NASCAR fan favorite Carl Edwards announced he’d be stepping away from full-time racing today, and made sure to note that he wanted to do so while he still has his health.“I don’t like how it feels, the hits that we take,” Edwards explained during today’s press conference.
“I’m still sharp,” Edwards noted early in the conference. Perhaps he was warding off any questions as to whether a specific incident or injury of his own influenced this decision. But Edwards, whose wife is a doctor, explained that the risks of continuing in the sport outweighed the benefits.
One of the biggest stories of 2016 was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recovery from yet another concussion. It was clear that the kinds of struggles Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other racers have had with concussions and other injuries factored into Edwards’ surprise decision to retire from the sport.
Edwards been competing full-time in NASCAR for eleven years, and gave a general answer that it was a culmination of things influenced him to quit. He wants to pursue other interests, like aviation and agriculture, and spend time with his family and the others in his life, but he also specifically cited Earnhardt’s crash.
“I think everyone in the sport paid attention to that,” Edwards noted of Earnhardt’s lengthy recovery. Edwards reiterated his support of Earnhardt during today’s press conference, who he considers a personal friend.
“As [NASCAR CEO] Brian France has said, it’s a contact sport...it’s part of what makes it fun,” Edwards said. “But you have to look at the risks. Fortunately because of all the work people have done, I can stand here healthy.”
Earnhardt’s very public recovery, which took him out of racing for the last half of 2016, brought the long-term effects of multiple hard hits over time to the front of everyone’s minds in racing. Combined with numerous headlines on former drivers and other athletes from contact sports developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy—a degenerative disease of the brain—from these hard hits, the less obvious risks of “the big one” became harder to ignore.