HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Carl Edwards will leave Joe Gibbs Racing effective immediately without regrets and while he’s still healthy.
He announced his decision on Wednesday, saying he has no plans to race again, but he said he wouldn’t use the word “retirement.”
Edwards said the timing was right to retire now — that he is satisfied with his career and the schedule is grueling.
Edwards said Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s battle with concussions did affect his decision.
“I need to take that time right now and devote it to people that are important to me. … Those [health] risks are something that I want to minimize,” Edwards said.
Edwards will be replaced by Daniel Suarez, the first full-time Mexican-born driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The 37-year-old Edwards spent the past two years at JGR and had one year remaining on his deal.
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France issued a statement after Edwards’ announcement.
“Carl Edwards has made an indelible mark on NASCAR,” he said. “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.”
Edwards had a shot at the championship in each of the past two years. He failed to make the championship round in 2015, when rain shortened the race at Phoenix. He was one of the four finalists in 2016 and was leading the championship contenders when trying to block on a restart with 10 laps remaining in the finale at Homestead.
He won 28 races in 445 career starts, including three times in 2016. He spent the bulk of his career at Roush Fenway Racing, where he replaced Jeff Burton in the No. 99 car in the 2004 season and quickly climbed up the NASCAR ladder.
He finished second in the standings in 2008 and again in 2011, when he engaged in an epic battle with Tony Stewart. Stewart’s five wins — including a victory at Homestead where Stewart and Edwards went 1-2 — earned him the championship over the one-win Edwards.
Edwards never missed a Cup race because of injury and was among the best-fit athletes in racing. He reiterated he is healthy, but he understands the long-term health risks of racing. He added that everyone in his family is healthy.
He stressed that he did not make this decision to move to another team.
“If I am going to get back in a race car, I’m calling Coach [Joe] Gibbs first,” he said. “There is no better race team.”