Carl Edwards cites family, health as reasons for stepping away from NASCAR

Carl Edwards on Wednesday made official what FOXSports.com first reported a day earlier: He is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and will not compete in NASCAR in 2017.

Appearing at a press conference at JGR’s headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., Edwards said, “I’m stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series. … I don’t have any intention of going back to full-time racing.”

But he isn’t officially retiring.

Not yet anyway.

“I’m not using the ‘R’ word,” Edwards said of retirement, leaving the door open for a future return to JGR. Edwards said he won’t race for another team but could do some other racing in the future.

Edwards said there were three reasons he was leaving the cockpit: 1. He’s satisfied with his career. 2. He wants to devote time to the people in his life. And 3. He wants to stay healthy.

“I know right now you’re thinking, ‘Well, you don’t have a championship,’” said Edwards of his first reason. “Well, Jimmie [Johnson] has got some extras if he wants to send one my way, but truly, you guys know that I don’t race just for the trophies.”

Reason No. 2 is familiar to anyone who works in the sport: It consumes your life.

“This is an all‑encompassing thing,” said Edwards. “You guys, we do this, and it’s full‑time.  And not just the physical time, but I wake up in the morning thinking about racing. I think about it all day. I go to bed thinking about it. And I have dreams about racing.

“And that’s just how it is,” Edwards said. “I’ve been doing that for 20 years, and I need to take that time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me, things I’m really passionate about.” Count family high on that list.

The third reason Edwards cited was his own health, which is fine right now and he aims to keep it that way.

“It’s a risky sport.  I’m aware of the risks,” he said. “I don’t like how it feels to take the hits that we take, and I’m a sharp guy, and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years. So those risks are something that I want to minimize.”

Another factor, although not specifically listed as a reason to leave by Edwards is that sometimes it’s just time to make a change.

“Life’s short,” said Edwards. “You’ve got to do what your gut tells you.”

The driver said he had no specific future plans figured out yet.

“There’s no life raft I’m jumping on,” he said. “I’m just jumping. And in a way that makes it easier.”

Edwards told team owner Joe Gibbs of his decision in mid-December, which shocked Gibbs.

“I was totally surprised,” said  Gibbs. “There was nothing about contracts or future plans … certainly, this one threw us a curve ball.”

Gibbs said he hopes Edwards will continue to do work with the team, even if he doesn’t drive any longer.

Daniel Suarez, the reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, will take over for Edwards behind the wheel of the No. 19 JGR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Camry for the season.

“Daniel was the obvious choice,” said Gibbs. “… We felt like that was a great choice for us.”

The most revelatory moment of the press conference was when Edwards was asked about being a role model.

“Man, I don’t know.  It’s very flattering,” he said.

Then, fighting back tears, he added, “I just want to be a good person, you know. Sorry, guys. Damn camera shutters are killing me there. It’s the lighting, it’s awful.

“I’m sorry, it’s just nice of you to say, and I just think about the ‑‑ it’s important to me to be ‑‑ to do the right thing. I do not always do the right thing, and just like anyone, there are things I wish I could do over, and that’s that.  Okay.”