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Refusing to say retirement, Edwards leaves NASCAR with no regrets

Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards flips off the side of his car after winning the Toyota Owners 400 April 24 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Driver Carl Edwards confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 11, he is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing immediately and will not compete in NASCAR in 2017, announcing he has no regrets and is lucky enough to be "100 percent healthy."

"I'm stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series. ... I don't have any intention of going back to full-time racing," Edwards said at a press conference at JGR's headquarters in Huntersville, N.C.

The 37-year-old Edwards, who spent the last two years at JGR and had one year remaining on his contract, did not use the word "retirement."

"I'm not using the 'R' word," Edwards said, possibly leaving the door open for a return to JGR. "I want to spend time outside the sport on things that are important for me. ... I really believe it's the right thing. It's a personal thing."

"Life's short. You've got to do what your gut tells you. ... There's no life raft I'm jumping on. I'm just jumping. And in a way that makes it easier."

Edwards will be replaced by Daniel Suarez, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, in the No. 19 JGR Toyota Camry for the season. He is the first full-time Mexican-born driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Edwards won three races in 2016 and finished fourth in the Sprint Cup standings. He led the championship contenders at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 10 laps to go before a crash knocked him out of contention.

In his 13 years in the Cup Series, Edwards twice finished second in points, including a tie with Tony Stewart in 2011. Stewart was awarded the NASCAR championship that year by virtue of the fact that he had more race victories. Edwards had 28 race victories, 22 poles, 124 top fives and 220 top 10s in 445 starts over his Cup career.

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France issued a statement after Edwards' announcement.

"Carl Edwards has made an indelible mark on NASCAR," France said. "His hard-charging driving style has led to memorable moments that will live forever in the history of our sport. Carl's passion and personality will greatly be missed—as will the signature backflips that NASCAR fans have come to expect following his victories. We wish Carl nothing but the best as he enters this next phase in life."