Carl Edwards is expected to announce he will step away from NASCAR immediately in a news conference Wednesday at Joe Gibbs Racing, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. The person was not authorized to speak publicly.
The move will undoubtedly stun the racing world, as Edwards has been in the prime of his career and nearly won the championship last season. At 37 and driving for one of the top teams in NASCAR, Edwards figured to have at least five-10 more years in racing, should he wish to continue at NASCAR's highest level.
Fox reported Daniel Suarez, who won the Xfinity Series championship last season, will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Cup Series car. Edwards has 28 Cup wins and has finished runner-up for the championship twice, in 2008 and 2011. Edwards burst onto the Cup Scene in 2004, when he showed much promise in a partial season after replacing Jeff Burton in Roush Racing's No. 99 car.
He won four times in his first full season and immediately became one of the big names on the NASCAR circuit. His 28 career wins are more than six drivers already in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the total would have tied him for sixth among active drivers entering this season.
But Edwards never won a championship — despite coming painfully close on two occasions — and that will also be part of his legacy. In 2011, he put on one of the all-time great championship battles with Tony Stewart, only to lose on a tiebreaker. Last year, he was leading on a late restart in the championship race when he tried to block Joey Logano — and crashed out as a result.
Edwards will also be remembered for his relationship with the fans. He backflipped off his cars and sometimes ran up into the stands to celebrate with people, mobbed by hugs and hands as he grinned. He was also very media conscious and always made it a point to remove his sunglasses in interviews, hoping to better connect with the viewers at home.