NASCAR driver Carl Edwards is retiring from the sport less than two months after nearly winning his first Cup championship, two people with knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Joe Gibbs Racing scheduled a pair of news conferences Wednesday in which Edwards is expected to announce that he is giving up the sport immediately and that reigning Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota. The two people spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the team and Edwards had not announced the move.
The 37-year-old Edwards informed team owner Joe Gibbs right before Christmas that he no longer wanted to compete, the people told AP, confirming a decision first reported by Fox Sports.
Edwards came oh-so-close to winning his first Cup championship in November’s season finale. He was leading all championship contenders with 10 laps remaining at Homestead-Miami Speedway until a caution set up a restart that bunched the field. Edwards tried to block Joey Logano’s attempt to take the lead, and it caused a crash that ended Edwards’ title bid.
Edwards’ actions after the accident — he walked from his wrecked car to the pit box for Logano and wished that team luck in the closing laps — were widely lauded. He also came close to a title in 2011, finishing second to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker.
Edwards’ retirement is a shock considering how many years he’d likely be competitive, and how close he came to winning the title. He is extremely private, is married to a doctor and has two young children that he steadfastly refuses to discuss in interviews. He also lives in his home state of Missouri, while most of NASCAR’s drivers live in North Carolina.
Edwards won three races in 2016 as Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the regular season and put two drivers in the final four. He spent 13 years in the Cup Series and has 28 career victories in 445 starts.
His backstory has always been one of local-driver-makes-it-big. He was a substitute teacher who handed out business cards at race tracks trying to get a shot at a NASCAR job. He landed one with Jack Roush and won the 2007 Xfinity Series title. Edwards was also the top rookie in 2003 in the truck series, and in 2005 in Xfinity.
Suarez, from Mexico, became the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR national series when he earned the Xfinity title last season. He will join Kyle Larson as the only two drivers from NASCAR’s diversity program to race at the top level.