I mean, I thought I was the greatest driver ever, and about a half second later I pulled my foot right off, and I couldn’t get it to go back down, and I thought, man, this is going to be tough,” Edwards said. “So you go from that to working up the courage to ask people to drive a car to being put in situations where you know if you drive well and you win, you get sponsorship and everything works.”
“Going through that whole process and becoming a better person, a stronger person, a better competitor, a better teammate, a better friend to people, that’s a big deal to me, and I feel accomplished.”
His second reasoning was the wear and tear that a full season of professional racing has had on his mind and body. He also wants to spend more time with family and friends.
“You guys, we do this, and it’s full‑time,” Edwards said. “And not just the physical time, but I wake up in the morning thinking about racing. I think about it all day. I go to bed thinking about it. And I have dreams about racing. And that’s just how it is. I’ve been doing that for 20 years, and I need to take that time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me, things I’m really passionate about.”
Edwards’ third and final reasoning is that after all of the races that he has competed in, he’s still healthy, and of course, he wants to stay that way.
“I can stand here healthy, and that’s a testament after all the racing I’ve done and all the stupid stuff I’ve done in a race car, that is a true testament to NASCAR, to the tracks, to the people who have built my race cars, to my competitors, and to the drivers who have come before me who haven’t been so fortunate,” Edwards said.
“Having said that, though, it’s a risky sport. I’m aware of the risks. I don’t like how it feels to take the hits that we take, and I’m a sharp guy, and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years. So those risks are something that I want to minimize.”
Edwards believes that if he can carry out those three objectives, then he’ll live a much different, yet exciting new life. To explain his logic, he compared his situation to a scene from “Forrest Gump”.
“I keep thinking about that scene from “Forrest Gump” where he stops running,” Edwards said. “Everybody is like, what? If I put those three things together, the timing for me to do this is now, and that’s where Coach Gibbs comes in. I don’t know if Coach is in here.
“Thank you for allowing me to do this. This is a personal decision.”
Carl Edwards’ debut start in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series was on Sunday, August 22, 2004 at Michigan International Speedway. He finished 10th that afternoon while driving for Roush Racing. Edwards was able to compete in 12 more races during the 2004 season. In 2005, Edwards got his first opportunity to compete full-time in NASCAR’s premier series. His first win came only four races into the season, when he edged Jimmie Johnson by a mere 0.28 seconds at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Later that season, Edwards went on to win four more races to tie his Roush Racing teammate, Greg Biffle for second in the point standings. Edwards however, was listed third due to a statistical tiebreaker.
In 2008, Edwards finished runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in the point standings, but the closest he came to winning a NASCAR Cup Series championship came three seasons later, when he was tied with Tony Stewart for the top spot in the points following the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Once again, statistics bumped Edwards down a spot, and he was the runner-up to Stewart in 2011.
After competing for 10 years at Roush Fenway Racing in a Ford, Edwards moved to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 to drive a Toyota. He won 23 Cup Series races, while with Roush Fenway Racing, but after coming up short on several attempts for a series title, it was time for a change. Between 2015 and 2016, Edwards visited Victory Lane five times while piloting Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry. Most notably, he won the 2015 Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
In the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Edwards has amassed 38 wins, 27 poles, 130 top-five and 174 top-10 finishes. He won was the Rookie of the Year in 2005 and the series champion in 2007. The title was his only championship in NASCAR’s top three series. Edwards has competed in 60 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, earning six wins, four poles, 24 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes. He was also the series Rookie of the Year in 2003.
“I’ve been racing for over 20 years,” Edwards said. “It’s been something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have no regrets. It’s been a blast, and I owe thanks to a lot of people. My family, my mom, my dad, and all the people who have become like family through racing, from Capital Speedway in Holts Summit, Missouri, all the way to Daytona, and Mike Helton and Lesa and Brian France and everybody at the top of the sport, and I’ve had so much fun meeting everyone, had so much fun driving.
“I mean, guys, there is nothing I love more than driving down a corner at 190 miles an hour sideways next to the best drivers in the world, and so yeah, my competitors. You guys are amazing.”
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