After a day of much speculation regarding a report that he would be stepping away from driving full-time in NASCAR, Carl Edwards and Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed that Edwards would indeed not be driving in 2017 in a press conference on Wednesday morning.
Since joining the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, Edwards has shown class and dignity every step of the way and that did not change as he explained his reasoning for stepping away from the cockpit in the prime of his career.
In his 15 year career, the Missouri native scored 72 wins across the top-three NASCAR divisions, with 28 wins in the Cup Series, 38 wins and two championships in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and six wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Edwards noted there were three main reasons that he came to the decision to walk away after 15 years in the sport. He stated that he was satisfied with his career, despite never winning a championship; he wants to devote more time to his family and other pursuits outside of driving; and wants to walk away with his health intact.
“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. 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,” said Edwards.
“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.”
“Second reason is that ‑‑ and I’m not going to get any sympathy from anyone in the room, but this is an all‑encompassing thing. 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.”
“And the third reason is my health. 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. 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.”
Like Nico Rosberg’s exit from Formula 1 after winning the championship at the end of 2016, Edwards walks away on his own terms and while he may not have everything figured out on what he wants to do after racing, he appeared at peace with the decision throughout his 40 minute press conference.
“Life is short. You’ve got to do what your gut tells you. And I have a feeling I’ll find something,” said Edwards.
There is no doubt that Edwards will be missed around the Cup Series garage area in 2017 and beyond, but his courage to go with his gut feeling that this was the right move for him and his family as he embarks on a new chapter in his life certainly is admirable.
Will we see him back behind the wheel at some point down the road? Perhaps. But if we don’t, Edwards certainly left a lasting impression on everyone he came in contact with throughout his career.
“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,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France.