A Voice for the Fans ~ Hopefully the Voice of Reason
I bid you welcome gentle readers, to what is if not a sad day, at least a reflective day for this scribe. Like many of you, I listened with great apprehension to the hastily arranged press conference in which we already had learned that Carl Edwards would be leaving the sport immediately. It matters little to anyone but me, but in all my years as a race fan, only two names have ever decorated the front of my car(s). Those names are Dale Earnhardt and Carl Edwards.
As I waited for the conference to begin, I couldn’t help but fear the worst, having already been through the worst 16 years ago. When it began, Carl being Carl, he beat around the proverbial bush for some time before ever getting to the crux of the matter, the reason why the conference was taking place. He asserted there were three reasons, and began to list them in great detail. If “Cousin Carl” ever wants to be a writer, I have a welcome mat out for him because this guy can use words to build to a deafening crescendo before finally getting to what everyone in that room and watching or listening at home was afraid to hear.
He breathed the single word, “Health” and the intake of collective breath across the country was almost audible. Then, knowing he had the full attention of everyone that could see or hear him, he went on to tell us his health was just fine, and he wanted it to be that way 30 years from now also. Immediately, the collective exhale incorporated into a sigh of relief was audible.
My Twitter account lit up, especially in the Direct Messages, and my email bell went berserk. I’m fortunate to have some very sensible friends and followers, so most were wanting to share the relief we were all feeling that there was nothing seriously wrong with “Cousin Carl”, and he was merely being sensible.
But then there were the others. You know, the “No matter what he says, there must be more to it” crowd. Those folks… the ones that know nothing and everything all at the same time, are the reason for this writing. There will be hundreds… perhaps even thousands of articles on Carl in a day or so. It’s January and quite frankly many motorsports journalists have way too much time on their hands. I don’t know what all the rest are going to say, but I do know what this one has to say. It won’t take long, but I hope it’s decisive and impactful.
Butt out! It’s none of your business what Carl or any other driver on the circuit chooses to do with his or her life. I don’t want to hear it, and I know very well that Carl doesn’t want to hear it.
“The timing is suspicious; why would anyone retire at this time of year for no reason?”
Excuse me? Carl gave not one but three reasons! Is nothing good enough for you? No, it’s not unprecedented… not one bit. You don’t have to be an old-timer to know that Nico Rosberg, the 2016 F-1 Champion, retired shortly after the last race last fall. To me, going out on top is far preferable to driving until one becomes a caricature of his former self.
“But that’s not NASCAR.” No, it’s what NASCAR aspires to be one day. It’s the top racing circuit on the planet, and their Champion of a few days turned in his resignation. Face it… stuff happens.
There have been quicker resignations, retirements or whatever you care to call it, in NASCAR. Here’s an excerpt taken from my article of May 4, 2016… Tales of the Talladega Curse… describing the strange departure of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac from his car and from NASCAR on lap 90 of the August 12 1973 race, obviously at Talladega.
“In the August race of the same year, Talladega claimed the life of the 1972 Rookie of the Year, Larry Smith in a manner that seems all too familiar today. On lap 14, Smith’s car hit the retaining wall, and though damaged, looked quite reparable. The racing world was shocked to hear of his death from such a seemingly innocent hit. The cause of death was listed as “Massive head injuries and a basal skull fracture.” Later in the same race, on lap 90, Bobby Isaac, in response to a voice in his head, radioed car owner Bud Moore and told him to find a relief driver. CooCoo Marlin took over the wheel and finished 13th. Isaac, on the other hand, retired from Winston Cup racing on the spot. “Something told me to quit. I don’t know anything else to do but abide by that.””
Carl Edwards didn’t hear voices, other than his own reasoning, and when a man feels it’s time to hang up the helmet, especially in a sport as potentially dangerous as this one, then who are you or anyone else to question his decision? Coach Joe had no problem understanding. When it’s time, it’s time. The phrase we hear repeated often this year is “contact sport.” Welcome to reality folks; racing has always been a contact sport, and too often that contact has drastically shortened the careers and lives of some great drivers.
This column has for a long time called for the installation of SAFER barriers every conceivable place that a car could reach. Some tracks have been quite compliant. Others seem to have adopted the “Surely, you’re not talking to me” approach and want applause for adding a few feet with miles yet unprotected. Don’t call me Shirley! We all saw the length of time taken out of the career of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year due to repeated concussions.
Carl Edwards saw that too, and make no mistake, Carl is a very reasonable and deep-thinking individual, despite the light exterior he puts forth. He has a wife and family and probably enough in the bank to have no need to continue driving for a living. He chooses to place his wife and family about driving stock cars, and this ancient scribe can see no reason on God’s green Earth for anyone to question that.
Godspeed Carl! I wish you a long life full of health and happiness. Enjoy your children while they’re young. They’ll repay you with grandchildren soon enough. I’ll miss you, but I’ll never question your decision. Over the many decades I’ve been a fan, I’ve cried too often and I’m relieved and happy to know that you have no health issues and simply want to live out your days with your wife and kids and without scrambled brain cells.
Sorry gentle readers, but no Classic Country Closeout this time. Instead, for those that missed it the first time around or would like to see it again, here is Carl’s press conference from Wednesday morning at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!