by Bob Priddy
(NASCAR)—Former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards of Columbia would not use the word “retire” when he left racing at the end of the 2016 season but that’s what he is today and he’s happy with it. He could not be lured away from his Columbia home and his mid-Missouri farming activities—among other things he has been doing since putting away the helmet—when offered a chance to race again with a top-rank team.
Chip Ganassi Racing had contacted Edwards about replacing Kyle Larson, who was fired after using a racial slur in a nationally-broadcast computer simulation race a couple of weeks ago. But Edwards, who said he was satisfied with his career when he left, still is.
Ganassi is bringing former NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth out of retirement to drive Larson’s car for the rest of the year. Kenseth, a former Edwards teammate, left racing in 2017. Sponsors of the car Larson had driven, who pulled their support after Larson’s inappropriate language, will return to the car now that Kenseth has signed.
NASCAR’s season is on hold after just four races. The series hopes to resume in the buildup for the race at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend.
What has Edwards been doing since not retiring? A lot of things but there is one thing he is not interested in getting into right now. Politics. Although he thought about getting into that arena as he pondered life after racing, he now calls politics “the most dangerous thing you could do with your life” right now.
He’s one of the nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year. A few days ago he talked with Fox Sports’ Shannon Spake about that honor and his life away from racing.
Edwards surprised the racing world, especially his steam owner Joe Gibbs, by announcing his new status just a few weeks before the 2017 Daytona 500, saying, “I am truly personally satisfied with my career.”
“I feel accomplished. I know when I sit in that racecar I’m the best I can be. I’m really satisfied with that. Second, this is an all-encompassing thing. I need to take time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me. The third reason is my health. I can stand here healthy after all the racing I’ve done and all the stupid stuff I’ve done in racecars. “I’m a sharp guy and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years. Those risks are something I want to minimize.
“I’m 100% healthy but it’s a risky sport and I am aware of the current consensus – like anybody in a contact sport, I realize that there might be long-term consequences to that stuff and that’s a piece of the puzzle. But there are multiple parts to it. If I put those things together, the timing for me to do this is now.”
When some questioned why he would leave without a championship, Edwards said “It was never about the trophies.” In fact, he gave away his trophies, usually to people with disabilities—including the trophy for the only race that he won at Daytona.
Edwards competed for thirteen seasons in NASCAR’s top series, twelve as a full-time driver. He compiled 29 wins and most observers felt he had more to get when he left at the age of 37. He was the runnerup for the championship twice and was leading in the 2016 championship race when a crash while defending his track position ended his shot at the title.