EDWARDS NEVER ONE TO FOLLOW THE BOOK
Stepping away at 37 surprises, but should it?
Carl Edwards, you iconoclast. You extremely interesting, intensely private man. You apparently are ready to add another element to the saga that was your laureled and on-the- cusp- ofgreat NASCAR career.
And you apparently are ready to do that by ending your NASCAR career — at least for now.
Joe Gibbs Racing isn’t commenting but has called two news conferences for Wednesday, perfect for a retirement announcement and promotion of in- house product and Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez to the No. 19 Toyota that Edwards used to finish fourth in the final Cup series standings in 2016.
On the face of it, this is truly stunning.
A 37- year- old former substitute teacher who passed out business cards in garages before signing with then- power Roush Fenway Racing in 2003, Edwards has 28 wins in 445 starts over 13 seasons at NASCAR’s top level.
He was second in points in 2008. And he lost the 2011 championship despite finishing second in the season finale at Homestead- Miami Speedway because Tony Stewart won the race to claim his third and final title.
He was one of four drivers eligible to finally win that elusive crown in November but was involved in a late incident blocking Joey Logano that wrecked away his chances. In a moment and in a Chase for the Sprint Cup format that has engendered and at times celebrated the release of rage, Edwards was the model of decorum, accepting responsibility to the point of flabbergasting his peers.
If Edwards was contemplating retirement before that moment, then the moment is all the more incredible. Or he’s all the more ready for what’s next. His last chance at a Cup championship was gone. He didn’t seem to be taking farewell looks before he strode off into his next chapter.
Maybe he returns as a television analyst. Jeff Gordon made a successful transition after retiring following the 2015 season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was good at it in a spot role last season. And full- time Cup driver Kevin Harvick will expand his booth time this season during Xfinity Series races. If so, the image of Edwards retrenching to the seclusion of the Missouri farm to mind the corn and safeguard the privacy of his family will be somewhat deromanticized. Exiting a job with NASCAR’s most successful team the last two years, at the peak of his talents, remains highly unusual in a sport in which drivers, like boxers, often linger a bit long, seeking the fairy- tale finish.
Edwards has seemed pained to venture too far into private details in the past, to extend himself too far for risk of damage — whether lobbying for competitive changes or some other issue. But it will certainly be interesting to hear his reasoning this time.
In 13 Cup seasons, Carl Edwards was in the top five in points six times. He was fourth in 2016.