Carl Edwards confirmed Wednesday that his days as a full-time NASCAR driver are over. There were no shocking revelations, no health issues, or contract disputes.
“I’ve been racing for over 20 years,” Edwards said. “ I have no regrets, it’s been a blast.”
“I am truly personally satisfied with my career,” he added.
Edwards,37, said there were three reasons for walking away from the sport at a time when many argue he is at his peak.
“Number one, I am truly, I am personally satisfied with my career, and I know right now you’re thinking, well, you don’t have a championship.” Edwards said. “Well, Jimmie [Johnson] has got some extras if he wants to send one my way, but truly, you guys know that I don’t race just for the trophies. This has always been a really ‑‑ this has been a neat journey for me and it’s always been something that I’ve been rewarded by the challenges, and there’s some race car drivers sitting here, Ricky, and you know how it is. It’s scary in so many ways to go racing. 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. 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.”
And I know when I sit in that race car that I am the best race car driver I can be. So whether or not I have a championship, I’m really satisfied with that.”
Edwards is a native of Columbia Missouri. He worked his way up from the short tracks of the Midwest famously handing out business cards as he searched for a ride in NASCAR. At the age of 22, Edwards made his NASCAR debut in the Truck Series with a team owned by Mike Mittler. He moved to Roush-Fenway Racing in 2003 scoring his first win in the Truck Series race at Kentucky. He moved to the Xfinity Series with Roush in 2005 winning a total of 38 races along with the series title in 2007.
He also moved up to the Cup series in 2005 and amassed a total of 28 wins in 445 starts. Five of those wins came in his two seasons with Joe Gibbs that started in 2015. He finished second in the season standings twice in 2008 and 2011. The latter coming after an epic final race duel with Tony Stewart who won the title via a tiebreaker. Edwards has kept his life away from the track private. He continues to live in Columbia with his wife Kate and two children.
“I’m not going to get any sympathy from anyone in the room, but this is an all‑encompassing thing,” Edwards said Wednesday. “You guys, we do this, and it’s full‑time. 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. As for the final reason Edwards said he’s ready for a life away from the grind of the NASCAR season which takes up nearly an entire year. “
The third reason for stepping away is his health. Edwards is known for his strict workout regimen, and has appeared on the cover of fitness magazines.
“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.
“Now, if I put those three things together, that brings us to the timing of this. Slight shock, I know. I keep thinking about that scene from “Forrest Gump” where he stops running. 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.”
As for saying he was retiring, Edwards hinted he might not be done competing in NASCAR.
“I’m not saying the “r” word here,” Edwards said. “But if I do I’m calling Joe Gibbs first.”
While he said he had no intention of returning full time, “If the right opportunity is there, then for sure I could, but the first person I would talk to is Coach. “
He said he really has no idea what he will be doing next.
“There’s no life raft I’m jumping on to,” he said. “I’m just jumping”
“And in a way, it makes it easier, because I’m not being swayed by some carrot out here, something going on,” he added. “There is no new manufacturer ride coming in in three years that they’re paying me a fortune for. There is nothing like that.
“This is a pure, simple, personal decision, and for that I’m grateful.”
Edwards was only 10 laps away from winning the 2016 Cup title. A crash on a late restart took him from the lead and out of championship contention. It turned out that it was probably Edwards last chance at winning a Cup title. Edwards said Wednesday that leaving without a Cup title, isn’t a big heartbreak to him.
“With 30 laps to go,” Edwards said of the Homestead race. “That’s what I live for. We worked all year to be in that moment. To be in that position, and know we were getting it done. “
“For me personally, I won.”
Edwards kept his emotions in check until nearly the end of the press conference. He said he regretted being a “jerk” to his fellow drivers at times during his career. It is something he wants to change as he moves to the next part of his life.
“I just want to be a good person,” he said breaking down and taking a few moments to compose himself. After a few moments he added chuckling,” Damn camera shutters are killing me there. It’s the lighting, it’s awful.”
“I hope you’ll accept that I don’t’ have it all figured out yet,” Edwards said. “And I hope you know I am at peace with that. Life’s short you have to do what your gut tells you.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs said he wasn’t expecting the news from Edwards.
“This was such a surprise,” Gibbs said. “I was all set for the holidays. I was in a meeting, and they said Carl stopped by.”
Gibbs said Edwards told him of his plans, and Gibbs told him to think about. He said to spend some time with his family and get back to him.
“(He)took four days,” Gibbs said. “Then we hooked up on the phone. I could tell he was fully committed. “
Young Phenom Daniel Suarez was named as Edwards’ replacement driver in the No. 19 Toyota.
Suarez, a native of Mexico, burst onto the NASCAR scene in 2014. This past season he won 3 races in the Xfinity series and became the first Mexican driver to win a series title in one of NASCAR’s top three national touring series.
“This is amazing. I really can’t believe it. It is my dream, but I did not expect it right now,” said Suárez. “I can’t wait to get started. I have a lot to learn, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I have the support of a great team around me.”
“I have so many people to thank that helped get me to this point of my career, starting with my family of course, but it would be impossible for me to list everyone. I do want to thank Coach (Gibbs) and everyone at JGR for this opportunity,. and I also want to thank ARRIS, STANLEY, Subway, Interstate Batteries and Toyota for their support. I can’t wait for Daytona.”
Suárez will make his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017.
“We are thrilled for Daniel,” said Gibbs. “Once we learned that Carl would not return next season, Daniel was really the obvious choice to take the wheel of this newly redesigned 2018 Camry. He is a great fit for our team and our partners. He has worked extremely hard and proven to be a quick learner. He will have a great team around him and he will have great teammates to lean on. This might be a bit earlier than we anticipated, but he has earned the opportunity and we are excited for his future.”