Carl Edwards will announce tomorrow his intentions to step away from NASCAR. There were rumors that a high-profile driver was about to unexpectedly step away circulating for the past month or so, but it’s always surprising to see someone retire in their prime — ala Barry Sanders or Marshawn Lynch — without health issues.
Conjecturing can bring you many viable reasons for an “early retirement” (or at least a sabbatical).
One, 13 years is a long career in sports and, in racing specifically, there’s been discussion about how drivers don’t have to race into their 50s anymore because of the monetary compensation they are now afforded. Not to mention, drivers are generally starting at younger ages. And, for Carl specifically, that 13 years doesn’t include the time it took to climb to the peak series of the sport.
Secondly, more and more light is being shone on the long term hazards of racing, which — make no mistake — has never been mistaken as safe, even with the advancements over the years. Even Ernest Hemingway famously commented, “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”
In addition, Carl has a young family and I’ve heard others drivers mention the grind of the schedule and the probability of them having to make hard decisions as their kids reach school age. I hope that all is well for the members of his family, and it’s not a situation for one of them that has initiated this decision.
However, there is another angle to consider.
Carl is notoriously private and walks his own path. He kept his residence in Missouri instead of moving to North Carolina like 99% of the others involved in the industry. He shuns social media presence, and doesn’t like any mention of his kids’ names in media. That fact brings me to these reflections from Alan Cavanna:
Those tweets resonated with me. (P.S. The whole thread those two tweets came from is worth the read.)
That intense privacy referenced can sometimes be a mark of an internal struggle. The struggle doesn’t have to be against something destructive necessarily, but it’s a personal battle unique to you alone. It can only be waged by you. From personal experience, it’s like attempting to find your own personal eye in the middle of the hurricane of life in general and of all the people you are connected to.
It’s possible that Carl reached a tipping point within himself (possibly independent of racing) and something had to change, and he came to the conclusion that the thing that needs changing is his career path.
Some or none of this may apply to Carl. I do know one thing, however, many people are eagerly awaiting his press conference Wednesday.