Carl Edwards

Retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards is one of three first timers and the second Missourian on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.

Edwards, from Columbia, and Larry Phillips of Springfield are among ten nominees from the modern era this year. Five other people are nominated as NASCAR Pioneers. Two nominees from the modern era and one pioneer will constitute this year’s class.

Joining Edwards as a first-time nominee are Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Previous nominees on the list are Phillips, the only man who win five national championships in NASCAR’s Weekly Series, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Ricky Rudd, Kirk Shelmerdine, Mike Stefanik and Harry Hyde.

Phillips, who has been on the ballot each year since 2013, had seven regional championships and thirteen track championships, to go with his five national titles. He died in 2004 at the age of 62.

Nominees can stay on the ballot for ten years.

The committee that will pick the three honorees this year is scheduled to meet at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N. C., on May 20.

Of the three first-time nominees, Edwards has the most Cup victories—28. Earnhardt had 25 and Burton had 21. Neither of the three won a Cup championship although Edwards finished in a points tie with Tony Stewart in 2011 but was ranked second because Stewart won more races during the year. He also finished second in the points in 2008 and crashed out of the lead in the closing laps of the championship race in 2017 and two months later surprised most people in the industry by retiring.

His most dominating season was 2008 when he won one-fourth of the races and was in the top ten 27 of 36 times.

While Burton and Earnhardt have remained visible, largely through their television race day broadcasts, Edwards has seldom appeared in public. He always guarded his private life, and continued to make Columbia his home. He has never revealed the reason for his sudden decision to step out of a race car. (Edwards was not known for “stepping out” of his car when he won a race. His trademark back-flip from his car’s window after each victory was a trademark move no other big-time driver has tried to emulate.)

When he left the sport—he said he was “stepping away,” but never used the word “retired,” he said he was “personally satisfied” with his career, but the time commitment required was grueling. He said he was “100 percent healthy” and wanted to stay that way.

Edwards raced in NASCAR’s top series for thirteen years. In addition to his 28 wins in 445 races, he racked up 124 top-five finishes and was in the top ten 220 times. He never failed to qualify for a Cup race and started from the pole 22 times..

He won what was then called the Busch Championship in 2007, posted 38 wins in 245 races in that series, finished in the top five 130 times and was a top ten finisher 174 times. He was the pole sitter in 28 races.

Edwards ran at local tracks in mid-Missouri, handing out business cards, before catching the eye of NASCAR owner Jack Roush who gave him his first break driving in NASCAR’s pickup truck series. In two full-time seasons in that series, Edwards rang up six wins in fifty races, was in the top five 22 times and in the top ten 32 times.

Although Edwards never won the Daytona 500, he did win the million-dollar All-Star race at Charlotte in 2011 and won the sport’s longest race, 600 miles, in 2015.. His luck was never good at the super-speedway restrictor plate races. He was close to a win at Talladega when Brad Keselowski sent his car into a scary, flying, crash near the start finish line in 2009 when Edwards tried to keep Keselowski from passing him. Edwards climbed from the wreckage of his car and sprinted to the finish line. But his car was considered a 24th place finisher.

But he won at every other kind of track. He posted a road race win at Sonoma, California in 2014. Four of his wins came on the fast mile-and-a-half track at Texas. Four more came at NASCAR’s greatest short track, at Bristol.