Opinion: Edwards Left His Mark
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on January 11, 2017 | 1:30 P.M. EST
Edwards' 28 career wins ties him for 23rd all-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. (Photo: Getty Images)
As athletes stepping away from their respective sport press conferences go, Carl Edwards turned in a memorable one on Wednesday.
Heartfelt, poignant, emotional, honest and sincere are just a few words to describe how Edwards conveyed his thoughts on why he made the decision to walk away.
“I just want to be a good person,” Edwards said at one point of the press conference choking back tears.
The news Edwards would leave Joe Gibbs Racing in the final year of his contract and stop his full-time driving career shocked the racing world when it broke Tuesday morning. But all the speculation about health problems, chemistry issues inside the race team, a television career or driving for another race team were unfounded.
For Edwards it was simply time to find something else to do with his life.
Be honest. Isn’t what Edwards is doing the dream for 99.9 percent of us? The opportunity to stop working at a relatively young age (like 37 for Edwards) to spend more time with family and friends while pursuing other interests sounds like the first wish many would ask a genie out of a bottle to grant.
It’s the equivalent of winning the lotto and in many ways Edwards did hit the jackpot. He was a local racer that followed his dream through seemingly impossible odds to make it to the sport’s pinnacle. Edwards won 28 times during his Cup career (26th on the all-time list), has victories in the Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600 and claimed an XFINITY Series title as well.
He came close to the Cup championship twice finishing second but even without that crown on his resume many believe Edwards will make it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
So while there are still some who don’t understand why still at the zenith of his career Edwards would choose to ride off into the sunset at least for now, he’s at peace with the decision.
But Edwards touched on a subject during his remarks that resonated as a common thread to other recent departures from NASCAR; the length and grueling nature of the sport.
“I'm not going to get any sympathy from anyone in the room, but this is an all encompassing thing,” Edwards explained. “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. 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.”
Edwards is right to address upfront anyone who earns a living to support themselves and a family won’t have too much sympathy for a superstar athlete that made millions of dollars during his career expressing exhaustion.
But he makes a valid point and one others have alluded to recently.
Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Brian Scott have all stepped away from NASCAR over the last two seasons and each expressed thoughts on the grind, travel and away from family time the sport demands in their decision.
There has been much discussion in recent weeks about tightening up weekend schedules, changing race formats and adding midweek races to potentially shorten the season in an effort to generate more attention. Perhaps the burnout factor is something more to consider when star drivers reach their breaking point.
The sport will go on as drivers come and go; always has and always will.
However, in the short term, NASCAR racing will miss the personable and engaging presence of Carl Edwards.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.