NASCAR Cup Series
Ross Chastain Breaks Through at Nashville For First Win of 2023
Jun 26, 2023
As Carl Edwards made his way around Nashville Superspeedway this weekend, it was genuinely difficult to tell who was more excited about his presence – the fans that have missed the perennial NASCAR Cup Series championship contender or Edwards, himself.
Edwards stepped away from competition after a dramatic championship finale in 2016. It completely caught his loyal fans off-guard, as it did most of the NASCAR industry. Since then, he has spent time with his wife and two young children, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean multiple times and worked with various goodwill organizations.
He was invited to Nashville to be formally bestowed as the inaugural inductee of the Nashville Superspeedway’s Legends Plaza – a rightful honor for the track’s winningest driver. Edwards won five times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series there and hoisted the unique Nashville winner’s guitar once in a Craftsman Truck Series race too.
And while Edwards, 43, did acknowledge the warm welcome and signs of support everywhere he went at the track on Sunday – “All the love is just over the top,” he said with a grin, he also insisted repeatedly that he has no plans to return to the driver’s seat.
As of now.
“Yeah, there is [interest],” he said. “But I’m not planning on doing any driving. This is the tip of the spear. These guys are so good. I would be terribly slow so I’d have to prep a lot. Seriously, that’s the truth. For me, I feel racing is a tricky sport and if I’m not committed 100 percent, I don’t feel it’s the right thing for me to do for fun.”
But, he allowed, “If it creeps in and it’s something we want to go do. I promise I’ll give 100 percent. I’ll do the best I can, but right now, I’m not planning on anything.”
So the chance exists.
When Edwards left at the end of the 2016 season, he had established highly-impressive statistics - earning 28 NASCAR Cup Series race wins and finishing in the Top-10 in nearly half of his career starts – 220 times in 445 starts. In what turned out to be his final season – in 2016 - he won three races and challenged for the championship in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami.
He won 38 times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, hoisting the 2007 series championship trophy; and finished runner-up in the title chase four other times. He won six NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races as well – giving him an impressive 72 victories in NASCAR’s three premier series.
As much as his winning was appreciated, the victory back-flip he performed after each victory was something the crowds absolutely loved. Even those that may not have been Edwards’ “super fans” appreciated the celebratory move. And he was asked about it a lot over the past weekend.
“I haven’t done a backflip on hard ground for a long time,” he said, smiling. “Probably should practice those before I come do these things because people have been asking me all day to do backflips. It would be cool to be able to do one, but I’d have to warm up first though.”
It certainly appeared Edwards, who returned to live in his native Missouri, was enjoying his time at the track over the weekend, stopping to pose for countless “selfies” with fans, signing autographs, shaking hands and catching up with old pals in the garage. Other than a trip to Darlington, S.C. earlier in the season to celebrate NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary, he really has not been to races since his “mic drop” seven seasons ago.
And so, the outpouring of warmth he experienced was powerful.
“I’m truly the luckiest guy in the world,” Edwards said. “I got to live my dream, do something I loved and when it was time to go and do other things, I was able to go do them. And to be able to come back and be received the way I have, it has shocked me.
“I told Dale Jr., this was crazy and he said, ‘You’re not on social media you don’t do anything so when you show up you are well-received.”
And that was an understatement.
While Edwards wouldn’t commit to a racing return – either a one-race deal or more permanent opportunity – he was gracious and appreciative of how the sport shaped his life. The smile never left his face and his interactions were heartfelt.
“I learned so many lessons from my competitors,” Edwards said, reflecting on his time in the sport. “It’s one of my regrets as a driver that I didn’t understand you’re nothing without your competitors. I’m so appreciative to all the competitors in a way that I didn’t really understand at the time.
“But as grateful as I am to have lived that dream in racing, now I have time to do all sorts of things, from taking a boat across the Atlantic a couple times. I get to work with some amazing groups, air recovery guys for some disaster things around the world. I have learned there are some truly great people out there doing great things.
“In that chapter, I carried a lot forward, but in this chapter, I’ve been learning a lot about myself and being the best I can be.”
And for Edwards, his best – the passion and the talent - has always been the best.