Carl Edwards shocks fans by stepping down |

Carl Edwards shocks fans by stepping down

Roger Diez

NASCAR fans got a huge shock last week with the sudden announcement Carl Edwards is stepping down from the driver’s seat of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota for 2017. I watched his press conference on Wednesday, as he explained his reasons for his sudden departure from NASCAR’s highest tier of competition. The announcement comes after Edwards narrowly missed winning the Sprint Cup championship for the second time, although he denied that was a factor in his decision.

In the conference, Edwards cited three reasons for stepping away from arguably one of the best rides in all of racing. He stated he was satisfied with his career despite not winning a championship. “I don’t race just for the trophies,” he said. He also said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and young children and devote time to other things he’s passionate about. Finally, he said his move wasn’t caused by an injury, but said “I can stand here healthy,” indicating the possibility of a situation such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. found himself in last season. In his remarks, Edwards said he was being careful not to use the “R word” for retirement, leaving the door open to a possible return to Cup competition in the future.

While he’s stepping away from racing, it’s not as if Edwards doesn’t have other interests. He’s an avid aviation enthusiast, earning his pilot’s license some years ago. He also is involved in agriculture and has indicated an interest in politics, with the possible goal of becoming the governor of his home state of Missouri at some time in the future. And the possibility of stepping into the announce booth for either FOX or NBC Sports is also there, although both networks were taken as much by surprise at the announcement as anyone else.

Edwards burst on the NASCAR scene 15 years ago in 2002 as a young 22 year old driver with only local short track experience. That year he ran seven Craftsman Truck races and one Nationwide race, with a single top 10 result in the Truck series. The following year he ran the entire Truck schedule in the No. 99 Roush Ford F-150, posting three wins, 13 top fives, and 15 top 10s. That led to an offer from Jack Roush to take a Cup ride, and although winless in the 2004 season, Edwards won four Cup races in 2005 and established himself as a star. He went onto win a total of 28 Cup races, 38 Xfinity races, and six Truck races. In addition to the points events, he also won the 2007 Nextel Open and the 2013 Sprint All-Star race as well as the 2012 Gatorade Duel No. 1 at Daytona.

Carl Edwards is one of the truly nicest guys in the NASCAR garage as well as a fierce competitor. He showed that side of him after he crashed out of the championship round at Homestead in November, taking responsibility for the wreck and apologizing to Joey Logano’s crew chief. Edwards is very much in the mold of the great Mark Martin, who mentored him in his early days in the Cup series at Roush Racing. Martin declared he was “confused” by Edwards’ decision, stating he hoped to have a discussion with Carl to understand his decision-making process. Team owner Joe Gibbs was also surprised by Edwards’ move, but has had since late December, when Carl first approached him about the subject, to absorb the news.

The new driver of the No. 19 Gibbs Racing Toyota for 2017 will be recently crowned Xfinity champion Daniel Suarez. He will have some big shoes to fill, and we will miss the signature backflip off the side of the car if and when the No. 19 takes a checkered flag. Here’s wishing Carl the best in whatever he chooses to do, but harboring a secret hope we see him return at some point down the road.