Carl Edwards announced on Wednesday morning that he is stepping away from NASCAR and will not race in 2017.
“I’m stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series,” said Edwards.
Edwards referenced three reasons for stepping away from NASCAR at this time: his satisfaction with his career, the time commitment of racing and his health.
"I have a lot of interests in life outside of sports that deserve my attention and I feel strongly that the time to do that is now," said Edwards. "I've been racing for more than 20 years. It's amazing the opportunities that racing, and NASCAR in particular, have provided me. The people I've met and the things I've been able to do. I'm very grateful for all of that.
“We consider Carl part of our family,” said Joe Gibbs, who also mentioned that they plan on keeping Edwards involved with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
"I'm satisfied with my career and my accomplishments. Racing for me has never really been about trophies,” said Edwards. “Of course I love winning, but there is a thrill to going into a corner at nearly 200 mph competing against the best in the world. I absolutely love that. Obviously there are risks involved in racing that I never take for granted, either, and I'm happy to be able to walk away from the sport fully healthy. I just believe that it's hard to start the next chapter in your life until I close this one. It is an awesome sport, but very demanding with year-round commitments and a lot of time on the road."
Edwards said he would not say the “R” word, referring to retired, but noted that he would not return to full-time racing.
“Absolutely,” said Edwards on the possibility of racing again. “I don’t have any intention of going back to full-time racing. I know how things work. If the right opportunity comes up, I would entertain it.”
The Columbia, Missouri native leaves behind quite a legacy. Edwards, who began racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2002, moved up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2004. In his NASCAR career, he’s amassed 72 wins (28 in MENCS), 452 Top-10 finishes (220 in MENCS) and 53 poles (22 in MENCS) in the three NASCAR national series in his 15-year career.
Edwards currently ranks 27th all-time in victories in the NASCAR premier series and is one of eight drivers that raced in 2016 with 28 or more wins in the Chase era (2004 to present).
"Carl Edwards has made an indelible mark on NASCAR,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brain France in a written statement. “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."
As his home track, Edwards often spoke highly of Kansas Speedway. While he was unable to win a race in the Cup Series at Kansas, he did win in the Truck Series in July 2004. In 19 career Cup races at Kansas Speedway, Edwards had seven Top 5’s and 13 Top 10’s. Of tracks where Edwards had at least six Top-5 finishes (nine), Kansas Speedway was the only facility he didn’t have a Cup Series win.
“It's tough,” said Edwards about the disappointment of not winning at Kansas in October 2016. “This is a really special place for me. There are negative emotions tied to not winning here with that fast of a car. But that's the way it goes.”
One of his best races at Kansas Speedway was also his last. In October 2016, Edwards led 61 of the 267 laps of the Hollywood Casino 400. However, a late restart gave advantage to eventual race winner, Kevin Harvick. The only other time Edwards finished second at Kansas was in September 2008, when he tried to pull off his infamous “bonsai-move” on eventual race-winner, Jimmie Johnson. Heading into Turn 4 of the final lap, Edwards attempted a move that he had only tried in a video game. Unfortunately for Edwards, he hit the wall harder than he expected and he was unable to capture the lead. Despite finishing the race in second, the maneuver remains one of the most memorable moments in Kansas Speedway history, and NASCAR history.
“That was really fun, getting to race up front,” said Edwards following the October 2016 race at Kansas. “It is really tough for me to finish second here. It's happened twice. Both of them were pretty painful.”
Edwards’ final race was in November 2016 at Homestead-Miami as he was one of the final four drivers competing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Edwards’ championship hopes were dashed as he attempted to block Joey Logano on a restart, causing both drivers to wreck. Despite leading the most laps of the Championship drivers, Edwards was unable to continue following the wreck and finished 34th. Edwards was praised for his sportsmanship after the incident, apologizing to Logano’s crew chief and wishing him luck in the final 11 laps of the race.
His demeanor following the race mirrored his career. While a fierce competitor on the race track, Edwards was well liked by the majority of NASCAR fans because of his Midwestern friendliness and kindness off the track.
“I just want to be a good person,” said Edwards holding back tears at his press conference. “It’s important to me to do the right thing.”
Edwards thanked the fans, his teammates, Joe Gibbs, NASCAR and the media at his press conference.
“This is like living a dream. I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could,” said Edwards. “I am so fortunate. I believe everything happens for a reason.”
With less than seven weeks before the start of the 2017 season, JGR announced on Wednesday that 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Daniel Suarez will replace Edwards.
“Daniel was the obvious choice,” said Gibbs.