Edwards and veteran Ricky Rudd received the most votes on the Modern Era ballot when the Hall’s voting panel recently selected the members of the Class of 2025.

In fact, although he had been a nominee, Edwards did not plan on being available when the results were announced on May 21 because he thought “there’s no reason to be.”

Edwards, however, has been a popular choice since his election, with few hard feelings over his abrupt departure from the sport following the 2016 season.

“What I’m trying to say is the longer I am away, the more I appreciate it,” Edwards, 44, told a group of reporters on Thursday. “And this honor is over the top. I did not expect this in any way. I was shocked.

“It’s been a huge deal to me, much bigger than I ever would have expected.”

Carl Edwards

Photo by: NASCAR Media

There was a time when Edwards could only dream of being a race car driver, let alone one worth of a Hall of Fame induction.

He started off as a substitute teacher but eventually joined Roush Fenway Racing to compete in the NASCAR Truck series, which kicked off a career that would include 29 Cup wins, 38 Xfinity wins, including the 2007 championship, and six Truck victories.

Over his 13-year Cup career, Edwards earned victories in the Coca Cola 600 and Southern 500. He finished second in the series standings twice, including the closest finish in NASCAR history when he lost the 2011 title to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker.

Shocking exit from the sport

In the months following the 2016 season, Edwards made a surprise announcement at Joe Gibbs Racing that the 2016 season would be the last of his career.

He has not competed in a NASCAR event since but has made occasional visits to tracks in recent years and appeared on a Cup race broadcast.

“I just needed time,” Edwards said of his decision to step away. “I realized I woke up and I, you know, right towards the end of my career, I realized I’m not spending any time doing really anything other than racing and that time I’ll never get back.

“Two, I really felt that I had done everything I personally wanted to do in the sport. I understood basically that I was the best that I could be.’

“And third, I escaped without any big injuries. The more we looked at that stuff, that’s a serious thing. I felt like I was very fortunate there.”

Hall of Fame induction and future plans

Asked if he ever conceived of the idea of being inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, Edwards was emphatic: “Not in a million years.”

“This is the first time that I’ve truly been able to look at my career and I guess the way that the voting panel at the Hall of Fame looks at a career and it’s a different way to look at it and the word is just grateful,” he said.

“I’m so grateful that all this worked out and I hope that through this whole process I get to share with people how much I appreciate them.”

Although he said he remains “open” to doing more NASCAR-related activities, don’t expect Edwards back on the track.

“Not in a Cup car. I did enjoy running the SIM a little bit last year and I think I’m going to go do a little bit more of that just to try to understand,” he said. “I mean I love driving cars and I’m very curious.

“What I enjoyed was being up in the (TV) booth. I enjoyed kind of calling the race to whatever degree I did there for 45 minutes or whatever. So, maybe something like that.

“But I don’t have anything lined up right now, but definitely much more open to that than I ever have been.”

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