Edwards: It Was A Gut Decision To Retire As Driver

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 11 2017

Carl Edwards has finished second in points twice in Sprint Cup cars. It appears he will never finish first. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett )

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

During a press conference conducted Wednesday morning in Charlotte, N.C., veteran NASCAR driver Carl Edwards confirmed his retirement as a full-time competitor.

“People who know me, know I follow my gut. Sometimes, I just gather everything around me and say, ‘If all signs point to this, this is what I should do,’” Edwards said during a news conference at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters.

He listed three basic reasons for the timing of his retirement; satisfaction with his career, the physical and mental toll the series’ schedule has left him little time to focus on other issues he cares about, and the fact he is 100 percent healthy.

“I need to take that time right now and devote it to people that are important to me. … Risks are something that I want to minimize,” Edwards said.

Team owner Joe Gibbs said that Edwards informed him of the decision during the holidays.

“This was such a surprise,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs told Edwards that his decision was huge and that he should take time to think about it. Edwards took about four days to do that thinking but the result was the same.

“It was clear in our conversations with Carl that he had given this careful consideration and believes strongly that it is the direction he needs to go. We support him in that. We loved having him be part of our team the past two years and we will miss him, but we hope he is happy in whatever is next for his life.”

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian Z. France issued the following statement on Edwards Wednesday:

“Carl Edwards has made an indelible mark on NASCAR. His hard-charging driving style has led to memorable moments that will live forever in the history of our sport. Carl’s passion and personality will greatly be missed – as will the signature backflips that NASCAR fans have come to expect following his victories. We wish Carl nothing but the best as he enters this next phase in life.”

During the press conference, Joe Gibbs Racing officials also revealed that Edwards’ ride in the No. 19 Toyota would be taken by 2016 Xfinity Series champion Danial Suarez.

“It’s amazing. I wasn’t expecting to be in this position right now. It’s hard to believe I am in this position,” Suarez, a native of Mexico, said. “I know it won’t be easy.

“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.”

Edwards, 37, spent 13 years in the Cup Series and won 28 times in 445 starts. He won three races in 2016.

The native of Columbia, Mo. whose signature victory celebrations include back flips from the window of his cars and forays into the grandstands to mingle with fans, appeared to be headed to his first Cup championship in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway but crashed with 10 laps to go.

Edwards was asked about retiring without ever earning a Cup championship.

“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,” he 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.

“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.”

Edwards broke into the Cup series driving Ford’s part time for team owner Jack Roush in 2004. In 2005, he finished third in points. He finished second in points in 2008 and then in 2011 when he tied Tony Stewart in points but lost the championship on a tie-breaker.

In 2015, Edwards, a former student at the University of Missouri in Columbia, moved into the seat of a JGR Toyota.

Edwards used the compound modifier “full-time” to describe his Cup retirement. Might he drive again part-time some day?

“Absolutely,” he said. “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 (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.”

The surprising news of Edwards’ impending retirement  broke on Tuesday when rumors began to circulate.

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage issued the following statement on Tuesday: “This is comparable to Barry Sanders retirement back in 1999, shocking and with loads of ability and time left in a very successful career. Everyone rightfully expected Carl to win both races and championships. I talked to Carl about a month ago and he didn’t give any indication that he was considering this. It is a shock that just doesn’t seem real.”


Carl by the Numbers:

First NASCAR national series start was at Memphis Motorsports Park on July 22, 2002 driving for Missouir car owner Mike Mittler in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Edwards started the race 16th and finished 23rd in his NASCAR national series debut. 

1 – Number of NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championships (2007)

2 – Highest career NASCAR Cup Series final points standings position (twice: 2008 and 2011)

2 – Number organizations Edwards competed for in the R Cup Series – Roush Fenway Racing (11 seasons) and Joe Gibbs Racing (two seasons)

6 – Number of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career wins

9 – Highest number of single season career wins in the Cup Series (2008)

10 – Number of career Chase berths in the NASCAR Cup Series

22 – Number of Cup Series career Coors Light poles (33rd on the all-time list)

24 – Number of  Cup Series runner-up race finishes (32nd on the all-time list)

28 – Number of  Cup Series career victories (tied with Kurt Busch for 26th on the all-time list)

38 – Number of NASCAR XFINITY Series career wins (fourth most on the all-time list)

72 – Number of NASCAR national series combined wins (12th on the all-time list)

124 – Number of Cup Series career top-five finishes (30th on the all-time list)

220 – Number of Cup Series career top-10 finishes (29th on the all-time list)

445 – Number of  Cup Series career starts (50th on the all-time list)

750 – Number of NASCAR national series point-paying starts (28th on the all-time list)

2011 – The year Carl Edwards won the  All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway

6,136 – Number of Cup Series career laps led

127,758 – Number of Cup Series career laps completed

Final NASCAR national career start was at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2016. Edwards started 10th and finished 34th due to an accident late in the race.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 11 2017
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