The NASCAR world was shocked Tuesday when reports revealed Carl Edwards wouldn't race in 2017. Edwards, 37, confirmed the news Wednesday in a press conference, saying he has no plans to race again but avoiding the word "retirement."
Edwards did say Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s battle with concussions affected Edwards' decision to step away from NASCAR. Earnhardt, who has suffered several concussions throughout his racing career, was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season. Even weeks after his June concussion, Earnhardt was having issues with his balance and vision.
"It's a risky sport. I'm aware of the risks," said Edwards, who stressed that he is 100 percent healthy. "I don't like how it feels to take the hits that we take, and I'm a sharp guy, and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years. So those risks are something that I want to minimize.
"I think everyone in the sport paid attention to [Earnhardt's concussion in 2016], and I have a lot of respect for [Dale] and whatever decision he makes. I believe people have a right to choose what they think is best, and, yeah, I thought that took a lot for him to do that, and I have a lot of admiration for him."
While he is satisfied with his career — 28 race wins — Edwards says the grind of the NASCAR schedule left him little time to focus on other things he cares about.
"You guys, we do this, and it's full‑time. And not just the physical time, but I wake up in the morning thinking about racing," he said. "I think about it all day. I go to bed thinking about it. And I have dreams about racing. And that's just how it is.
"I've been doing that for 20 years, and I need to take that time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me, things I'm really passionate about."
The outgoing Edwards also owns 22 poles, 124 top fives and 220 top 10s in 445 starts, though he never has claimed an outright title on NASCAR's top series since he broke in in 2004. He and Tony Stewart tied for the championship in 2011, but Stewart won the title in a tiebreaker.
Edwards came close to winning the championship in 2016 but crashed out while running up front at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November after a restart with 10 laps to go. Jimmie Johnson won the race to claim his seventh Sprint Cup Series title.
NASCAR chairman Brian France issued the following statement on Edwards:
“Carl Edwards has made 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. 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.”
Reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez will replace Edwards in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 19 Cup Series Toyota.