Just over three years after the surprise ending of a NASCAR career that included 72 national series wins and one Xfinity Series title, Carl Edwards was taken aback by his nomination for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame class on Tuesday.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Edwards said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway.”
Edwards, who shocked the NASCAR world when he stepped away from the sport in January 2017, was a nominee on the Modern Era ballot along with NASCAR on NBC analysts Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr., crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, crew chief Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd and Mike Stefanik.
“I looked at the others guys on the list …. Harry Gant, Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Dale Jr. and Larry Phillips, these guys are legendary,” Edwards told SiriusXM. “It’s humbling and it’s just an honor to be thought of next to those guys. I just can’t say enough. … I feel like for me, racing, I just had a blast. For me it was about the personal challenge and trying my hardest. I learned so many things from racing. This kind of thing I never even considered.”
Edwards began his full-time Cup career in 2005 with Roush Fenway Racing and drove there until he moved to Joe Gibbs Racing for his last two years.
Over the course of 445 career Cup starts, Edwards earned 28 wins. That’s more than the number earned by Earnhardt (26), Rudd (23), Burton (21), Gant (18) and Bonnett (18).
Among his accomplishments were victories in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500, two Bristol night races, the 2011 All-Star Race, two runner-up finishes in the points and a trip to the Championship 4 in his final season.
In a NBC Sports poll from when Edwards announced his departure from NASCAR, 60.28% of voters said they thought Edwards’ was worthy of the Hall of Fame.
“But when those races are over and those years are over, that’s done,” Edwards told SiriusXM. “I got my awards and I had my fun. To me, I also took some others things away from racing. I’ve thought about this a lot in the last day. What has racing done for Carl Edwards? Racing taught me so many things.
“It got my life in order. I’d never have started worrying about my fitness if I hadn’t seen (former teammate) Mark Martin doing it. I never would have gotten my shop in order and known how to manage things if I hadn’t seen Jeff Burton and (Burton’s former crew chief) Frankie Stoddard in an article in Speedway Illustrated about how they did everything. I learned about business, I learned about competition. I learned how to win, how to lose, how to deal with adversity. I feel like I carried all these things from racing through to my life and I apply them every day. To me, racing did a lot for me. I just feel honored to have been a part of it.”
Voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame usually happens on the Wednesday before the Coca-Cola 600. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a NASCAR spokesman told NBCSports.com Tuesday that there was no update on when the 2021 Voting Day would be scheduled or whether it would be held virtually.