Carl Edwards ‘stepping away’ from NASCAR, cites career satisfaction, desire to stay healthy and other pursuits

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Carl Edwards is “stepping away from full-time driving” in NASCAR competition effective immediately due to satisfaction with his career, a desire to stay healthy and devote his life to other pursuits.

Defending Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota.

“I am healthy … and all the people close to me are healthy,” Edwards said after noting “I don’t like the feeling that comes with the hits that we take. I’m a sharp guy. Want to be sharp in 30 years. Those risks are minimized.”

When asked if Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s concussion recovery played into his decision, Edwards said “I think everybody in the sport paid attention … Yeah, I looked at that.”

Edwards further detailed his three reasons for leaving racing behind.

Career satisfaction – “I am truly, I am personally satisfied with my career, and I know right now you’re thinking, well, you don’t have a championship.  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. … This has been a neat journey for me and it’s always been something that I’ve been rewarded by the challenges.”
Desire for other life pursuits – “This is an all‑encompassing thing. 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. 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.”

His health – “I can stand here healthy, and that’s a testament after all the racing I’ve done and all the stupid stuff I’ve done in a race car, that is a true testament to NASCAR, to the tracks, to the people who have built my race cars, to my competitors, and to the drivers who have come before me who haven’t been so fortunate. Having said that, though, it’s a risky sport. I’m aware of the risks. 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.”

Edwards made his announcement Wednesday morning at Joe Gibbs Racing, 46 days before the 59th Daytona 500. The announcement was attended by high-ranking NASCAR executives Mike Helton, Steve O’Donnell, Steve Phelps and Jill Gregory.

“This is the most scared I’ve ever been about something, just talking about this process,” said Edwards. “In my mind, I considered next year being my final year, but I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it. After Homestead, I had time to sit, reflect and think about all this. I can’t come up with a good reason why now isn’t a good time.”

“I am personally, truly satisfied with my career,” Edwards also said. “You know I don’t just race for the trophies.”

He said he has no plans to return to racing, but if he does, the first person he’ll contact is Joe Gibbs.

“That is one of the beauties of this decision, there’s no life raft I’m jumping into, I’m just jumping,” Edwards said. “Who know what the future holds, I’m open to ideas.”

Edwards was asked if he has any interest in pursuing political office.

“I have really strong feelings about our country and what America is about and the principles that keep us free and safe from the biggest risks in history,” Edwards said. “I’m not prepared right now to participate in any public office or anything, but I’m open to helping that cause of liberty and freedom.”

Joe Gibbs later addressed how Edwards’ decision came about.

“This was such a surprise,” Gibbs said. “I was all set for the holidays. I was in a meeting and they said ‘hey, Carl stopped by.’ I figured it would be ‘hey, have a great Christmas.’ When he sat down in front of me … I was totally surprised. The first thing I did was I said this is a huge decision, let’s spend some time thinking about it. This took four days .. Then we got hooked up again on the phone and I could tell he was really committed to stepping away from racing.”

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France released a statement on Edwards’ decision.

“Carl Edwards has made an indelible mark on NASCAR,” France said. “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.”

Edwards, 37, is leaving the cockpit two months after completing his 12th full-time Cup season last year. He placed fourth in the standings after a late-race wreck in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He was in contention for the title after having won his 28th Cup Series event two weeks prior in a rain-shortened race at Texas Motor speedway.

The initial reports around Edwards’ eventual announcement took most of the racing community by surprise, including his fellow teammates. Erik Jones told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the news “was not something we saw coming.”

Matt Kenseth, who was Edwards’ teammate for 12 years between their tenures at Roush Fenway Racing and JGR, later said “I really know very, very little about it. … I was probably as shocked as anybody.”

The news was in line with Edwards’ reserved personality and protectiveness of his personal life, which was documented by NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan.

The NASCAR world was introduced to Edwards, a native of Columbia, Missouri, on June 22, 2002, in a Camping World Truck Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park. Edwards finished 23rd in the No. 63 truck for Mike Mittler.

A month later he made his Xfinity Series debut at Gateway Motorsports Park driving for Fred Bickford and finished 38th.

In 2003, Edwards joined Roush Fenway Racing and won three Truck races, the first coming on July 13 at Kentucky Speedway. In the No. 99 truck Edwards totaled six wins in two seasons.

Edwards made his Cup Series debut with Roush on Aug. 22, 2004, at Michigan International Speedway. He started 23rd and finished 10th, his first of 220 top 10s.

“I just remember that race – I remember everyone because I couldn’t believe I was on the track with guys like Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace and everyone else,” Edwards said in 2015. “Just the intensity of being able to race with those guys is crazy.”

In 2005, Roush promoted Edwards to full-time competition in both the Xfinity and Cup Series.

In the fifth Xfinity race of the year, Edwards started from the pole and won his first of 38 Xfinity races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Within 24 hours, on March 20, Edwards passed Jimmie Johnson coming out the final turn and beat him by .028 seconds to claim his first Cup win.

Among his 28 Cup wins, the biggest were victories in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, which his team briefly renamed “Carlington Raceway” following the race.

Edwards finished second in the Cup standings twice. Aside from his trademark victory backflips, Edwards will most likely be remembered for his battle with Tony Stewart in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The two entered the finale with Stewart trailing Edwards by three points. The night ended with Stewart winning the race and the title due to a tiebreaker.

With his late crash in the 2016 finale and his announcement on Wednesday, it was the closest Edwards ever came to winning the title.

Memorial service to be held Friday for Furniture Row Racing team member Jim Watson

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A memorial service for Furniture Row Racing crew member Jim Watson will be held Friday in Lincolnton, North Carolina, his family announced Monday.

Watson, who served in a number of roles for both the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. and No. 77 of Erik Jones, passed away Saturday night after suffering a heart attack in Kansas City, Kansas, where the teams were preparing for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race.

Watson was 55.

MORE: Furniture Row Racing crew member dies of heart attack

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The memorial will be from 4-6 p.m. ET Friday at the Warlick Funeral Home, 125 Dave Warlick Drive, in Lincolnton.

Watson’s obituary was included in the announcement of the memorial service:

Watson was born Sept. 27, 1962, in Kenosha, Wis., to Betty Paulus Watson and the late David Harrison Watson. He is survived by his wife, Laurie Ann Watson; a daughter, Brittany May Watson; his mother, Betty L. Watson; brother, Mike Watson; stepchildren, Eric James Conover and fiancé Claudia Rodriguez, and Matthew Sean Conover; Michael Patrick Conover, and wife Michele, and Nicholas Ian Conover; three grandchildren, Patrick Michael Conover, Michael Winston Conover, and Coleton Daniel Conover; nieces, Jennifer Watson and Katie J. Ballou; and many other uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorials be made to hatsalive.org.

NASCAR America at 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Round of 12 review, Round of 8 preview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and wraps up Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination round at Kansas Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Nate Ryan from Stamford, Connecticut. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty will join us from NBC Charlotte.

On today’s show:

* The Round of 12 has been whittled down to eight drivers after a lot of drama and action in Kansas yesterday. We will rehash all of the excitement from Martin Truex Jr.’s emotional win and the adversity that only some of drivers were able to overcome.

* 7-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson made it on to the Round of 8 but not before dealing with his own challenges, including two spinouts. Now, Johnson heads to a trio of tracks that have been more than kind to the 48 team over the years.

* Elimination Sunday provided a big surprise with an engine failure for Kyle Larson, one of the favorites to take the championship  this season. Despite his heartbreaking departure from the postseason, he did provide a positive outlook for the future.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR Cup playoff leaderboard heading into Round of 8

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Two rounds down, eight drivers eliminated, two more rounds to go with eight other drivers remaining.

That pretty much sums up the status of the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

Following Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas, which cut the number of drivers still eligible for the Cup championship to eight, the Round of 8 semifinals begin with Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Kansas winner Martin Truex Jr. continues to maintain his strangehold on the points going into the second-from-last playoff round.

Truex has a 52 point edge above the cut-off line, while Kyle Busch is 25 points to the good and Brad Keselowski is 9 points ahead.

Kevin Harvick is at the cutoff line, while Jimmie Johnson is below the line, even though both drivers are at 0 points.

Denny Hamlin is three points below the cutoff line, Ryan Blaney is eight points below and Chase Elliott is scored eighth, 11 points below the cutoff line.

Here’s the updated playoff leaderboard grid:

Here’s Cup, Trucks entry lists for this weekend’s races at Martinsville

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Martinsville Speedway’s little .526-mile paper clip shaped short track will host two very big NASCAR races this weekend.

First, the NASCAR Cup Series begins the Round of 8 semifinal round with Sunday’s First Data 500.

The original 16-driver field that began the playoffs at Chicago six races ago has been pared to just eight drivers remaining and with four races left.

Also, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series kicks off the Round of 6 semifinal round with the Texas Roadhouse 200.

Lastly, the NASCAR Xfinity Series enjoys this weekend off. It returns to action next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, when all three of NASCAR’s premier series will be in action.

NASCAR Cup Series – First Data 500

There are 40 cars entered in Sunday’s race. While the preliminary NASCAR entry list indicates two driver positions being open, a press release was sent out this morning that one of those vacant seats has been filled.

The No. 51 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing is listed as having no driver, but the team announced today that 20-year-old Kyle Weatherman will make his NASCAR Cup debut and drive the car in Sunday’s race.

Weatherman will also drive for RWR at Phoenix in the penultimate NASCAR Cup playoff race.

That leaves just one driver’s seat that needs to be filled for Sunday’s race: the No. 83 Toyota of BK Racing.

Jimmie Johnson won this race last year, one big step on his way to winning a seventh NASCAR Cup championship, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for most championships won by a driver.

Johnson has won nine times at Martinsville. If there’s any place for him to begin his push for a record eighth championship, the tiny southern Virginia track is just the place to do so. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski won at Martinsville this spring.

Click here for the preliminary NASCAR Cup entry list for Sunday’s race at Martinsville.

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Camping World Truck Series – Texas Roadhouse 200

 There are 34 trucks on the preliminary entry list for Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville Speedway.

There are two open driver spots and one open owner position.

Johnny Sauter won last fall’s truck race at Martinsville en route to his first Truck Series championship.

The No. 0 Chevrolet, owned by Jennifer Jo Cobb, does not have a driver listed yet.

And the No. 111 Chevrolet does not have a driver or a team owner listed on the preliminary entry list. However, there is a crew chief slated: Clinton Cram.

 

Johnny Sauter won this race last year en route to his first career Truck Series championship.

There are no NASCAR Cup drivers entered in this race.

Click here for the preliminary NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry list for Saturday’s race at Martinsville.