NASCAR fans across the country learned some sad news yesterday after a story leaked from the Associated Press indicated that Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards would no longer be driving for the organization.
Edwards confirmed this today via press conference, stating that he would not only be stepping out of the No. 19 Toyota, but will be officially retiring from the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, effective immediately.
Satisfied with his racing career as it stands, Edwards would like to focus on his family as well as his future outside of a race car. An emotional Edwards said that he realizes that his decision has left many people stunned and scratching their heads.
“I know that there are those out there who are saying, ‘but you don’t have a championship,’ ” said Edwards. “Fortunately, I don’t just race for the trophies, but for the challenge itself. I feel so honored to have had the opportunities that I have, but after you reach the top of the sport and compete there for a while those challenges begin to dwindle. This has left me wondering what else in life could I be doing that would bring about a challenge in a new way?”
Along with focusing on a new side of his career, Edwards raised concerns likely shared by fellow NASCAR drivers following Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s season ending concussion. “This is a risky sport and I am aware of these risks,” said Edwards.
“It is a true testament to NASCAR, the tracks and those who have built my cars that I haven’t been hurt and am still as sharp as I am. I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years and the only way I can see this happening is by minimizing the risks to my health.”
Along with providing the reasoning for his early departure from the sport that he loves, Edwards also shot down any rumors that he was angling for a new contract or more money from either JGR or other heavy pocketed NASCAR teams.
“This is not a money deal, guys. I just want to be a good person and do what is right,” said Edwards as he choked back tears.
Along with the shock and awe felt by both fans and Cup Series drivers, team owner Joe Gibbs said that he was very surprised when Carl came to him to discuss this decision.
“I was totally surprised,” said Gibbs. “When Carl sat down in front of me, right before the Christmas holiday, to share the decision that he wanted to make I asked him to take some more time to think about this huge decision. After a few days, he gave me a call and said that he was ready to step away.”
Following this announcement, officials with Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed that 2016 XFINITY Series Champion Daniel Suarez would fill the vacated seat of Edwards during the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series.
“After learning of Carl’s decision in late December, we knew that we had to make a decision about who would be the best driver to drive the No. 19. The obvious decision became Daniel Suarez,” said Gibbs. “Daniel shared an Arris sponsorship with Carl so this became a natural fit.”
What’s Next for Carl Edwards?
Edwards indicated that he was not sure what his future holds, but that he is interested in aviation, agriculture, broadcasting and even a role, outside the car, either at JGR or with NASCAR. In fact, we fans could even be voting for Carl Edwards at the poles someday.
“Who knows what the future holds? If anybody has any ideas, I’m open, said Edwards.”
After learning of Carl’s departure, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said, “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.”
Representatives from Joe Gibbs Racing long-time sponsor Toyota also thanked Edwards for his support of the brand over the last few years. “Carl has been an incredible ambassador for Toyota in his two seasons competing behind the wheel of our Camrys. Not only is he a terrific racer, but he is also a gentleman both on and off the race track. With his impressive performance in 2016, it’s certainly bittersweet to see him walk away from this sport as a driver, but we wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said Ed Laukes, Vice President, Integrated Marketing Operations, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
Despite losing Edwards as a brand ambassador, Laukes also said that he is looking forward to working with Daniel Suarez. “Toyota is so proud to see Daniel get behind the wheel of the dramatically redesigned No. 19 Camry for the 2017 season” said Laukes.
“Daniel’s championship in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2016 – becoming the first foreign-born NASCAR champion – was truly a highlight in Toyota’s history. We know he will continue to be a great spokesman for Toyota in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driving the new 2018 Camry. Throughout Toyota’s 10 years in NASCAR’s top-tier series, we’ve been proud to help shape the future of NASCAR through our development of young drivers, and Daniel is another great example of our commitment to young talent in their ascension through the racing ranks.”
Watch the press conference here: