Firesuit in tow, Carl Edwards at Atlanta to assist Daniel Suarez

Photo by Jerry Jordan/ Kickin' The Tires

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

HAMPTON, Ga. — Carl Edwards is at Atlanta Motor Speedway with his firesuit. But he’s not back.

The former driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota is at the 1.5-mile track to help his rookie replacement, Daniel Suarez, but wouldn’t be opposed to springing into action if asked. Edwards abruptly announced in January that he was stepping away from racing but never used the word retirement.

“Everybody calls it retirement,” the 37-year-old said. “I haven’t called it retirement officially cause … and actually, I admit I brought my helmet, my driver’s suit today in case somebody needed something. But I’m having a lot of fun.”

Edwards said he doesn’t know how long he’ll be at the track, but is willing to assist the newest JGR driver.

“I guess as long as they want me to be here,” Edwards said. “I flew the Cessna in this morning and I can leave at any minute so whenever they say they are done with me, I will take off. But I could stay for tomorrow.”

Edwards has three Atlanta wins and 12 top 10s in a Cup car and believes he can help Suarez.

“It’s nice of him to just ask me to be here,” he said. “I even just shared his lunch with me, which is really great; I don’t know if I have any on my face.”

“I thought it would be more about talking to him about the race track. But he’s super quick at learning the place obviously. He’s pretty fast.”

Edwards said the protégé is way ahead of him at his stage of the game.

“What’s he’s told me has been helpful is just kind of understanding even the resources that they have and who to go to talk to about your tire pressures and how to run the computer stuff, things like that that I took for granted,” he said.

“So it’s been pretty neat to be able to help him a little bit.”

Suarez was 16th in the first practice of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and qualifying will be later Friday.

“I guess the proof will be in the qualifying here,” Edwards said. “He will have someone to blame it on if it goes poorly.”

It’s not the first time Edwards has come to the track to help Suarez; he was at Phoenix in January during Suarez’s first Cup testing. And though Edwards enjoys lending a hand to his former team, he said the last thing he wants is to impede any progress.

“The biggest thing I don’t want to do is just be in the way,” the Missouri native said. “It’s Daniel’s team. He’s doing an amazing job. I was willing to and he wanted me to help him, and once they repave I won’t be able to tell him anything here.

“But I do love this place and I feel like I can help a little bit.”

So what was it like for Edwards while watching his first race since ditching the firesuit?

“It was hard to watch the start of the 500 last week,” Edwards admitted. “But once they started wrecking a little it wasn’t hard to walk away from the TV.

And what about the rumored political aspirations?

“I haven’t decided on the political stuff,” Edwards said. “Like I talked about at that press conference, I really believe in individual freedom and liberty and what the United States is based upon.

“I think like anybody, I’ve been paying attention and it’s a little scary what’s going on as a whole in our country and in the world. And if I can help with that down the line, great. But I don’t have any plans right now.”

Edwards said “everything’s been going really well” and has no plans of getting behind the wheel either.

“It’s actually hard to come here … it’s hard to kinda be half in and half out,” he said. “So I’m going to try really hard to stick to my plans, step away, make sure I get my perspective right and if I decide I want to drive something, I want to do it 100 percent.

“But right now I’m certain I wouldn’t agree to something full time right now.”


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