To this day, Carl Edwards’ retirement stands as one of the oddest moments in NASCAR silly season history. A driver in his prime running the best equipment in the sport just suddenly walked away — literally out of nowhere. Joe Gibbs recalled the strange sequence with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his podcast this week.
“I would have to say that conversation might have been in my top five as far as shocks for me in life,” Gibbs said on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download. “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.”
Edwards walked in 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?”
The move forced Gibbs to put Daniel Suarez in his No. 19 car immediately — probably a year too soon looking back on things. Erik Jones had already been set up with Furniture Row Racing in their No. 77 entry alongside of Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 78. A few years later, the organization cut ties with Suarez to make room for Truex after Furniture Row’s shutdown following the 2018 season.
Suarez landed with Stewart-Haas Racing and Erik Jones remains with Joe Gibbs Racing. Now, Gibbs has another situation on his hands as he tries to find room for top prospect Christopher Bell at the Cup level.
As for Carl Edwards, Gibbs is still unsure as to why he stepped away when he did.
“Never really ever really got to the reasons,” 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.”
Edwards is constantly connected to the NASCAR rumor mill, even to this day. But after listening to Gibbs, Edwards seems pretty cut off from the NASCAR world with no real intention of returning.
Edwards is still just 39 years old. He tallied 28 wins at NASCAR’s highest level, adding 38 Xfinity Series wins and six truck series wins over his career.
Maybe he’ll tell his full story one day. Until then, we’re all left to wonder what happened — Joe Gibbs included.