HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Carl Edwards knows there are people who won’t understand his decision to walk away from NASCAR in the prime of his career.
But to him, it’s relatively simple. He’s personally satisfied with his career, wants to devote more time to his family and desires to leave a dangerous sport with his health still intact.
In a 40-minute news conference Wednesday at Joe Gibbs Racing, Edwards appeared genuine and sincere in detailing his reasons for a shocking and sudden departure from full-time racing. He got choked up once, softly saying, “I just want to be a good person” as he fought back tears.
“I don’t have a life raft I’m jumping onto; I’m just jumping,” he said. “And in a way, that makes it easier. … This is a pure, simple, personal decision.”
Edwards shot down rumors he had an ulterior motive for stepping away, including angling for another NASCAR job in 2018. After several questions about it, he said bluntly: “This is not a money deal, guys.”
- James: Carl Edwards surprises again with retirement move
- Daniel Suarez's sudden promotion gives NASCAR a shot of diversity
- Carl Edwards isn't going to TV booth for NASCAR
He also reassured reporters the decision was not made due to poor health for himself or one of his family members. Health played a role, but it was only because he feels well after years of racing and wants to stay that way.
“Like anybody in a contact sport, I realize there might be long-term consequences to that stuff,” he said. “And that’s a piece of the puzzle.”
Edwards, 37, said he was not using the retirement word because there was a chance he could race again someday. He simply doesn’t know right now and doesn’t want to commit to being out of a car forever, he said.
But if he ever does decide to come back, the driver said Joe Gibbs would be the first person he’d call.
In late December, Edwards made his decision and approached Gibbs with the news. He said the team owner shook his hand and said, “I admire you for making a decision like this, and I’m going to go to work for you.”
Sponsors were informed and JGR scrambled to come up with a replacement plan: Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Xfinity Series championship and shared a sponsor — Arris — with Edwards.
Gibbs said it was a “total surprise” and there had been no previous indication Edwards’ decision was coming. “It was something Carl felt was very important to him,” he said.
So what will Edwards do now? He hasn’t figured that part out yet, he said. All he knew is that after last season, when he nearly won the championship but crashed on a late restart, is “if you add (the factors) up, it adds up to this.”
“This is the right thing,” he said. “Life is short, you’ve got to do what your gut tells you. I have a feeling I’ll find something.”
He later added: “Who knows what the future holds? If anybody has any ideas, I’m open.”
In a statement, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said Edwards left an "indelible mark on NASCAR."
"His hard-charging driving style has led to memorable moments that will live forever in the history of our sport," he said. "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.”
As for Suarez, who will compete for Rookie of the Year against former Xfinity teammate Erik Jones, he becomes the first Mexican-born driver to race full-time in the Cup Series. The 25-year-old said he couldn’t stop grinning after learning of the news.
“This is amazing,” he said. “It’s hard to believe I’m in this position. I know it won’t be easy. I have a lot to learn. But I’m sure it couldn’t happen in a better situation.”
Follow Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluck