Those who know me best know that I envy those with contentment in their lives. I can be happy. I love my wife. I love my friends. I have countless numbers of happy moments. But I’m always concerned that my career-driven ambition and fear of failure will keep me from a path of an actually and truly content person.
So on the morning of Wednesday, January 11, I was struck with a mix of emotions when I learned that the Man from Missouri, the class of NASCAR, and a man I have rooted for since 2005 was stepping away from a sport I was surprised myself I have come to love. Carl Edwards, at 37, was retiring.
“I’m stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series,” FoxSports.com reported Edwards saying, and then – “I don’t have any intention of going back to full-time racing.”
I felt a sense of dread. But then, I had a chance to watch tape of his announcement. And I witnessed Edwards, teary-eyed, explain some of his reasons. He talked of being satisfied with his career, and wanting to spend more time with the people he cares about. He also mentioned wanting to stay healthy (too many forget NASCAR is a grueling sport).
“I accomplished more than I ever dreamed of accomplishing,” Carl said, choked up. “I have a lot of interests in life outside of sports that deserve my attention and I feel strongly that the time to do that is now,” … “I’ve been racing for more than 20 years. It’s amazing the opportunities that racing, and NASCAR in particular, have provided me. The people I’ve met and the things I’ve been able to do. I’m very grateful for all of that.”
Huh … he’s satisfied. He’s grateful … Ok. He never won the Cup Title, but he’s content with a career where he accomplished more than he ever expected. Of course, in my mind, I’m thinking “This … Does … not …. compute.”
I did some digging. I of course new that Edwards nearly won the Sprint Cup this year (the 2016 season), and lost it narrowly to Tony Stewart in the final laps of the last race of 2011. But in 13 seasons at the Cup Series level, Carl Edwards won 28 races. He started at Pole position 22 times. And this I found amazing – he registered a top 10 finish more than half of all races he started!! He made few mistakes, avoided collisions, and was always “in the conversation.”
Edwards continued, “Racing for me has never really been about trophies. Of course I love winning, but there is a thrill to going into a corner at nearly 200 mph competing against the best in the world. I absolutely love that.”
He even loved the process… just being “in the arena” at the same level as the other masters of his sport. I am LONG way from anything close to what Carl Edwards achieved by age 37, so I’ll personally continue my “drive” for success in the political / policy arena, or who knows – maybe I’ll become a pop culture icon with a popular Website … record scratch … as I look to me readers as I am typing this with a knowing glance –
… but I can now celebrate Carl Edwards with deep appreciation for his perspective. Do I envy over his contentment? Perhaps a little. But I find a great deal of peace to aspire to in his retirement message. His words and thoughts are something I’ll need to review and remember again and again as I go forward in my own life’s race. I’m definitely somebody who must learn to better enjoy the journey itself, and to see that I’m fortunate to be “in the arena” with some pretty impressive people. Thank you, Carl. Thank you for your career, and for your grace and humility.
Next Up, “Todd Flora’s America” needs a new NASCAR Driver!! … stay tuned for a ballot on this very Website soon! (at least before Daytona). I’ll need readers and NASCAR fans to help me pick a new driver or two to root for in Carl’s absence.
NASCAR should graciously thank Carl Edwards for drawing people to the sport and making NASCAR part of Todd Flora’s America (to spell it out, Todd Flora is an environmentalist, liberal democrat who once pasted his Carl Edwards and Heal the Bay bumper stickers next to each other on his hybrid vehicle). Here, here to contentment…