Wednesday, January 11, 2017

COMMENTARY: Edwards' Decision Makes Perfect Sense

Carl Edwards walked away today, calling a halt to his 13-year run as an elite competitor at the very highest level of the sport.

“I’m stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series,” he said. “I don’t have any intention of going back to full-time racing. I want to spend time outside the sport on things that are important for me.

“I believe it’s the right thing. It’s a personal thing.”

Edwards’ decision caught virtually everyone by surprise. Just weeks after a late-race crash ended his bid for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead Miami Speedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver appeared set for one of the most competitive seasons of his career. He had the talent, equipment, sponsorship and manufacturer support in place to finally grab NASCAR’s brass ring, but instead chose to not even make the attempt.

That decision is baffling to some, especially after admitting that he is walking away from the sport without so much as a backup plan.

“I don’t have a life raft I’m jumping onto,” he said. “I’m just jumping.”

For those who don’t know Edwards, that decision seems unfathomable. But for those who have shared space with him in the NASCAR garage, it makes perfect sense.

"I believe it's the right thing."
Edwards listed three major factors in his decision to step away; satisfaction with his career, the opportunity to spend more time with his family and a desire to step away from the sport while still healthy.

“This was such a surprise," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "I was all set for the holidays, to have a little R&R. When he sat down and shared (his plans), I was totally surprised. It was nothing about contracts… it was about something Carl felt was important.

“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,” said Gibbs. “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."

Gibbs added that he has offered Edwards an opportunity to remain involved with both the organization and the sport, but gave no indication of whether he will elect to do so. Edwards made it clear, however, that there is currently no “next step” on his competitive radar. There is no new race team, no manufacturer offering a lucrative position as either a driver or team owner, no looming television deal.

Just a realization that the time has come to apply the brakes, pull into the garage and go home.

"If I am going to get back in a race car, I'm calling Coach Gibbs first," said Edwards. "There is no better race team."

Edwards said he is satisfied with his NASCAR career, and he should be. His resume lacks nothing other than a Cup Series title, and he is a 28-time winner at the sport’s highest level, with 38 Xfinity Series victories and six more in the Camping World Trucks. Combined with a 2007 Xfinity Series championship, the only driver in the history of the sport to lose a Cup Series crown in a tiebreaker (to Tony Stewart in 2011) is a solid bet for NASCAR Hall Of Fame status one day.

Edwards admitted that a major factor in his decision to walk away was the ability to do so with his health intact. Through 750 starts in NASCAR’s three national series, he never missed a race due to injury. His fanatical devotion to physical fitness made him a cover model for men’s health magazines, but no workout regime guarantees continued good health in a sport that lives at 200 mph.

“The risks are something that I want to minimize," he said. "I need to take the time right now and devote it to people that are important to me.”

Edwards’ career wasn’t always smooth sailing. Stock car racing is an emotional sport, and the Columbia, Missouri, native raced – every day, every lap -- with his heart on his sleeve and a take-no-prisoners game plan; an approach that occasionally left him crossways with competitors and teammates alike.

Edwards and Logano crashed at Homestead
In March of 2010, a year-long feud with Brad Keselowski ended with Keselowski’s car hurtling upside-down into the catch fence at Atlanta Motor Speedway at nearly 190 mph; a horrifying crash exacerbated when television footage showed Edwards’ white-gloved hands turning sharply to the right, and into Keselowski’s rear quarter panel.

Edwards said he never meant to trigger such a horrific crash, and he and Keselowski eventually mended their fences.

It is perhaps fitting that our final memory of Edwards is from the moments immediately following last season’s Homestead Miami crash. After attempting to block a surging Joey Logano on a decisive restart with just 10 laps remaining, Edwards pounded the inside retaining wall, destroying both his Arris Toyota and his championship dream, in one fell swoop.

Most competitors would have reacted angrily, pointing an accusatory finger at Logano and bemoaning an unfair and unwarranted end to their season. Edwards, however, took the opposite approach, climbing from his battered machine and walking toward Logano’s pit as thousands of fans in attendance – and a national television audience numbering in the millions – braced for an epic confrontation.

With NASCAR officials in hot pursuit, Edwards climbed atop Logano’s pit box and shook hands with crew chief Todd Gordon, acknowledging one of the great, checkers-or-wreckers moments in the history of the sport with a smile and an unlikely wish of good luck.

It was one last act sportsmanship, a farewell salute from a driver that has bettered his sport; both on and off the race track.

That was the Carl Edwards we will miss. The Edwards who took time to interact – one on one – with little children, the elderly and the infirm. The Edwards who took his sunglasses off for television interviews, preferring to look straight into the camera when addressing his fans. The Edwards who media members knew as one of the most eloquent, insightful and honest interviews in the NASCAR garage.

Keselowski commented on Edwards’ withdrawal yesterday, saying via Twitter that he was, “blown away that this is happening.”

Penske Racing driver Joey Logano said, “Carl has always been one of the most fair and hard-racing drivers. I’ve learned as much from his character on the track as off.”

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France issued a statement saying that 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."
That level of esteem – even more than the wins and championships – defines Edwards’ career.
Edward’s decision makes perfect sense, and is based on the only thing that really matters. He is going home – healthy, happy and undamaged – to spend the rest of his life with his wife and children.

It’s not complicated, convoluted or complex. Today’s announcement is the result of  a simple man, refocusing on what is most important in his life.

“Life’s short,” he said. “You’ve got to do what your gut tells you. I don’t regret one bit of it. It’s been a blast.”

Yes it has, Carl.

Thank you.


  1. Anonymous2:06 PM

    This single act of selflessness makes others in the sport look small. Good luck and may your spirits fly with you Carl. Ya done good.

  2. Sounds like this decision has been worked on for awhile.He is at peace inside.what seems sudden on the outside,is not.Wish him and his family all the best.

  3. Anonymous2:45 PM

    Hats off to Carl.Going out on his own terms.Not a lot of drivers have that luxury.Good luck to him in his future and thanks for some great memories.Carl is the definItion of a class act.

  4. Good luck on your future endeavors Carl. Enjoy spending time with the family.

  5. Carl will certainly be missed. With his smooth style and ability to speak so well, someone in an announcer's booth could be out a job.

  6. Anonymous4:14 PM

    We don't need to miss that Carl Edwards. I hope he stays around the sport in another capacity for a long time

  7. Godspeed Carl. It's been a great ride - you will be missed

  8. Good for you Carl. He always seemed to be the reluctant star in Nascar. Always trying to get home to Missouri as soon as possible.

  9. Barry from Tennessee6:41 PM

    We will miss you Carl.,... You always handled yourself in a professional manner... Godspeed in your future endeavors. Thanks for the memories.

  10. And a 31 second video to his fans.... Unfair IMHO...

  11. Nicely written, Moody! Thanks!

  12. Funny how he said he doesn't have a life raft to jump onto, he's just jumping... Lucky for him he'll be landings on stacks of money. No life raft...

    Anyway, Carl was one of the best interviews in the history of the sport. He was able to drive like a beast, maybe cause a casualty along the way, and be classy.

    What I'll miss most is his honesty and candor. I loved seeing him squirm at a question after causing a wreck or ending someone's day. You could see the second of pain when he realizes he's about to spill the beans, and then takes the blame and tells it how it is.

    What made and will make Carl different from most people, is he posseses accountability. He can have his airplanes, cars, land, toys, and wealth, his integrity his greatest possesion.

  13. Harold Sears1:44 AM

    I've not been a Edwards fan, but I understand his decision to leave Nascar. He is healthy, good income, satisfied with his career results and wants more time with his family. Nothing is more important than spending time with your children while they are growing up. If you do, you will regret it. I made many mistakes in my life, and not growing up with my children was a regrettable mistake. I salute Carl on his decision and wish him and family with all the happiness they can reach.

  14. Anonymous6:47 AM

    I am hard pressed to understand the narrative as if Carl was walking to talk to Gordon that he somehow "forgave" Logano, when it was Carl who sealed his own fate with his block move. I feel it is an important fact, of which I suspect will not be published as if the writer will somehow think it diminishes the story of Carl being a "good guy". That is for another day, but the defeat of Car, signaled POSSIBLY by the most assuredly BS caution knowing how Logano excels at aggressive restarts, set himself up for failure..AND HE ADMITTED IT!

    1. Your aluminum foil hat is slipping, "Anonymous."

  15. Anonymous10:10 AM

    Best wishes Carl. The race with Smoke was the best in a long while.

    Now the only question is what will Suarez' winning pole speed be for the 500?

  16. I'd love to see him in the broadcast both sooner than later. Hopefully he'll decide to go that route. Whatever he decides I wish him the best of luck.

  17. Anonymous3:26 PM

    A good racer that will be missed.

    There was one of those "richest drivers in na$car" articles last year, and I think Carl came in at $50 million in net worth and only a handful of drivers above him on the list. Nothing wrong with that, all good and earned, but at some point you have to ask yourself when you and your family are set for life by any normal standard, at what point do you quit with your youth and health? Apparently Carl found the answer to that question is "now". Best wishes.

    Dave in Ohio

  18. Mike. C4:34 PM

    One final backflip and as always he stuck the landing

  19. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Good riddance Eddie Haskell. Go be the bully in someone else's playground. Good to see Suarez get a shot. It's just too bad it means now I have to cheer for someone in a JGR car.

  20. Here's to seeing Cousin Carl in a Ford in 2018! Hats off to Big Blue for getting the ball rolling!

  21. Carl saw the writing on the wall at JGR and decided to leave on his own terms! Bottom line, "No Room at the JGR Inn" after this year. That combined with Ford still kicking themselves in the butt over losing Carl and coming up with a plan to get him back, all just great stuff for all concerned! Here's to seeing cousin Carl in a SHR Ford next year!

  22. Here's to seeing Cousin Carl in the SHR #10 Ford Performance Fusion in 2018! Hats off to Ford and SHR for making it all happen!