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.

NASCAR America: Is this the best Championship 4 ever?

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In the fifth year of the current format, the question being asked on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America is whether this is the greatest assembly of Championship 4 drivers of all times.

The answer is undeniably yes, according to the Dale Jarrett. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano constitute the best Championship 4 thus far.

“We could sit here and talk about how strong they are,” Dale Jarrett said. “We’ve talked about the Big 3 all year and who was going to be that fourth. Joey Logano showed strength as they got into the playoffs. But you don’t have to believe all that we are telling you. Just look at the numbers.”

It is a phrase repeated all too often, but in 2018 the numbers really do speak for themselves.

With his win last week at Phoenix, Busch tied Harvick with eight wins apiece, Truex earned four wins and Joey Logano scored two. With one race remaining, that totals 22 victories. The most previous to this season came last year when Truex, Busch, Harvick and Brad Keselowski combined for 18 wins including Truex’s Miami win.

The Championship 4 combined for 74 top fives. Last year, they had 62 top fives through the season finale in Miami.

“When we talk about the numbers, it is impressive,” Steve Letarte said. “Joey Logano has had a great year, but it has been dominated by three names. I would expect the race (at Miami) to be no different.”

“I think going into Miami, the big deal is they have all been there before,” Burton said. “Having been there; done that matters. The pressure of being in that situation? They’ve all experienced it.”

This will be the fourth appearance among the Championship 4 for Harvick (previously appeared in 2014, 2015 and 2017) and Busch (2015, 2016 and 2017). Truex (2015 and 2017) and Logano (2014 and 2016) have two appearances each.

The Big 3 have been together twice before (2017 and 2015).

2017: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski (combined for 18 wins, 62 top fives)

2016: Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards (15 wins, 53 top fives)

2015: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. (10 wins, 48 top fives)

2014: Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano (11 wins, 42 top fives)

For more, watch the videos above.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Phoenix recap, Rodney Childers interview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and reviews all the action from over the weekend at ISM Raceway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Dale Jarrett from Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte join them from the Charlotte Studio.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll recap Sunday’s elimination race at Phoenix that set the Championship 4 in the Cup Series. We’ll hear from those drivers, including Phoenix winner Kyle Busch, who locked themselves into this weekend’s race for the title. We’ll also hear from those drivers who’ll have to wait until next year.
  • Kevin Harvick drove his way into the Championship 4 with a fifth-place finish at Phoenix. He did so without the services of crew chief Rodney Childers, who is serving a two-race suspension for last week’s violation at Texas. Marty Snider goes 1-on-1 with Childers to get his take on Harvick’s performance as well as the team’s preparations for Miami.
  • We’ll also recap Saturday’s Xfinity Series elimination race at Phoenix. Facing a must-win situation, Christopher Bell scored his seventh win of the year and, more importantly, advanced to the Championship.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online 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.

Sage Advice: What Tony Stewart told Kurt Busch at Phoenix

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Tony Stewart has seen the picture taken of him and Kurt Busch near the end of Sunday’s Cup race at ISM Raceway and wants to assure you it’s not what it looks like.

The picture shows the Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner and Busch talking closely on the No. 41 team’s pit wall shortly after Busch wrecked in the final playoff elimination race.

“It looks like he’s sobbing on my shoulder and I’m consoling him and that’s now what it was,” Stewart said Monday on Kevin Harvick‘s “Happy Hours” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It was a boss and his driver, and more so two friends, that are having a conversation saying, ‘Don’t let that one mistake and that one crash overshadow what you did today as a race car driver and what you’ve done all year,” Stewart said.

Busch, the 2004 champion, entered the elimination race three points behind Harvick for the final transfer spot to the Championship 4.

Busch led 52 laps before he was held a lap by NASCAR for passing the pace car as he entered the pits on Lap 136.

After he returned to the lead lap, Busch stayed out of the pits during a late caution.

When the race restarted with 44 laps to go, Busch was racing Denny Hamlin for the lead in Turn 2 when Hamlin got loose and pinned him against the wall, which caused a chain reaction that involved Chase Elliott. Busch finished 32nd.

“Those restarts were insane yesterday,” Stewart said. “Kurt couldn’t do anything about that. It was more just having the conversation with Kurt, ‘Don’t beat yourself up, don’t go to the media and blast NASCAR because you did make a mistake, it was your fault, not NASCAR’s fault.’

“‘You did everything you could do’ … he absolutely drove his ass off. Ran a great race, battled adversity after his mistake coming on pit road. Absolutely did everything perfect from that moment on. That’s what I wanted him to understand.”

Busch, who enters the season finale at Miami without having announced where he’ll race in 2019, praised Stewart, who he has competed for since 2014.

“He was just helping me out as a driver, owner,” Busch said. “That’s what Tony Stewart does. He’s a good individual that knows how to pat somebody on the back and create clarity from the outside on what went on because I only see what happens from the inside of the car.”

Xfinity Championship 4 made up of favorites and a surprise

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Unlike on the Cup side where there are no surprises, the Championship 4 in the Xfinity Series is not entirely what was expected when the playoffs started.

Justin Allgaier, who won the regular-season title, was eliminated at the end of the Round of 8. So was teammate Elliott Sadler, who had 24 top 10s in the first 32 races but no wins.

Rookie Christopher Bell got into the Championship 4 in walk-off fashion, winning Saturday at Phoenix after he entered the race 34 points below the final transfer spot.

Bell joins Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick in Saturday’s title race in Miami (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The drivers have an average age of 23 and have combined for nine wins since February, with Hemric the only winless among driver among them.

Here’s a look at each driver’s record ahead of Miami.

Christopher Bell (No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing)

Wins: Seven, a rookie record (Richmond I, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Iowa II, Richmond II, Dover II and Phoenix II)

Career Playoff wins: Four (Including win at Kansas last year as a part-time driver)

Miami record: Earned a DNF in first Xfinity start last year for an engine failure. Best finish of second in three Truck Series starts. Won the Truck Series title in 2017. Has been in the Championship 4 in each of his three full-time seasons in NASCAR.

Outlook: Bell enters as the favorite with his series-leading seven wins. Despite two DNFs in the Round of 8, he has won three of the last six races. Toyota has won two of the last five Miami races.

“I don’t know if you can take any momentum (to Miami),” Bell said after his win Saturday.  “The 00 (Cole Custer), they’re licking their chops because they won by (15.4) seconds last year so I’m sure they’re feeling good. We saw with the Cup deal, Jimmie Johnson won his championship (in 2016) because a couple guys beat themselves and took each other out and he was just at the right spot at the right time and he was definitely not the best out of the four. What we’re going to have to do next week if we are the best car, try not to beat yourself and if we’re not the best car, just wait for the opportunity for that last pit stop and you never know when the last restart is going to come.”

 

Cole Custer (No. 00 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing)

Wins: One (Texas II)

Career Playoff wins: Two (Won Miami last year when he was not part of Championship 4)

Miami record: Two starts in Xfinity. Finishes of 17th and a win. Started second in 2017 and led 182 laps on way to his first career Xfinity win.

Outlook: Despite only one win through 32 races, Custer placed in the top 10 a series-leading 25 times this season. And as Christopher Bell noted, Custer won at Miami by just over 15 seconds last year.

“All of the cars at Stewart-Haas (Racing), we build fantastic cars,” Custer said Saturday. “I could take any single car out of our fleet and I could take this car this weekend (at Phoenix) and I think it would be just as good as the car we’re taking to Homestead. I think the tires are gonna be a little bit different. I think it’s a different left-side tire. We have the flange-fit bodies this year, so that’s a little bit different. You have to account for those things and make sure that you’re adjusting and making your car as good as it can be.”

 

Daniel Hemric (No. 21 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing)

Wins: None

Career Playoff wins: None

Miami record: Finished 34th, 23 laps off the lead in 2017 due to an early mechanical problem. Three Truck Series starts with a best finish of fifth in 2016.

Outlook: For the second year in a row, Hemric enters the Championship 4 without a win to his name. Should he claim the title without winning in Miami he’d be the first driver to win a national NASCAR championship without having ever won a race.

Hemric leads the Championship 4 drivers in average finish (9.1). His five runner-up finishes without a win leads all winless drivers in Xfinity.

“You just hope you’re going to find yourself in position to have another shot at it like we did last year,” Hemric said after he finished second Saturday. “Now I can confidently say we do have that shot. It’s a tough situation to be in after the 10-point penalty we got after Kansas. It put you a little bit on edge and then we got into Texas and lost some points. We knew we had to come here (to Phoenix) today and be a solid as we could and give ourselves a shot to try to maximize our points as best we could and that’s what we did.

“… Having that taste in our mouth from having that taken away from us last year the way it was makes us that much more hungry when we go there next week.”

 

Tyler Reddick (No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports)

Wins: One (Daytona I)

Career Playoff wins: One (At Kentucky last year as a part-time driver)

Miami record: Started from pole and finished fourth in first Xfinity start last year. In three Truck Series starts finished sixth, third and second.

Outlook: Reddick admitted he would have been “surprised” had you told him nine weeks ago he would be the only JR Motorsports driver in the Championship 4.

Nine races ago he finished 34th in race No. 23 at Road America. By that point he had just one top-five finish since he won the season-opener at Daytona. In the nine races after Road America he earned four top fives, three top 10s and announced he’ll compete for Richard Childress Racing in 2019.

“I (knew we had) the potential to get to (Miami) all year long,” Reddick said after placing sixth at Phoenix. “I guess we’ve just been getting our bugs out this year. Our regular reason had moments of greatness but never really seized it. We’d have speed, but something would happen. … The playoffs have been more about what this team is really about. We’ve done everything we needed to. We’ve done a very good job of staying out of trouble and minimizing mistakes. But we’ve been lucky too.  … Sometimes it never hurts to just be a little lucky.”