Carl Edwards retires from NASCAR prior to 2017 season

After compiling five wins over the last two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, Edwards will give up his ride to Daniel Suarez as he steps away from the sport

Sam Sharpe—USA Today Sports
NASCAR driver Carl Edwards announces his retirement during a press conference at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters.

Coming off a season where he was a few laps away from the first championship of his career, Carl Edwards announced Wednesday he will step away from the sport prior to the 2017 season.Edwards finished inside the top five in the final standings for the sixth time in his 12 seasons at the premier series level. In just two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, Edwards compiled five wins and never finished worse than fifth in the Chase standings.”I’m stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series,” Edwards said in a press conference at Joe Gibbs Racing’s headquarters in Huntersville, N.C. “[…] This is the most scared I’ve been about anything.”Edwards exiting the No. 19 car opens up a spot for Daniel Suarez. Last season, the 25-year-old driver became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR title when he triumphed in the Xfinity Series.While Erik Jones, 20, was probably next in line for a bump up to the Monster Energy Cup Series, the move makes sense from a business standpoint. Suarez has driven with an Arris sponsorship over the last two years, a company that also sponsors the No. 19 car in the top series. Jones’ big shot might not be far off with Matt Kenseth set to turn 45 in April.As for Edwards, coming to terms with leaving the sport where he’s been one of the most consistent drivers for more than a decade was not easy.”This has been a very difficult decision for me but I’m confident that it is the right one,” Edwards said. “I could not have a better situation in racing than the one I currently have, so stepping away from that certainly took a lot of consideration.”In a sport where drivers age out around 45 years old and some go beyond 50, Edwards’ departure is a shocker for the NASCAR community. With so much success for both JGR and Toyota over the last two seasons, losing Edwards will only ratchet up the pressure on Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. moving forward.Edwards retires from the sport with 28 race victories, 22 poles, 124 top fives and 220 top 10s in 445 starts. Much of those statistics came as a driver with Roush Fenway Racing, as Edwards never missed a race in 12 seasons (10 with Roush, two with JGR).”I’m satisfied with my career and my accomplishments,” Edwards said. “I’m happy to be able to walk away from the sport fully healthy. I just believe that it’s hard to start the next chapter in your life until I close this one.”