Carl Edwards Q&A on his retirement
Anyway, so I am, I'm stepping away from full‑time driving in the Cup Series. And I'm not taking any questions, so thanks for coming. No, I'm just joking.
I think I owe it to you guys, and I'd like to share my reasoning and then allow you guys to ask some questions and talk about this. But before I get to my reasons, I'd like to just talk a little bit about my career and things that are important to me. I want to say, first of all, this is about the most scared I've ever been about something, just talking about this and going through this whole process, so bear with me on that.
I've been racing for over 20 years. It's been something that I wouldn't trade for anything. I have no regrets. It's been a blast, and I owe thanks to a lot of people. My family, my mom, my dad, and all the people who have become like family through racing, from Capital Speedway in Holts Summit, Missouri, all the way to Daytona, and Mike Helton and Lesa and Brian France and everybody at the top of the sport, and I've had so much fun meeting everyone, had so much fun driving.
I mean, guys, there is nothing I love more than driving down a corner at 190 miles an hour sideways next to the best drivers in the world, and so yeah, my competitors. You guys are amazing. You can be jerks sometimes, but let's be honest, I can be a jerk, too.
To all my crew members and team members and the people who have built these cars and worked on these things, and Jason Hedlesky, my spotter and Randy Fuller and Dave Rogers, who's become one of my best friends, the team owners I've driven for, Mike Mittler, Jack Roush, Coach Gibbs, there are no better men on earth, and I'm glad to have been around them and to see how they do things and to have been a part of that. And without racing, I wouldn't have been able to do any of that.
So the fans: The fans have been spectacular. Jack Roush said, We could all go do all this and race around a field with nobody watching but that wouldn't be any fun. The fans are what make this great. My buddy, the late great Bob Healy, used to say, The world is all screwed up because all the people that are qualified to fix it are busy messing with cars, and I think that sums it up. There's some really great people in the sport.
And the media, thank you guys. I know when I first came in the sport, all you did was write nice things about me and I thought that's how it was always going to be, and I really appreciated it and I thanked you, but then we went through some down times, and now we're good again.
If any of you are planning on writing bad stuff, you don't get the free Subway on the way out. So just let that be known.
So we get to the reasons. Why would I step away from all of that? And the reasons are pretty straightforward. There are three of them. Number one, I am truly, I am personally satisfied with my career, and I know right now you're thinking, well, you don't have a championship. Well, Jimmie [Johnson] has got some extras if he wants to send one my way, but truly, you guys know that I don't race just for the trophies. This has always been a really ‑‑ this has been a neat journey for me and it's always been something that I've been rewarded by the challenges, and there's some race car drivers sitting here, Ricky, and you know how it is. It's scary in so many ways to go racing. I mean, initially, first time I stepped on the throttle of my dad's race car, I mean, I thought I was the greatest driver ever, and about a half second later I pulled my foot right off, and I couldn't get it to go back down, and I thought, man, this is going to be tough. So you go from that to working up the courage to ask people to drive a car to being put in situations where you know if you drive well and you win, you get sponsorship and everything works.
Going through that whole process and becoming a better person, a stronger person, a better competitor, a better teammate, a better friend to people, that's a big deal to me, and I feel accomplished.
And I know when I sit in that race car that I am the best race car driver I can be. So whether or not I have a championship, I'm really satisfied with that.
So that's a long‑winded version one. And remember, I am long‑winded. I'm saving you like a whole year of this stuff by doing it this way.
Second reason is that ‑‑ and I'm not going to get any sympathy from anyone in the room, but this is an all‑encompassing thing. 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. 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.
And the third reason is my health. I can stand here healthy, and that's a testament after all the racing I've done and all the stupid stuff I've done in a race car, that is a true testament to NASCAR, to the tracks, to the people who have built my race cars, to my competitors, and to the drivers who have come before me who haven't been so fortunate.
Having said that, though, it's a risky sport. I'm aware of the risks. 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.
Now, if I put those three things together, that brings us to the timing of this. Slight shock, I know. I keep thinking about that scene from "Forrest Gump" where he stops running. Everybody is like, what? If I put those three things together, the timing for me to do this is now, and that's where Coach Gibbs comes in. I don't know if Coach is in here.
Thank you for allowing me to do this. This is a personal decision.
If I wanted to race next year, I know ‑‑ I've heard, I shut my phone off, but I've heard people think I'm going somewhere else or doing something else. If I'm going to get back in a race car, which I'm not saying the R word here, I've see how that's worked out for guys, but if I'm going to get back in a race car, I'm calling Coach Gibbs first. There is no better race team. There is no faster car than a Toyota Camry. There's no better engine. There's no better crew chief than Dave Rogers. There's no better crew. And I'm going to race here.
So thank you. When I walked into his office and said, Hey, Coach, this is something that's important to me; is this possible? I've told him this, I looked at ‑‑ made sure to check which hand the ring was on because I thought it was coming, and instead, he stuck out his hand in a much different way, and he said, I admire you for being able to make a decision like this, and I'm going to go to work for you, and that's the type of person Joe Gibbs is. That's the type of organization this is. I cannot thank him enough.
So those are my reasons. I'm satisfied with my career. I'd like to spend time on other things outside of it, and my health is important to me. I am healthy. Everybody texted me yesterday ‑‑ yeah, I'm great, and all the people close to me are healthy. I appreciate are those concerns, but that's not an issue.
Do you guys have any questions at all?
Q: What does the next chapter look like for Carl Edwards, and in this past year you took some pretty major hits on the racetrack. Did you have any concussions or anything that might have put you more closer to the decision that you've made today?
CARL EDWARDS: Okay, so the first question, I have a lot of interests outside of racing. I've really enjoyed ‑‑ there's a lot of aviation stuff, a lot of ‑‑ the agriculture thing has been great, but I love the sport, and I think as much as I can, we've got some really exciting things we're going to talk about coming up later, I'd really like to be a part of this and be close to it, and there's no telling what we can do together, Coach Gibbs and I going forward. I don't have anything solid yet. I've really enjoyed the broadcasting stuff. I'd be really open to any of that stuff. I used to think that that would be no fun, but the more I've watched, and I've watched how much fun people are having with it, and yeah, that could be something that's neat.
And then what was the other part of your question?
Q: Did you suffer any concussions last year throughout the course of the ‑‑
CARL EDWARDS: So like I said, I'm 100 percent healthy. But I am aware that there's ‑‑ this is a risky sport, put on a helmet and firesuit to go race. And I am aware of the current consensus that, like any ‑‑ let me say it this way: 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. That's a part of the factor. But there are multiple parts to it.
Q: Carl, when did this hit you? There's been a lot of talk, obviously, that it was December 21st or something. You don't talk a lot about your family, but people are talking about your family being part of this, and certainly you have kids at home and a wife, and also, any thought about running for public office, which is something people are talking about you being the governor of your state down the road?
CARL EDWARDS: Okay, so I do have ‑‑ what was the first part again?
CARL EDWARDS: Okay, so yeah, like I said, you guys know I'm a private person. I am, and I value that. I think it's important. But like I said, the time that this takes ‑‑ I'll say this: That I want to be able to spend time on things outside of the sport that are important to me. And I really think it's the right thing to do. As confusing as this whole thing might be to people ‑‑ this might not make sense to people. That's the risk you take with something like this. I have to be honest, it makes you nervous to think ‑‑ for me to do something like this and wonder if everybody understands or not, but really, that's part of the ‑‑ what I talked about earlier, about growing as a person and the things the sport has taught me.
Anyway, I'm getting long‑winded. But yeah, I'm excited to be able to spend time on things outside of the sport, yeah.
Q: When did you come to this decision?
CARL EDWARDS: So I had been thinking what I thought was a reasonable amount about how this would end. I always think about things going forward. And in my mind, I'd considered next year being my final year, but I hadn't put really a lot of thought into it. And after Homestead, I had some time to sit, think and reflect about all of this, and for those three reasons that I gave you, I thought, man, it just ‑‑ I can't come up with a good reason why now isn't a good time.
And so I presented that to Coach. I didn't know what he would say, and like I said, he and the sponsors ‑‑ I mean, everyone, accommodated me in a way I just didn't expect, and that means a lot.
Okay, so I do have really strong feelings about our country and what it means, what America is about, and the principles that keep us free and safe from the biggest risks in history. And so I don't know if I'm ‑‑ I'm not prepared right now to participate in any public office or anything, but I am very open to helping that cause and helping the cause of liberty and freedom and what it is that America is about.
Q: Carl, was there a defining moment that served as a catalyst for all this?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a very interesting question. Sorry, it'll be an interesting answer. I hope you'll bear with me on it. There are times ‑‑ the people close to me know that I follow my gut, and as an analytical as I am and as much as I wear people out about the details, Coach can attest to that, I do, I follow my gut, and sometimes I just ‑‑ I just gather what's around me, and I say, look, if all signs point to this, then that's what I need to do. That's what got me here in the first place.
The way everybody looked at me when I announced I'm doing this is the same way people looked at me 20 years ago when I said, Hey, I'm going to drive a race car for a living, like you're crazy. Literally people laughed at me.
But that same way of thinking applies now. I really believe it's the right thing. It's a personal thing. I feel strongly about it. I'm very confident in it. And so no, there was not one thing. Just a series of those things over time. I'm sure it's the right direction for my life.
Q: Carl, you've repeatedly said you're walking away from full‑time racing. Could there be other races?
CARL EDWARDS: Absolutely. I don't know what ‑‑ what I'm doing right now, and I hope you guys will accept this because I know it's hard for ‑‑ Coach and I have had these talks. I don't have any intention of going back to full‑time racing. I don't have a plan to drive a race car right now.
But I know enough about ‑‑ I just know how things work, and if it comes up and the right opportunity is there and at that moment, it's the right thing, then for sure I'd entertain it. But like I said, the first person I'd talk to is Coach.
Q: And losing the championship the way you did, the inevitable sting that had to come from that, might things have been different if you'd won the championship?
CARL EDWARDS: It's a good question. In a lot of ways, I think it ‑‑ I don't want to start, but I don't know, I'll say that. I mean, who knows. It might have made it easier.
Let me tell you about Homestead, though. I'm glad you brought that up. With 30 laps to go, 40 laps to go, 30 laps to go, 20 laps to go, that's what I live for. I mean, that is it. That is racing to me. I mean, Dave and I had worked all year to be in that moment, to pass ‑‑ that battle with Jimmie, and then to be able to pass Joey and Kyle for the ultimate prize, driving just as hard as I could, and to be in that position and to know that day we were getting it done, I mean, literally that's what I live for, and that part of Homestead, for me personally, I won. I mean, that's what it's about. And the outcome obviously I wasn't happy with, and that's frustrating and everything, but I feel really good about that.
Q: Over the years compared to when you came in, has the enjoyment factor of racing, has the fun factor diminished for you and did that play any part of wanting to do something else?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I've always liked the adventure of things. I do. When you asked about what I've got in store in the future, there are a lot of things I'd like to do. But yeah, to get back to your question, I like a new challenge. I like something that fully takes all of my attention. And I think anybody can tell you that a career that's lasted this long in any sport, you know, it becomes less of a challenge, and you get a little bit less of that.
But look, I've raced at least, I think, almost 1,000 NASCAR races. I ran the XFINITY and the Cup Series full‑time for seven years, and what I said at the beginning is absolutely true; I don't regret one bit of it. If I go forward, would it be as exciting and all that as it has been? I'm not sure. So yeah, there's a part of that.
Q: During banquet week, you said, I will appreciate the championship we win more because of it. So how do you get from that to where you are today?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know who was interviewing me there, but I got to Champions Week and I had a lot on my mind, and I just kind of felt ‑‑ it kind of took me off guard to start talking about it again. I hadn't talked about it with anyone. But yeah, I'm not going to say this whole thing was easy or clean or perfect. I mean, this isn't the ‑‑ there was no epiphany moment. That has been something I really thought a lot about, and it wasn't easy. Pardon me if I went back and forth a little bit about it.
Q: Carl, you've talked a little bit about this. You made it a point to do everything in your power to spend time with your family, from staying in Missouri, flying back and forth. That's been an important part to you. Then you also talk about how passionate you are when you get involved in something, you like to go all in on it. Are you trading one passion for something else, and the time spent with family and other things is not going to be much different, not going to be impacted by that, or do you feel like you're going to be able to spend more time with them? Are you going to be doing other things that are still going to impact how much ‑‑
CARL EDWARDS: Are you saying right now am I going to go jump into the 2020 Presidential race or something crazy? No, hell no. No, I'm going to take some time. That's one of the beauties about this decision. I don't have a ‑‑ there's no life raft I'm jumping onto. I'm just jumping. And in a way, it makes it easier, because I'm not being swayed by some carrot out here, something going on. There is no new manufacturer ride coming in in three years that they're paying me a fortune for. There is nothing like that.
This is a pure, simple, personal decision, and for that I'm grateful.
Q: And also, recent retirements, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart. Did that have any impact? Did you look at that at all, and did that kind of get the thing started for you?
CARL EDWARDS: I'll tell you something: I learned a lot from my competitors, truly. That's one of the only things I wish I would have done a little better and hope I still can is spent more time with those guys. It's such a ‑‑ it's an interesting relationship because we're competing against each other so hard but there's so many things we can learn from one another, and as I've become closer with a lot of these guys, I think there is more to learn from one another.
But it's a long‑winded thing to say, but there was nothing really particular about any of those. This is my decision, and it's something that I made on my own.
And I want to say one other thing about my teammates. I don't know if Denny is up yet, so he might not see this (laughter), but they're awesome, guys. My teammates are amazing. I've heard people say ‑‑ somebody said, well, does he get along with his teammates? Guys, I have the best teammates in the sport. They're great. I mean, and I have not always been the best teammate. I have been a self‑centered jerk at times. I know that. That's been pointed out to me by multiple teammates.
But they have made me better, and I'm better because of them. So yeah, I just want to make sure I thank them.
Q: Carl, since word broke yesterday, a lot of the folks in this room have written a lot of flattering articles about your character ‑‑
CARL EDWARDS: I haven't read them.
Q: ‑‑ that's been displayed over the years, and Nate had a quote that said, you've always lived your life by the Midwestern mentality: Pretty simple, do your job, do your work, be kind to people and your reputation will follow. So as you look back on your career and a lot of the things, I am thinking about you specifically going to the 22 pit box after the incident in Homestead, you talk a lot about just wanting to do the right thing. Are you focused on that, or are you aware of yourself as a role model and how you're perceived by others?
CARL EDWARDS: Man, I don't know. It's very flattering. Yeah, I just (tearing up) ‑‑ yeah, I just want to be a good person, you know. Sorry, guys. Damn camera shutters are killing me there. It's the lighting, it's awful.
I'm sorry, it's just nice of you to say, and I just think about the ‑‑ it's important to me to be ‑‑ to do the right thing. I do not always do the right thing, and just like anyone, there are things I wish I could do over, and that's that. Okay.
Q: You referenced as your third item your health. How much of watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. go through a really, really long recovery period for a very serious concussion have an impact on your thought, or did it?
CARL EDWARDS: I think everyone paid attention to that, and I'm telling you, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a hell of a guy. He's a guy that I look up to. We've had our differences, but he's never shied away from telling me exactly how he feels. I think everyone in the sport paid attention to that, and I have a lot of respect for him and whatever decision he makes, I back him. I man, I run that Gadsden flag on my car because 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.
Q: But how about for you personally?
CARL EDWARDS: So yeah, I looked at that. But like anyone in a contact sport today ‑‑ like Brian France said, this is a contact sport. That's part of what makes it so much fun. You have to look at the risks, and fortunately, because of all the work that people have done, I can stand here 100 percent healthy, and 15 years ago, 20 years ago, I don't know if that was possible.
But yeah, like I said, that's one of the factors of my decision.
Q: Carl, I'm a little confused here. You talked earlier about what you live for, and you talked about 40 laps to go, 30 laps to go, 20 laps to go at Homestead, and this is something you've done all your life. You've been programmed to do this. I think the confusion is what else is there that you live for that gives you a similar type of sensation that you are no longer going to have on the track? I mean, is it Farmer Carl? What is it about you or what is it that you're looking forward to that's going to provide that, to fill in that gap to some degree?
CARL EDWARDS: So I hope you'll accept that I just ‑‑ I don't really have that all figured out yet, and to me that's okay. I'm at peace with that. I know if I lay out those three reasons that I listed, if you put those together, you add them up, it adds up to this. This is the right thing.
You know, not to ‑‑ I mean, life is short. You've got to do what your gut tells you. And I have a feeling I'll find something. If I don't make Coach too mad, if I don't, maybe he'll have me back.
Q: Two‑part question, kind of following up on that. I just want to clarify, I know you said there is no manufacturer out there that has offered you some ungodly sum of money, so just to put on the record, you have not had contact with any other manufacturer or any other teams about the future?
CARL EDWARDS: So no, I have had no ‑‑ this is not a decision because I have something else lined up or the desire to go line something up. I can't tell you that while my phone has been off I haven't got some offers or something crazy in there. I don't know. But I am not entertaining and have not contemplated anything else like that. Nothing.
Q: And then to follow up on what you're saying about Coach Joe will be your first call if you decide you want to come back and race, what do you think his response would be to that, because obviously ‑‑ I don't know, to use a famous NASCAR team owner expression, I don't know if there's going to be a lot of room here at the inn for you going forward, so what happens if in '18 you decide you want to come back and you can't come back here?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, if there's one thing I've learned about Toyota, it's that Toyota makes sure that what they go do, they do well. We look at what Martin was able to do at Furniture Row, Barney Visser and those guys. I don't want to start down this path. That is not my plan. But I'd be open to anything that involved Coach Gibbs, Toyota, and the people that make this thing work right now. I mean, this is a cool deal.
Q: Last night Kenseth said he had no idea this was coming down ‑‑
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, he told me that, too.
Q: Did you talk to any of your peers or any of your teammates, and when you decided this moment, who was the first person you wanted to call and tell?
CARL EDWARDS: I think Matt was the first driver I talked to, and I woke him up. But yeah, I think it's important for me ‑‑ a number of drivers have reached out, and that means a lot, and if any of them want to talk to me about it or anything like that, I'd be glad to talk to them about it. I mean, nobody in particular, but like I said, I have a ton of respect for my competitors. I used to truly go with the idea that you show up at the racetrack with your own stuff and they're your enemies and you take your money home and don't worry about them. I've learned it's not like that. You can go out and compete and appreciate that competition and be respectful off the track, and I've learned that from my competitors.
I've got nothing but love for those guys and girls, and if there's anything I can do for them, I will.
Q: Events like this are a big part of a driver's career. How would you characterize Carl Edwards' relationship with the people in this room, with the media over the term of your career?
CARL EDWARDS: Okay, so from the beginning, racing for me was a struggle because we didn't have money to race. I understood the relationship between the media and the team and the drivers for that matter, and you guys deliver our sport to people. If I'm not at the track I will be reading your articles and watching your shows and ‑‑ I'm going to now be living ‑‑ being a part of the sport through you guys. But my point is without you guys, the sport doesn't get to the people, and I've always felt that way, and yeah, I mean, we've had ‑‑ I've had a lot of talks with a lot of you in the room, and we've been through a lot together. But I have a lot of respect for you guys, and I don't know ‑‑ I hope you guys feel the same.
Q: When a lot of us were trying to figure out why now, there may be some speculation or some thought, maybe you start trying to renegotiate an extension to stay here or maybe it was the caution flag that brought out that bunched everybody up at Homestead. Were there any frustrations or anything that you're like, man, this is just going to be ‑‑ I just don't want to do it anymore?
CARL EDWARDS: Right. So people say you're mad at NASCAR. It's like, well, not any more mad than I normally am at NASCAR. (Laughter.) No offense, Mike and everybody.
I mean, but let's ‑‑ the deal is that ‑‑ let me say this: As recently as Vegas, I sat down across the table at breakfast, just me and Brian France, and we had an unbelievable talk. There's never been more open communication between the drivers and NASCAR, and I can assure you of this: Lesa, Brian, Mike, Richard Buck, everybody, they want this sport to be the best it can be, just like all of us, and if there's anything I can do to help them, I'll be glad to do it. That answers part of it. I think there was another part you asked me.
Q: Had you started to ‑‑ had you talked about any sort of contract extension with Gibbs before ‑‑
CARL EDWARDS: No, this has nothing to do with any contract negotiations or anything like that. This is not a money deal, guys. Yeah, I like getting paid. That's great. But I mean, I've never ‑‑ it's never been, in my whole career, if I was looking for the sure bet to make a living, I would not have picked racing. So this isn't some sort of thing to negotiate more money.
Q: Carl, your fans on social media last night and yesterday were outpouring, emotional, said that they were sad and frustrated and some of them were angry, but they respected you and they understood that you made the decision to walk away. What's your legacy with your fan base, and what do you encourage them to do moving forward?
CARL EDWARDS: Okay, so when I started racing, there weren't a lot of fans. There weren't this many people at the racetrack usually (laughter), and so as it got going, early in my career with Jack when we were on fire and everything was great, and I thought, this is just how it is, people love you, and then I went through some years where it wasn't so good, and I'm not joking, the fans, I realized they were a part of my team, they were a part of what I do. I was at some racetrack and I was having a really bad day, I hadn't won a race for a year and a half or something, and someone came up to me with all their 99 gear on, and they said, "You are one of the best drivers in the garage. Don't you get down. I see you walking around like that. You need to go and kick everybody's butt." And I thought, huh, I needed that. I mean, it meant something. And so I've learned to really, really appreciate the fans.
And so that's cool. It does mean a lot. I do get a lot of people ask ‑‑ I felt like people were in the last day since Tom broke this, a lot of people were worried about my health and stuff like that, and that meant a lot people were actually concerned. That's really, really cool.
Q: Carl, there seems to be a lot of people who just find it hard to accept that you are in such a good position that you could still accomplish a whole lot, but when I first met you was when you came into the Truck Series and you were the guy who had been walking around with his business card just trying to get a job. From your perspective, is this more than you ever expected?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes. Yeah, I don't know how to explain it. I mean, it's literally like living a dream. I've lived a ‑‑ and yeah, it is. It's more than I've ever expected. I've accomplished more than I ever dreamed of accomplishing. I have the satisfaction that I don't know how to express, and it's because it's been such a challenge. You guys know how that is. You guys have all ‑‑ everybody in this room has worked hard at something and been nervous and insecure but kept digging and learned all those lessons, and then you get to a point where you're like, I've done this. This is great. That is way more than I ever expected. So yeah, I'm very satisfied with that.
Q: Carl, we've talked about the fans, we've talked about us, we've talked about the teammates. What's been the reaction at home to this?
CARL EDWARDS: I've had the most support ever. I am so fortunate. I think everything truly happens for a reason. I really do. And I think that early on in my career, I used to sit ‑‑ I remember sitting there being so upset and so frustrated because this is something I wanted so bad and it wasn't working and I struggled, just like anybody who's working at something hard. And now I look back on those times, and I realize that those are the times that the friendships were forged, that the people that I could depend on were apparent, and those people are still there for me. I mean, literally, I don't think they care if I'm standing on the podium with one of Jimmie's trophies or sitting in the tractor or anything. I think they're truly my friends, and their support has been unbelievable.
THE MODERATOR: Any closing remarks?
CARL EDWARDS: Just thank you guys. Thank you guys immensely. All of you. You guys have done so much for me. Who knows what the future holds. If anybody has any ideas, I'm open, and I'll see you guys around, and just have a great season.
I will be watching the Daytona 500. It's a very exciting what you guys have going on, what NASCAR has going on. I think the sport has a really bright future. The partnership with Monster is something that's really exciting. That's cool that they came on board, and just I hope everybody has a great year. Thank you, guys.
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