In the ’60s and ’70s, racing drivers were lucky to walk away from the sport healthy or even walking. Many were not lucky enough to escape injury or death. Racing was a bloodsport at the time, and it was a spectacle in many ways because of the danger.
Mario Andretti, Richard Petty and A.J. Foyt were notable exceptions who enjoyed long careers in an era when not many drivers survived that long. But in today’s racing world with Safer Barriers and Hans Devices, there are more and more drivers hanging on until they get burned out or just don’t perform at their peak anymore.
Carl Edwards may just be a throwback with his confidence and swagger similar to the rough and tumble days of racing’s past. But he announced yesterday that he’s walking away while he still can, even though we are witnessing a period where racing has become relatively safe. However, it’s still a contact sport, as Edwards and others will tell you.
With the concussion injury Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered last year, many drivers seemed to take notice of the hidden toll that one too many hits can take. NASCAR and sports such as the NFL have been grappling with concussions and its effects on their respective sports for the last few years.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has affected many extreme athletes who suffer falls and hits to their head (with helmets on in most cases). This type of brain trauma can cause a build-up of an abnormal type of a protein called tau, which slowly kills brain cells.
The exact causes of CTE are still not fully understood so pro athletes in these sports have become much more aware of the risks they are putting themselves and their families in. Although, Edwards did not cite this specifically as the reason, he did mention that Dale Earnhardt Jr’s concussion last year was a factor in his decision.
Edwards’ decision to move on came as a shock to the racing community but ultimately it was a personal decision he wanted to make and we should all respect that.
NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France released a statement on Carl Edwards’ retirement:
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.
After 11 years and 28 race wins at Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards left to join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 and made the Chase in both of his years with JGR, finishing 4th in the points in his final year.
Edwards refused to use the word “retirement” in his announcement, leaving the door open to a possible return. He added that if he did decide to return that he would give Coach Gibbs a call.
Jeff Gordon walked away at the end of 2015 only to be called back to fill in for Dale Jr., but Edwards has other interests outside of racing, and may be interested in some broadcasting opportunities. One thing is for sure, he had a lot of opportunity and success in NASCAR during his career.
“I don’t have any intention going back to full-time racing,” Edwards said during his press conference. “But I know how things work… if it comes up and the right opportunity is there and it is the right thing, for sure I would entertain it.”
Daniel Suarez will step into the open seat left by Edwards at JGR, and become the first full-time Mexican-born driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Carl Edwards Fast Facts
– He is popular among fans for celebrating his wins by doing a backflip off his car.
– Ford ran several “Overactive Adrenaline Disorder” commercials in 2006 featuring a “young Carl” performing backflips in his baby crib, off of a couch, and off a doctors exam table.
– He won the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series championship and nearly won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, but lost by a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart.
– He is a first cousin once removed to fellow driver Ken Schrader, so he is often referred to as “Cousin Carl.”
– He recently revealed that his great-great-great grandfather is Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States.
– He has six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career wins, and 38 NASCAR XFINITY Series career wins (fourth most on the all-time list).
– He lead 6,136 NASCAR Cup Series laps and completed total of 127,758 laps in the series.