Columns article posted by SC Press Association on January 11th, 2017
By Cathy Elliot
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, sporting a collared short and blazer rather than his trademark No. 99 Toyota logo-wear, Carl Edwards announced his retirement from full-time NASCAR competition.
The language was clear enough, but exactly what it meant is still to be determined. Even the official Joe Gibbs Racing press release issued immediately after the press conference said that Edwards has “stepped away,” avoiding the word “retired” altogether.
Edwards is one of the most likeable and popular drivers in the sports. He has – had, now – a great job with a premier team. He has come within a whisker of winning the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series title not once, but twice, most recently just last year. Career-wise, he is definitely at the top of his game. So when we hear him say, and I quote, “I’m stepping away from full-time driving in the Cup Series,” the question that immediately comes to mind is, why?
We have an answer, sort of. Three of them, actually, straight from the source.
Reason number one: Edwards is personally satisfied with his career as it stands, and he’s not too worried about whether or not others feel the same way.
“The first time I stepped on the throttle of my dad’s race car, I thought I was the greatest driver ever, and about a half second later I pulled my foot right off, and I couldn’t get it to go back down, and I thought, ‘man, this is going to be tough,’” he said. “So you go from that to working up the courage to ask people to drive a car to being put in situations where you know if you drive well and you win, you get sponsorship and everything works.
“Going through that whole process and becoming a better person, a stronger person, a better competitor, a better teammate, a better friend to people, that’s a big deal to me, and I feel accomplished. And I know when I sit in that race car that I am the best race car driver I can be. So whether or not I have a championship, I’m really satisfied with that.”
Reason number two: Things in life other than racing matter to him. He described racing as all-encompassing, a sort of hungry Pac-Man-type job that gobbles up time.
“I wake up in the morning thinking about racing. I think about it all day. I go to bed thinking about it. And I have dreams about racing,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for 20 years, and I need to take that time right now and devote it to people and things that are important to me, things I’m really passionate about.” (Edwards, remember, is married and has two very young children, Anne and Michael.)
Reason number three: He describes himself as being in “perfect health,” and he wants to stay that way.
“I can stand here healthy, and that’s a testament after all the racing I’ve done and all the stupid stuff I’ve done in a race car. That is a true testament to NASCAR, to the tracks, to the people who have built my race cars, to my competitors, and to the drivers who have come before me who haven’t been so fortunate,” he said.
“Having said that, though, it’s a risky sport. I’m aware of the risks. I don’t like how it feels to take the hits that we take, and I’m a sharp guy, and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years. So those risks are something that I want to minimize.”
He also referenced Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recent absence from NASCAR competition. Let’s dispense with the whole official “concussion-like symptoms” thing and call Junior’s health issue by its actual name – brain trauma. “Junior is a hell of a guy, and everyone in the sport paid a lot of attention to him. You have to look at the risks,” Edwards said.
What the future holds for Carl Edwards is unclear. He mentioned his love of aviation and agriculture, and said he enjoys broadcasting. There was no epiphany involved in his decision, he said, no defining moment.
“The people close to me know that I follow my gut, as an analytical as I am and as much as I wear people out about the details … I just gather what’s around me, and I say, look, if all signs point to this, then that’s what I need to do. That’s what got me here in the first place,” he said.
When pressed for more details about those aforementioned things that matter to him outside of racing, he admitted to having “really strong feelings about our country and what it means, what America is about, and the principles that keep us free and safe from the biggest risks in history. And so I don’t know if I’m — I’m not prepared right now to participate in any public office or anything, but I am very open to helping that cause and helping the cause of liberty and freedom and what it is that America is about.”
Carl Edwards in 2020? Don’t count on it, but as far as racing goes, his self-imposed absence may turn out to be a brief one. He is retiring from FULLTIME racing, and if you’re unclear on exactly what that means, just Google the name Jeff Gordon. That should clear things up.
Edwards will be missed, but you gotta respect a guy for using his still-healthy brain and following his heart. “I’m sure it’s the right direction for my life,” he said, “but there’s no life raft I’m jumping onto.
“I’m just jumping.”
Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Phil Noble
I apologize in advance for this column. It is far more personal than my usual weekly columns but then my reaction to Barack Obama has always been more personal than political.
My boyhood growing up in a small Southern town was pretty traditional, other than two things – I became interested in politics at a very early age (9 years old) and my father became involved in civil rights. Neither of these things happened as a conscious purposeful decision so much as they just sort of happened. I was captivated by John and Bobby Kennedy and my father felt compelled by his faith (he was a Presbyterian minister) to respond to the racial injustice that he saw all around him.
As a boy, I began working in campaigns and later I studied politics in school. As an adult, my professional focus moved on to other forms of community service, technology and the internet. After serving in three churches, my father’s focus moved on as well to other aspects of his life in the church.
But, my fundamental interest and commitment to the issues of politics and race never left me.
Fast forward to August 2004. As I stood on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, the issues of politics and race took on a whole new meaning for me as I listened to a skinny black guy with big ears and a funny name make a speech the likes of which I (and the rest of America) had never heard before.
I called a friend who worked for Obama and said, “Sign me up.”
Fast forward again to February 2007. I’m standing on the tarmac at Owens Field in Columbia as that same skinny guy with big ears bounds down the steps of a small white jet to begin his South Carolina campaign for President of the United States. I stuck out my hand and said, “Welcome to South Carolina.” I gave him a blue palmetto tie as a welcoming gift.
That night at his first rally in Columbia over 3,000 people showed up. His speech was full of hope and optimism and over the deafening roar of the crowd, he ended with, “…and now let’s go change the word!”
Over the next year or so, I had the great privilege of spending a little time with him, watching him up close and most importantly being reminded again of the power and joy of politics driven by high purpose and selfless idealism.
I don’t want to overstate my role in his S.C. campaign; I was not the campaign manager, I was never paid (I didn’t want to be) nor did I pack up and join the national campaign after his big primary win here. But, I was close enough to spend time with him driving around the state, at campaign events and watching how people reacted to his message of hope and change.
It was amazing.
Though my personal role was not large, the impact of South Carolina on his campaign was – and it continued to be felt throughout his presidency.
On our first ride in from the airport, I told him that our state motto was ‘While I breathe I hope.’ His face lit up and with a grin he said, “I can use that.” And he did. Throughout the campaign and for the next eight years, I would periodically hear him use the phrase again and again. My face would light up and I would grin.
One of the S.C. campaign’s early breakthroughs was in April 2007, with the success of a major fundraiser at a big house near the Battery on Obama’s first trip to Charleston. No one expected that we could raise so much money here and on the way back to the airport, I recounted to him the names of all the new people who came that had never been involved in politics before. With a grin, he said, “Maybe we really do have a shot.”
In June 2007, on a bleak and rainy morning at a Greenwood campaign event, a grumpy and sullen Obama trailing far behind in the polls, was himself first inspired by 60-year-old Edith Child’s chant of “Fired up! Ready to go!” This familiar call and response that had lifted South Carolina Democrats for years – now became a standard part of the Obama campaign and inspired millions nationwide.
One day in October 2007, I got an email from my family doctor’s son with a graphic attachment and the message, “Feel free to use this if it will help …” It was Shepard Fairey’s iconic red and blue image of Obama with the single word “Hope.” I sent it on to campaign manager David Plouffe – and as they say, the rest is history. That image now hangs in the Smithsonian Museum.
In February 2008, Obama carried 44 of 46 counties and won the South Carolina primary with over 55% of the vote – the pundits were shocked. Weeks later when I was in the Chicago campaign headquarters, I noticed a big poster with the South Carolina vote totals still hanging in the entrance hall. When I asked him about it, he said, “That was one of the pivotal events of this campaign. Tell everyone in South Carolina that I will never forget that night.”
In his November 2008 Election Night victory speech, he recounted his campaign journey and referenced ‘while I breathe I hope’ and then said, “Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington — it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston…”
I will never forget that night.
But there have been low points as well. I’ll also never forget how my heart sank in pain when a S.C. congressman yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s 2009 State of the Union Address. That’s not who we are.
And then there was Emanuel. Neither I, nor the whole nation will ever forget his stirring words at the funeral that expressed our shared searing pain and then the triumph of our lifted spirits when his lilting voice broke into singing Amazing Grace.
It was a hard eight years for President Obama and America. His presidency was not perfect; he made some mistakes. But, through it all and above it all, through the rancor and senseless partisanship, through the vile insults and the unceasing taunts of the haters – there was always his grace and his quiet dignity … and hope and optimism.
Campaign advisor David Axelrod has been with Obama since his days as an unknown Illinois state senator. In a recent TV conversation with Obama, Axelrod said: “I told you at the end of the 2012 campaign that you gave me the greatest gift because you helped renew my idealism… you’ve done that for a lot of people, and that’s the greatest gift you can bestow.”
He did that for me.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Reach him at email@example.com and get his columns at www.PhilNoble.com.
By Dr. William Holland
It’s hard to believe that 6 months has gone by since my dad passed away. I know that many of you have lost one or both parents and I’m sure we never really get over losing our loved ones but rather learn how to adapt as we try to keep pressing forward. Dad was the hub in our family where all the spokes were connected and now without him there is a huge void. As the oldest child, I’m trying to step in and help in any I can, but only the Lord can heal the wounds within our heart and bring comfort and peace that passes all understanding. He was only 77 years old which is a decent span of life, considering he lived with serious kidney problems. He had an illness called PKD which stands for, Polycystic Kidney Disease and as the kidney function continues to decline, the individual must turn to dialysis in order to keep the rest of the body functioning properly. A kidney transplant is an excellent option and as several of my family members have went this route, for them it has truly been a miracle.
For reasons that my dad came to terms with, he decided to not have a transplant. He started dialysis in 1996 and this past year made the unbelievable stretch of 20 years on the “machine” and was a model patient which helped greatly with his success. Through these last two decades, he had times when he felt decent and then there were weeks when he suffered with terrible pain but you would hardly know it. He would force a smile and always try to direct the conversation toward something other than him being sick. Since his departure to heaven, which by the way gives us comfort and encouragement, I have come to realize how much my mother also struggled. She has always been in relatively good health, but since they had such a close relationship, she naturally became absorbed in what he was going through. I am sorry to say that most of the time, we were so focused on dad, we hardly noticed that as a constant care-giver, it was not only his life that had become turned up-side down but hers as well.
Dad was an organizer and always thinking ahead, so it’s not a surprise he had been preparing mom to take over their affairs after his death. They planned their funerals and was helping her understand about certain details and now everything seems to be going as well as can be expected. In all of this, it is true that no matter how we try to brace ourselves for someone to pass away, we are always broken and in shock with the loss. I am proud of how my mom is at least trying to get out and function in the world by herself. Even with us visiting and calling every day and along with her making new friends at her church, she confides in me that she is lonely which of course is understandable. Dad left their car in good shape and she goes shopping or wherever and recently her church purchased a new van and they provide transportation which is a blessing especially in the winter. After church a couple of Sundays ago, she went to the Pizza Hut for lunch. A couple that she knows walked in and came over to her table to say hello. The woman said, “you are sitting all by yourself” and mom instantly replied, “well, I might as well get used to it” which is somewhat comical but also a little sad. I have written a short story called, “Till death do us part” and it’s posted it on my website if you would like to read it sometime. It’s about the unfailing commitment and compassion my parents had for one another through nearly 60 years of marriage and reminds us that no matter what the future holds, the power of God’s love can give us the faith and strength to walk through anything together.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com