Carl Edwards walked away from motorsports following a crash while racing for the championship at Homestead in 2016.
Like everyone else in the motorsports community, coach Joe Gibbs also doesn’t understand why Carl Edwards chose to walk away from racing following the conclusion of the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
In the two-plus years since his shocking departure, there is still a driver carousel spinning as a result of the 28-race winner choosing to step away from job security, a huge contract and an annual chance to compete for a championship.
While speaking to Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Dale Jr. Download podcast, it’s a turn of events that Gibbs never expected to happen.
“I would have to say that conversation might have been (in) my top five as far as shocks for me in life,” Gibbs said. “They said, ‘Hey, Carl’s outside.’ It was after the season. I figured he was going to come in and wish me a happy offseason and good Christmas.”
Instead, he walked in the office, sat down and said, “Joe, I think I made up my mind. I’m going to step out of racing.”
“I was sitting there and I go, ‘You do realize that every young guy your age wants to drive a race car and make a ton of money? Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?'” he said of his conversation with his driver.
And in the 2.5 years since this development, Gibbs still hasn’t been made aware of the reasons that played into Edwards’ decision.
“Never really ever really got to them,” Gibbs said. “He said, ‘I’m not going to share with you. I’m not going to share with anybody the real bottom lines,’ … I will say this right now, I feel good about it from the standpoint, we still talk every now and then. Last time I called him he was on his boat in the Bahamas. I said, ‘Well, you’re doing pretty good.'”
The consequences of that decision are still apparent throughout the garage. Martin Truex Jr. now drives the No. 19 Edwards gave up following a two-year stint in which Daniel Suarez was unexpectedly promoted to the highest level of the sport.
Suarez, now at Stewart-Haas Racing, was expected to be a long-term piece of the Gibbs puzzle.
The four-car Gibbs stable currently holds Truex, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones, but there are more challenges ahead with Christopher Bell very much looking like a Cup Series caliber driver in his second full-time Xfinity season.
“That’s one of the challenges you’ve got, particularly in bringing along young guys,” Gibbs said. “It’s happened to us before, and man, you get caught up in that. What’s the right decision? There are options there. We’re kind of considering everything. You’re trying to work your way through them. Of course, what we just talked about, the sponsor — how does the sponsor fit in all that? It gets to be really complicated.”
But not as complicated as trying to figure out what to do with the No. 19 in the aftermath of Edwards departure. That will remain one of NASCAR’s unsolved mysteries for the foreseeable future.
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