11 January 2017

Why Carl Edwards leaving NASCAR is such a stunner

I think it is safe to say that us NASCAR fans were not expecting to read a headline like this yesterday but as we will found earlier today, Carl Edwards has announced his retirement from NASCAR. Even a day after finding out the news, and even after hearing out his rationale, it still is surprising to me and here is why.

First, here is what Edwards had to say about his decision:

Naturally with such a decision, you will get your fair share of cynics considering that Edwards is leaving at a relatively young age (37) and being at the top of his game after coming very close to winning the championship this past fall. Early suggestions that Edwards was leaving for a gig at either NBC or Fox proved to be for naught for now but even given that, something just doesn't seem to add up here.

But maybe everything that doesn't have to add up and perhaps that's a good thing. This is a sport not used to see early retirements and not used to seeing somebody stepping away at the top of his game. Perhaps we will see more earlier retirements in the wake of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s concussion that almost prematurely ended his career and perhaps Edwards could be a pioneer of sorts in that regard. As he noted earlier today, he wanted to leave the sport healthy.

Edwards never won a championship but he will be remembered as a tremendous driver, certainly a hard-charger on the track, and somebody who was as personable and charismatic as he also was intensely private. Unlike your usual driver, Edwards made his home not in the greater Charlotte area but rather in his hometown of Columbia, Missouri (a lovely town at that). He was somebody that handed out business cards while trying to get his nascent racing career off the ground and thrilled fans each and every time he executed his trademark back-flips after victories. And even as we may not be fully sure of his decision here, he won't be somebody that we won't forget anytime soon.

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