Darrell Waltrip finds timing of Carl Edwards news 'beyond shocking'
FOX NASCAR television analyst Darrell Waltrip admits he was “beyond” shocked by the recent news of Carl Edwards announcing he will not return to compete full-time in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Monster Energy Cup Series.
Waltrip and fellow FOX NASACAR analysts Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond also wonder exactly what the unexpected departure of Edwards will mean, at least in the short term, for JGR and that No. 19 team.
The organization already has announced that Daniel Suarez will be the driver of the car in 2017. And while Suarez is the defending XFINITY Series champion and appears to have enormous potential, he will be making his Monster Energy Cup Series debut in the 2017 Daytona 500 (live on FOX), which is now just 45 days away on Feb. 26.
“This is beyond shocking,” Waltrip said. “I’d go so far as to say it is catastrophic when a driver who just competed for the championship with a dominant organization suddenly doesn’t return the next season.
“A month before NASCAR’s Super Bowl, its biggest race of the year, and a driver leaves -- that has to have an incredible impact on the team and sponsor. All the reasons he listed for stepping out of the car must be incredibly important to him to make a decision like this.”
McReynolds added: “It would be easy for me to say he shouldn’t leave the team so suddenly, but Carl is the only one who really knows why. If I raised an eyebrow about anything, it’s the fact he did so roughly one month from the start of the season.
“What if Peyton Manning had waited until June or July of 2016 to announce his retirement (from the National Football League)?”
Like his fellow FOX analysts, Hammond was surprised by the announcement – especially because Edwards came so close to winning the championship in NASCAR’s top series last season. Edwards was in position to do so until wrecking on a restart with just 10 laps to go in the 2016 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Edwards also came close to winning a NASCAR Premier Series championship twice earlier in his career. He finished second to champion Jimmie Johnson in 2008 when Edwards won a season- and career-high nine races, and then tied Tony Stewart in points in 2011 but finished second again when he lost out to Stewart on a tie-breaker because Stewart won more races.
“I was completely stunned,” Hammond said. “Carl is a fierce competitor who is devoted to NASCAR, to winning races and eventually to winning a Cup Series championship.
“He had been close several times, and I always thought that each time he fell just short, he came back a bigger threat the next year. You can rest assured he didn’t take this decision lightly, and he has to be extremely passionate about his reasons behind it.”
McReynolds said the constant pressure and demands on a modern-day Premier Series driver no doubt played a huge role in Edwards’ decision to step away.
“We tend to forget Carl is 37 years old -- and while that’s not old, today’s world of race-car drivers is changing,” McReynolds said. “They start their careers much earlier, and the demands on them are much greater than they were 10 or 20 years ago. He has accomplished a lot and had a terrific career.”
Waltrip cited the recent retirement announcement of Nico Rosberg in Formula One for comparison’s sake, but said there is a major and glaring difference between the two.
“I think back to Nico Rosberg winning the Formula One championship and immediately retiring. That made sense since he had just won the title and was on top of the world,” Waltrip said. “Other than that, I’ve never seen anyone leave right before the season started, barring a major injury or illness. You just don’t see this happen out of the blue.”
Having said that, Waltrip was quick to add that he thinks Suarez is a talented driver and a quick study who will be able to succeed as the new driver of the No. 19 JGR entry.
“Because Daniel was already within the JGR organization and is well-liked, I don’t expect many problems with him stepping into Carl’s car. It should be a fairly smooth transition,” Waltrip said. “When anyone retires, there are drivers waiting in line, helmet in hand, to take their spot. I don’t know if Suarez was quite ready to jump in the deep end of the pool, but he’s jumping in with a great team. It’s also helpful he is so close to the sponsor. I’m sure he is more than acceptable to (primary sponsor) Arris, which makes this a little more palatable for them.”
McReynolds wholeheartedly agreed, citing the fact that Arris – a giant telecommunications technology company headquartered in Georgia – originally came into NASCAR as a primary sponsor for Suarez in the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series.
“With the driver depth at JGR, I’d be shocked if they miss a beat,” McReynolds said. “There couldn’t have been a more perfect storm for JGR to lose a driver than with this sponsorship and Daniel Suarez. The Arris sponsorship really came with him and likely was in the works to be a part of his Cup career down the road.
“In any other situation, if a driver announced they were leaving one month before the season, the fallout probably would be much worse.”