One big name driver is leaving the sport less than 50 days prior to the start of the new season.
Carl Edwards officially announced that he was stepping away from NASCAR competition before the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, but wouldn’t say he was retiring.
He came to the decision on walking away from racing for three personal reasons: his accomplishments in his career, desire to focus on outside interests and his health.
“I’m personally satisfied with my career…you guys know I don’t race just for the trophies,” Edwards said. “This has always been a neat journey for me. I’ve been rewarded by the challenges.”
He also spoke about the adrenaline rush of driving a race car for the first time.
Edwards transitioned into talking about the season-long grind that is the 36-race NASCAR season. He talked about how he spends all day thinking about racing and how he’s done exactly that for 20 years.
“I need to take that time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me, things that I’m really passionate about,” he said.
He then spoke of his health, saying he could stand there in good health and how it was “a testament” to NASCAR, the tracks, the car builders, his fellow competitors and the pioneer drivers who weren’t as lucky to stay as healthy.
“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 we take. I’m a sharp guy and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years. Those risks are something I want to minimize.”
He also added that when he said one of his reasons for leaving was health, that wasn’t implying he was in bad health.
“I am healthy,” he said. “Everybody texted me yesterday — yeah, I’m great, and all the people close to me are healthy. I appreciate are those concerns, but that’s not an issue.”
Edwards said the decision was entirely his.
He was asked when he came to it.
“So I had been thinking what I thought was a reasonable amount about how this would end,” Edwards said. “I always think about things going forward. And in my mind, I’d considered next year being my final year, but I hadn’t put really a lot of thought into it. And after Homestead, I had some time to sit, think and reflect about all of this, and for those three reasons that I gave you, I thought, man, it just — I can’t come up with a good reason why now isn’t a good time.
“And so I presented that to Coach. I didn’t know what he would say, and like I said, he and the sponsors — I mean, everyone, accommodated me in a way I just didn’t expect, and that means a lot.”
He spoke on the frustration of being so close to winning the championship last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only for a multi-car wreck with 10 laps to go taking him out stealing his shot at it. During banquet week, however, he said “I will appreciate the championship we win more because of it.” He was then asked what during that time caused him to change from wanting to fight for a title in 2017 to ready to walk away.
“I don’t know who was interviewing me there, but I got to Champions Week and I had a lot on my mind, and I just kind of felt — it kind of took me off guard to start talking about it again,” he said. “I hadn’t talked about it with anyone. But yeah, I’m not going to say this whole thing was easy or clean or perfect. I mean, this isn’t the — there was no epiphany moment. That has been something I really thought a lot about, and it wasn’t easy. Pardon me if I went back and forth a little bit about it.”
Edwards said earlier in the conference that if he wished to return to racing, Joe Gibbs would be the first person he would call. Later, he was asked what he would do “if there was no room at the inn.”
“Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Toyota, it’s that Toyota makes sure that what they go do, they do well,” he added. “We look at what Martin was able to do at Furniture Row, Barney Visser and those guys. I don’t want to start down this path. That is not my plan. But I’d be open to anything that involved Coach Gibbs, Toyota, and the people that make this thing work right now. I mean, this is a cool deal.”
The press conference at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop in Huntersville, North Carolina came roughly 24 hours after news of his departure from the sport was broken by Tom Jensen of FoxSports.com.
After the conclusion of his conference, Coach Joe Gibbs announced that reigning XFINITY Series champion Daniel Suarez will move up to Cup in 2017 to drive the No. 19 JGR Toyota.
Edwards ends his career having driven a combined 750 career races in NASCAR three national touring series. The majority of those starts came in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 445 Cup starts, 28 wins, 124 top-fives, 220 top-10’s, 22 poles, 6136 laps led, a career finishing average of 13.6, 352 lead lap finishes, running at the finish in 414 starts and a best points finish of second (twice).