Watch the full Carl Edwards press conference as he steps away from NASCAR
Carl Edwards announced he is stepping away from NASCAR, before the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Toyota pipeline flows freely with youth, talent
RELATED: First look at new Toyota race car The expeditious elevation of Daniel Suarez into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series last week reinforced the importance of a feeder system for teams hoping to groom young, talented drivers for future endeavors at the top level. "Look around. What would we have done?" Joe Gibbs, founder and owner of Joe Gibbs Racing , said Jan. 10 following two whirlwind announcements at the organization's headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina. Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and the first Mexican-born driver to win a national series title in NASCAR, was scheduled to return to the XFINITY Series this year to defend his title. But the surprising departure of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Carl Edwards created an unexpected opening within the JGR camp and the organization's No. 19 entry. RELATED: Edwards steps away, Suarez to replace " Full timeline Fortunately for JGR, the 24-year-old Suarez was waiting in the wings. Instead of competing full-time in the XFINITY Series, Suarez will now take over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series entry vacated by Edwards for 2017. He will also compete in a select number of NXS races. "I think the hard work, working on developing young guys is a big part of this," Gibbs said of organization's XFINITY Series effort. "Thank goodness (Suarez) was there and we had done that." Suarez is one of several drivers in a Toyota pipeline that has become filled with young talent. The automaker, which made its NASCAR debut in 2004 in the Camping World Truck Series, continually seeks to identify gifted drivers from a variety of racing's lower levels, then assist them and their teams as they move through the ranks. Erik Jones will compete full-time in 2017 for Furniture Row Racing as a teammate to Martin Truex Jr . in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after racing for JGR's XFINITY Series program a year ago. RELATED: FRR adds Jones to its growing team Christopher Bell will once again drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series after finishing third in points last year. Although he was sidelined for part of the '16 season following surgery for a brain tumor, Matt Tifft , 20, made 10 XFINITY Series starts for JGR last year as well as 10 NCWTS starts for Red Horse Racing. Ben Rhodes (19) and Cameron Hayley (20) competed last season for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series. "Our farm system is going to continue to be something that we invest in," David Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com. "It's validation and it just furthers our resolve that in spite of the inherent risk … the return on that investment is still going to be good and it's going to validate our commitment." Wilson was scheduled to attend this past weekend's Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. The prestigious event, which concluded Saturday night, was won by Bell. MORE: Bell triumphs at Chili Bowl "I want to show them how important it is for them to be representing our brand," Wilson said. With more than two dozen of the 300-plus participants at the Chili Bowl affiliated with Toyota, Wilson said there is "no doubt" that someone from the group "is going to be in an announcement like this that happened (at JGR) five years from now." Having an abundance of talent is a good problem, but it is still a problem, in part because of the limited number of seats/rides available in the various series, according to Ed Laukes, Vice President of Integrated Marketing Operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA. "We are always concerned about being overloaded with the young guys as they're coming through the ranks," he said, "because we don't want to have that talent get developed around TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and our guys, and then they end up with another company, with another manufacturer, with another race team." Toyota officials are eager to help identify and work with drivers and teams as they grow, according to Laukes. But ultimately, it's up to owners to continue to invest in their own programs or, as Furniture Row Racing did last year, make the switch to Toyota to further enhance their efforts. Furniture Row made the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2016. The Denver, Colorado-based organization has since added the second team, opening up an opportunity for Jones to move up to the premier series. "That's always going to be the secret sauce in the whole thing," Laukes said. "Because we can't do it as a manufacturer. We're not a team owner, we never have been and we have no plan of being a team owner. … "But it always is a concern. We do a lot of stuff in Late Model, a lot of stuff in Midgets. We’ve been around a lot of those series for a long time." JGR develops and draws talent from more than just the organization's XFINITY Series program. Kyle Busch Motorsports plays a key role in the process as well. Gibbs said Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and driver of the team's No. 18 Toyota, "has been very good at analyzing and discovering young talent. "He still races in Late Models and all that kind of stuff," Gibbs said. "I talk to him a lot and say, 'Hey, who do you see?' Or ask him an opinion. I've asked him for his opinion on Daniel, on Erik. And he’s normally pretty much spot-on. He's really good, I think, at evaluating drivers." While Busch has been criticized by some for competing in, and often dominating, races in other series, running those events has allowed him to evaluate his KBM equipment as well as the younger drivers. "For us, when we put somebody in his trucks, we pretty much know they're going to be in the best stuff," Gibbs said. "Now, it's up to them. And if they can't get it done with Kyle, then odds are there's something wrong. … "Hopefully that's the way it is with our XFINITY program. We know (we have) the best crew chiefs, best motor, best car. If they can't get to the front with that, then odds are … that's what you're evaluating. We're all looking for that special driver." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Can Carl Long go the distance?
No. 13 driver switched cars with Timmy Hill after crashing in Friday's practice DOVER, Del. -- During Friday's XFINITY Series practice at Dover International Speedway , Carl Long 's No.13 wrecked after a weight fell off Peyton Sellers ' No. 97 and Long ran over it. The piece of tungsten went through Long's radiator, into the steering and engine and caused the MBM Motorsports driver to slam hard into the wall. Having empathy for small team troubles, Selllers and the No. 97 team owner Victor Obaika quickly offered up any help they could. "We have spoken to Carl and we've offered him whatever we can," Obaika said in a statement on Friday. "(Our) backup car, our people, whatever he needs, you know because it's unfortunate, but we have to show some responsibility on our part and we've done that and we'll help however we can." "When you're on the bottom end, everybody kinda sticks together and tries to help each other," Long said on Saturday after the Coors Light Pole Qualifying session. "Some of the guys with a lot of money and a lot of focus and all, some help out, some don't. But all of us little guys usually stick together." While the Obaika Racing owner offered to let Long use the team's backup, the No. 13 driver feels his ride was the way to go. "(Sellers) offered me his backup car, but I had mine here," Long said. "This is the car we had at Iowa, we ran it Talladega, we ran it at Texas, we ran it everywhere. "I just felt like from changing the seats over and doing all the work, we would still be working on his car right now to get it ready for me. So, I think this is a better race car, and that's the ultimate thing is to be here to race, not to ride around." Shortly before the start of the Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket , it was announced that Long switched rides with the No. 40 of Timmy Hill due to the pain he was feeling after Friday's hit. "Yesterday when I got out of the car nothing hurt," Long said. "This morning my chest is hurting, my shoulder is hurting, that's a pretty hard lick, it just didn't seem like it then." " Carl took a pretty good hit yesterday and he's feeling rather sore," Hill said. "He's not sure if he can go the distance. Out of the two cars he's really trying to get the 13 better in the points. With that being said, he wants to assure that the No. 13 runs the whole race." "My chest is hurting quite a bit and I didn't realize that until I did my qualifying laps and I just got to thinking about it," Long said. "My main goal is to run good and have a good finish for our team. If I fall out of the seat, that ain't a good finish." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
NASCAR Nation reacts to Carl Edwards' surprise move
Carl Edwards shocked the NASCAR world on Wednesday, announcing he'd be stepping away from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition, effective immediately. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver came up just short of a title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, so it was a surprise to see the 37-year-old walk away in his prime. NASCAR Nation was equally shocked, but wished Edwards well in his future endeavors. Their reaction: Really happy for Carl Edwards . One of the fastest guys you'll ever race. Great to see him doing what he wants after an incredible career. — Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) January 11, 2017 Carl has always been one of the most fair and hard racing drivers. I've learned as much from his character on the track as off. #NASCAR — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) January 11, 2017 Shocked to hear the news on Carl Edwards retirement. Class act and he was always entertaining with his back flips after wins — William Byron (@WilliamByron) January 10, 2017 Wow, blown away by the news of #carledwards retiring from racing and @Daniel_SuarezG to replace him. Congrats to Carl for an amazing career — Blake Koch (@BlakeKochRacing) January 10, 2017 His career and success speaks for itself. I always just admired how bad he wanted it. Congrats on a great career, Carl . — Josh Wise (@Josh_Wise) January 10, 2017 Interesting about Edwards. I can see him being lured back into the right situation. Although drivers retiring "early" doesn't surprise me. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) January 10, 2017 pic.twitter.com/3WIsYweHwr — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) January 10, 2017 Blown away that this is happening... For sure. Jump on in if you'd like, the beer is cold. ☺️ #miller2crew https://t.co/ATNKORcNOn — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) January 10, 2017 Really bummed to see Carl go..always had the best attitude in the garage of anyone I've ever seen. Gonna miss those backflips! — Sergio Peña (@SergPena) January 10, 2017 Sorry to see you leave, Carl ! You will be missed. #NASCAR #ToyotaNation https://t.co/BNHjmnLZw0 — Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) January 10, 2017 . @eddiegossage comments on FOXSports report that #CarlEdwards is leaving @JoeGibbsRacing to pursue other interests & won't compete in 2017. pic.twitter.com/sMT9M9BCUz — Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) January 10, 2017 Crazy news with Carl Edwards . Nobody saw this coming. Knowing Edwards, willing to bet he just wants to spend more time at home. Good for him — Marty Snider (@heymartysnider) January 10, 2017 We'll miss you, Carl ! And the flips. https://t.co/8uRRWxeeng — MISpeedway (@MISpeedway) January 10, 2017 Are you flipping out about the news that #CarlEdwards is retiring? #NASCAR https://t.co/GUBxFdxsWu pic.twitter.com/jwDc4FJc8M — Auto Club Speedway (@ACSupdates) January 10, 2017 If sources are correct, it’s a sad day in #NASCAR . https://t.co/Nd9pdsPaWC — NH Motor Speedway (@NHMS) January 10, 2017 Carl is a true class act and a great competitor. As a fan he will be missed but as a friend I'm excited to see what's next. #CarlEdwards — Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) January 11, 2017 Just watched Carl Edwards press conference. He is such a great guy and I can truly relate with how he got started in #nascar by persistence — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) January 11, 2017
Carl Edwards leaves JGR: What they're writing
WATCH: 'Not saying the R-word' " Reasons behind decision The media center can be a tough place for drivers -- or a place to celebrate. Reliving the key moments of a thrilling victory. Hard questions on hard days. Carl Edwards ' decision to leave Joe Gibbs Racing and step aside from competing full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series brought a little of both at Wednesday's press conference at the team's shop. And it was his own quote, published by NBC Sports' Nate Ryan on Tuesday, that made Edwards choke up and tearfully whisper, "I just want to be a good person." The quote from Ryan's story was: "For me, the Midwestern mentality is pretty simple. It's just do your job, do your work, be kind to people. Your reputation will follow. I'm really proud to be from Missouri." It's an accurate self-description, per the lauds from NASCAR writers and broadcasters heaped upon Edwards upon his exit. Here are some of the sentiments shared in print and online. Tom Jensen of FOX Sports initially broke the story of Edwards' imminent departure and wrote, "Whatever his next move, Edwards certainly has established an impressive body of work in NASCAR. He owes no one in the racing community anything, and his choice to step away -- whether temporarily or permanently -- that's his right. And he's exercised it. Good luck in the future, Carl . We'll miss you." " Read more Ryan added: "You always know what you will get in an interview with Carl Edwards -- a professional take on whatever the question is, and answered with the measured intelligence and perspective of a man who once taught high school on the side." " Read more Bob Pockrass, ESPN: "(Edwards) likes his business to be handled neatly, and he believes any friction should be handled privately, leading to criticism that he wasn't as genuine as other drivers. But that also has given him the persona as the ultimate professional publicly, and that is what has attracted fans and has allowed him to be a favorite of talk show hosts looking for a driver who can relate to fans and nonfans alike." " Read more Jordan Bianchi, SB Nation: "As private as Edwards is, he is also among the more personable drivers in the garage. Any interview with him began with him removing his sunglasses so he could look the interviewee and camera straight in the eye. The gesture became such a trademark, sometimes other drivers would good-naturedly mock it." " Read more The finish at Homestead repeatedly came up in conversations this week. One of the most illustrative moments in Carl Edwards ' racing history was the way he left what may be his last race. After a heartbreaking wreck involving the No. 22 Team Penske car with 10 laps to go that cost him the 2016 NASCAR Chase championship, Edwards shook hands with Joey Logano 's crew chief Todd Gordon and team members, rallied his own family and reached out to fans. Jeff Gluck of USA Today told the tale on Nov. 20: "On his way out of the garage, Edwards spotted one of his longtime fans. Rhianne Mitchell was standing silently nearby, with tears in her eyes. Edwards stopped in his tracks, turned around and returned to give her a hug. He pumped his fist at his loyal supporter, as if to try and pick up her spirits. "This kind of exceptional conduct in the face of deep disappointment was something everyone in all walks of life should cherish. And NASCAR fans should certainly be proud Edwards is one of their own." " Read more Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com reached farther back in her own memories to share a story that paints a picture of who Edwards was when he entered the sport, and who he remained. It occurred after Edwards' victory in the 2004 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway . "But it was after that Daytona win that Edwards would forever endear himself to this writer. After a typical, hectic Speedweeks, I was battling the flu and was forced to leave the track and follow the race on TV. Edwards was kind enough to call me from Victory Lane to offer fresh quotes for my story. Edwards' graciousness was not lost on me." " Read more &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Carl Edwards steps away from racing; Daniel Suarez to wheel No. 19
RELATED: NASCAR Nation reacts to Edwards' news " Quotes from day HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Carl Edwards gave three very detailed reasons why he is stepping away from NASCAR competition, only to circle back to the subject later and put it a bit more succinctly. "Life is short," Edwards told a room full of media, sponsor representatives and other assorted team and NASCAR officials Wednesday. "You've got to do what your gut tells you." And Edwards said his gut told him it was time to move on to something else. Edwards, 37, officially announced that he will not compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017, calling a halt to a career that included 28 victories at NASCAR's top level, 10 Chase appearances and two second-place finishes in the series' championship points battle. The 2017 season was to be his third in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, his team since joining JGR in 2015 after an 11-year career at Roush Fenway Racing . Instead, it will be 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Daniel Suarez who will be at the helm of the team's No. 19 entry. Suarez, the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national championship and a product of the sanctioning body's Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs, will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in the season-opening Daytona 500 , scheduled for Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). MORE: Recap Suarez's title year " Suarez returns home to Mexico a champion Edwards, wearing a dark suit and gray dress shirt as he walked on stage at the organization's headquarters here in Huntersville, didn't entirely rule out a return to racing in some form or fashion, explaining that "If I'm going to get back in a race car, which I'm not saying the R (retirement) word here … I'm calling Coach (Joe) Gibbs first. "There is no better race team. There is no faster car than a Toyota Camry. There's no better engine. There's no better crew chief than Dave Rogers. There's no better crew." Why step away when he is seemingly still at the top of his game? He finished fourth in the 2016 points standings and was in the title picture right up until a crash with 12 laps remaining took him out of contention in the series’ final race. WATCH: Edwards takes blame for Miami wreck " Edwards' 2016 in review
Carl Edwards steps away ahead of 2017 Season
Carl Edwards announced he is stepping away on Wednesday, before the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Daniel Suarez will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Camry.
Meet Jason Hedlesky, Carl Edwards' spotter
RELATED: Meet Denny Hamlin's spotter, Chris Lambert Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Jason Hedlesky, Spotter for Carl Edwards , No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota How and when did you get started as a spotter? I grew up (in Clinton, Michigan) and my dad brought me to Michigan Speedway for the first time when I was 8 years old. Before that, I knew I wanted to be a race car driver. When he brought me here … I walked up to the fence at the start/finish line and I want to say it was Neil Bonnett in the Wood Brothers car, he just came flying by me. I stepped back about five feet, it scared me at first, but it was the most awesome thing in the world. That just confirmed it. I stayed focused on my goals and tried to eventually make it as a driver. I succeeded to some extent -- getting my start with Mr. (Junie) Donlavey and had raced locally at Flat Rock and Toledo. Getting my start with Mr. Donlavey in 1998, I drove for him, did a little bit of everything, team manager and spotted for the team as well. In '04, Mr. Donlavey was retiring and I wanted to keep driving. I didn't really want another management job or a real job. I wanted to concentrate on driving. Carl needed a spotter. He was driving a truck for Jack (Roush, team owner) and I started spotting for him. We just became ... he's like one of my brothers. What, if any, other duties do you have with the team? That's it. For the last 13 years with Carl , I've just been the spotter. At Roush I did some test driving, a little bit. I filled in for him on the XFINITY side in I want to say '08. I did a couple of practice sessions when he was off with the Cup car. Do you spot only in Sprint Cup or other series as well? I work with Matt Crafton in the Truck Series. I've been with him probably five years now. We've won the two championships together. I've got a great relationship with him as well; he's a great friend of mine. It's just a great team to work with. Junior Joiner, the crew chief, Duke (Thorson, team owner), they're awesome. As much as this is home with Carl and everything else and being with them for 13 years, I feel the same way over there at ThorSport. How long have you been working with Carl ? Since 2004 with Carl , I think that was his second year in Trucks, and then that year he started (at Michigan) in the Cup car, the '99 car. There was a timeframe when Bobby Hudson would come in just for Sunday only and do the races with Carl because he was already doing that 99 car. So I would do the Truck full-time and the Cup practice. Bobby would be here just to do the Sunday stuff. Then it gradually evolved into me doing everything Carl did. We ran seven straight years of XFINTY Series and Sprint Cup full-time. Do you remember the first race you worked as spotter? It goes way back to Toledo Speedway. I helped a guy with a Super Late Model. Toledo is a half-mile race track with a quarter-mile track on the inside. Chuck Roumell, I grew up working on his cars. He gave me a shot to help with the race cars and his brother was spotting. ... For some reason, one 100-lap Iceman feature at Toledo, he couldn't do it, so they just threw the radio at me. At that time, you'd stand on top of the tool box and just spin around in a circle; you really didn't do the inside/outside type of stuff that we do today. You'd let them know if there was a wreck; you'd give them information but that was about it. I think it might have been about '97. Chuck ran some ARCA races at Michigan and places like that and I spotted for him there. What is the most bizarre thing you've ever seen on the spotters' stand? I've been doing it now almost 20 years just in NASCAR, and every time you think you've seen it all ... something else crazy happens. ... There have been so many things, like Daytona when Juan Pablo Montoya broke that part and hit that jet dryer. That was crazy from our vantage point. We're watching the race track burn in Turn 3 and thinking we're never going to go back racing. The race track has to be destroyed. And we ended up going back to racing. I'd say the jet dryer thing and thankfully everyone was OK. What has been your most memorable experience as a spotter? We've had a lot with Carl . He's such a special driver. ... It stunk how it turned out, but one of the coolest things we were a part of was that championship run at Homestead with Tony (Stewart). That was a heck of a race. You just saw two spectacular race car drivers and they were right on the edge. They were an inch from the wall down there. I talked to Carl afterward; obviously we were all so disappointed. We thought that was our championship. To this day we still think we should have won that championship. But Tony just got us. I called Carl after that and said I was worried about him scraping the wall. He said, "I was never going to hit the wall; I knew I couldn't." But he was running a half-inch from it. Me driving and realizing how hard that is to do that at his speed, that's why those guys are the best. You realize that after you watch guys like him and Tony. To be a part of that, to watch the skill they had -- those guys were running as hard as any human being could ever drive a race car. ... That was pretty cool. ... That thing there was just a spectacular race, they put on a spectacular show. The cream rose to the top. What is the most difficult part of your job? As much as we like traveling, I think the toughest part is being away from my wife and kids. Getting through all the practices and trying to stay focused. The races are fun, that's what you're here for. Staying focused all day up on the spotters' stand ... when you've got Truck and XFINITY and Cup. That part is tough, but the travel, all the long days and being away from your family. Your favorite track to work and why? Michigan, of course, because it's home. But I love to spot a race at Bristol. Our vantage point, it's a half mile. You're looking down and you don't have to turn your head. You can see everything right there in front of you. And the action happens so quick. It's probably my favorite. I've enjoyed the racing at Michigan. It's a big, wide race track. ... I've enjoyed draft, the fact that you have to lift in the corners, the fact that a guy can still beat you down in the corners. What is one thing the average fan might not realize about your job or what it entails? Probably how difficult it can be. I think if I just took the average person up there ... they don't realize maybe sometimes how little you can see at some of these places. We have great, clear vantage points, but you're still a long way away. You're listening to NASCAR on one channel, you have the crew chief on another channel and you're talking to your driver. There's a lot going on. ... Just the ability to stay focused. It's not easy or Talladega or Daytona or (Michigan); They're three- and four-wide and you're looking through binoculars to make sure you're as precise as possible. Then wrecks are happening in front of that. ... They're kind of far away from you. If you do it for a season you just get used to it. ... I appreciate all the work all those guys do. It's not easy. Bristol is a fishbowl but there's a lot going on. So you have to keep your head in the game.
Cain: No more counting Carl out
I'll admit it. I didn't necessarily pick Carl Edwards to be one of the Championship 4 drivers challenging for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. But now that Sunday's Texas Motor Speedway race winner is officially in the mix, he can no longer be anyone's "sleeper pick" for the sport's biggest trophy. Credit to Edwards for securing one of the four title race positions when other "sure-bets" might have given that first nod to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch or this year's Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin , or even former champ Matt Kenseth . Edwards earned this. And his demeanor from that of very hopeful long shot to confident contender transformed in one lengthy day in Texas. He entered the race ranked last among the eight Chase contenders, a whopping 32 points out, but finished the night celebrating in Victory Lane. From body language to just plain language, Edwards seemed to morph before our very eyes in the minutes following his win. He was not a driver content with the opportunity to contend, but someone who absolutely feels he could -- and should -- be hoisting the big hardware in two weeks. "When we made it to this round, I was very certain, I felt very confident," said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Toyota. "We talked about it. We felt like we could win at Martinsville. We could win Texas. We could win Phoenix. "I know when the trouble happened at Martinsville, a lot of people probably thought, 'That's it for them.' But we really did have a lot of confidence. That's easy to say now because we won the race, but it's the truth, we really did. "It's nice to be able to pull through, make that happen. Now we just got to dig in and do it again." Edwards is not the kind of guy for the competition to ever take lightly. And this shot at the title is significant on many levels. He will quickly remind you that he tied Tony Stewart in the 2011 Cup championship point standings, losing out on the title to Smoke on a technicality. Stewart won the championship via tiebreaker with his five wins compared to Edwards' one. Last year, Edwards looked like he would earn a shot at redemption. But in the penultimate race at Phoenix, he got caught up in a bad position as the race was called for rain with 93 laps remaining. Edwards' Toyota had been a top-five mainstay all day only to be caught 12th (after a green flag pit stop) when the race was declared over for rain. His title hopes drowned out, as well. "One of the first things my dad told my about racing, 'There's a thousand ways to lose a race,'" Edwards said. "None of those thousand things can happen. You have to have everything go well. "Those disappointments like Martinsville or Phoenix last year or 2011, that battle, that's just part of the sport. That's what makes victories and days like this and championships so special. You have to do everything right." Edwards, who has a pair of wins at Phoenix, redeemed himself already this year finishing runner-up to Kevin Harvick in a dramatic, door-slamming chase to the checkered there. It's what he expects this week and what he expects the following week in the championship big show at Homestead. "I will not be relaxed," Edwards said, allowing a smile. "This is the part that I love," he continued. "I mean, next week, we want to go win the race (at Phoenix). Really, starting right now, in Victory Lane, (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) was actually trying to shut me up. I started talking about Homestead already. "Everything we do now will be geared to making sure that that Homestead weekend, we do it perfectly. So, yeah, I relish the opportunity to go focus for the next 14 days on trying to give a championship effort." Edwards' track record at the 1.5-mile Miami track is worth noting. He has a pair of victories (2008 and 2010) and finished in the top 10 for seven consecutive years from 2005 through his runner-up showing to Stewart in 2011. And he returns there next week already smiling and feeling good about his chances. "It's so much fun, you guys," Edwards said. "Just the idea of getting to race for a championship, getting that opportunity. "It's not just going there like we did in 2011 to race against one guy in championship form. We're going to go there and race against three guys, one of which is a six ‑ time champion, top of his game. I know whoever else in there is going to be tough as nails. "It's cool. If we're able to win that, stand here 14 days from now with that championship trophy, we're going to have earned it. And that's as good as it gets."
Determination, focus drive Martin to Hall of Fame
RELATED: Learn more about the Class of 2017 " Martin's top moments Mark Martin is respected and revered for a 31-year NASCAR racing career that includes 40 Cup victories, 49 XFINITY wins and five heralded IROC championships. He is considered one of the most talented, highly focused and broadly successful competitors in NASCAR history. And later this week, Martin will formally acquire a designation that makes him most proud of all: NASCAR Hall of Famer. "When I'm introduced at a function, now people can call me something, I'll have a title," Martin, 58, said this week with a laugh. "Prior to that, you kind of had to search for a title, although I had done a lot of cool and amazing things in my career." His long list of "cool and amazing things" is what earned Martin this highest of honors. He joins Benny Parsons, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Raymond Parks in this year’s Hall of Fame class and will be formally inducted Friday in Charlotte (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). RELATED: Parks set early standard " Prolonged excellence Childress' hallmark For Martin, it is a story of supreme determination and talent. In addition to his 40 wins and five championship runner-up finishes in NASCAR's highest level, Martin proved to be one of the series’ most diverse competitors -- ever. He won four GT class championships competing in the Rolex 24 during the 1990s. And his five IROC titles -- and four more runner-up IROC championship finishes -- showed Martin’s great ability bettering the best drivers across all forms of racing from NASCAR to IndyCar to sports cars to sprint cars. It is certainly something that separates and elevates him to the highest of standards through four decades of the best competition in multiple genres. So understandably, Martin had to really think about what in his vast career makes him most proud. "I don't know if there's a single thing," Martin said. "One thing, I would have to say the fact that I made it to NASCAR at such a young age (22). At the time it was an amazingly young age, then I fell on my face and had to go home and start my career again. "So I would say perseverance, if you want to sum it up in one word. Having to start my career all over again and building my way back. Having a second chance is probably the biggest thing." "And the second thing is what I did in the IROC Series." Martin has acknowledged that he was as focused and intense as they came. He was the first driver to seriously incorporate fitness training into his race preparation -- something that may have eased his ability to compete at such a high level even into his 50s. That determination to find an edge was apparent in the garage, even from an early age. He was among the rare drivers to frequently be seen looking into the hood of his car and working alongside the crew. It was the way he was raised by his father Julian, who took great care in guiding his son's passion. There are photos of Martin’s earliest racing days clearly showing how Julian Martin had gone so far to alter his son's first race cars out of love and safety -- mounting the steering wheel in the middle of the car instead of having it on the far left. Dad and son travelled from their native Arkansas throughout the Midwest following the racing dream and they were very close -- now the hard work rewarded with Martin’s long list of achievements and this highest of NASCAR's high honors. Heartbreakingly, Julian was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed in the Nevada mountains in August of 1998, also taking the life of Martin’s stepmother and 11-year old stepsister. Martin remembers immersing himself in competition as best he could to deal with the tragedy. Martin won the night race at Bristol two weeks after losing his father. Immediately after climbing out of his car in Victory Lane, he emotionally thanked the race fans for "their sympathy, love and support" saying their "love for our family has meant everything." "I felt it was my obligation and responsibility to go racing and that's what my dad would have wanted," Martin acknowledged last week. "It was tough, but it would have been tough sitting on a couch in a daze, too. "To me, racing was sort of a responsibility that I had. I felt responsibility toward the 50 or 100 people that supported the (then-Roush Racing) 6-car and a responsibility to race. I just didn't feel like missing a race because I was grieving. … To me, at the time, it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. "It did help me cope with the horrendous loss I was experiencing because I did have to pick up and go racing." And for Martin, the success he would later experience in the second half of his career is as impressive and inspiring as anything he accomplished. He came as close as he ever had to winning the Daytona 500 in 2007, losing the race to Kevin Harvick by a mere 0.02-seconds -- a hood-length -- in a photo finish that marked Martin’s best ever showing in the Great American Race. RELATED: Closest finishes in the history of the Great American Race Two years later, at the age of 50, Martin challenged Jimmie Johnson for what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, winning five races and claiming seven pole positions. Martin led the standings after each of the opening three Chase races, only to finish runner-up to Johnson, a seven-time winner on the year. It marked the fifth and final time Martin was a championship runner-up in an amazing 20-year span of his career. It is a remarkable accomplishment and something he says he is at last comfortable enjoying, free of any near-miss regret. "I never scored enough points to win one, and that's that," Martin said, when asked about it last week. "I would have won one if I had scored more points than anyone else. … and I let that take an enormous amount of joy (from me). "It's something I let go of and I refuse to allow that to rob me of joy. I have a lot to be thankful of, be grateful for. I accomplished a lot in my career and I’m not sour about the things I didn't accomplish." The attitude accompanies good reason -- because by all standards Martin accomplished so much and is admired by so many. Later this week, he will be fittingly celebrated in all the glory he deserves for a career that showed everyone what hard work and mental focus could produce. Forever more, Mark Martin shall be known and introduced as a NASCAR Hall of Famer. "It means more than anything I achieved while I was racing because I was so busy racing, anything I achieved I never paid attention to," Martin said. "I was just storming ahead worried about how I would win the next race. "Now that I've had some time to soak it in, it's the last big deal, the big win, the crown jewel of my career. "Don't forget the people in the Hall of Fame are my heroes, the founders of the sport, the real men that did it with their bare hands. I'm a little bit uncomfortable going in there with them, to be honest with you, because I don't feel like I belong in that kind of company." Perhaps once he stands on stage -- properly celebrated and duly honored -- Martin will accept that he is absolutely a part of that good company. The best. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;