Winning sportsmanship award distracted Carl Edwards from NASCAR’s championship weekend

Daniel McFadin
NBC Sports

Carl Edwards was grateful to have a distraction over the weekend.

As NASCAR held its championship races, the former driver was in St. Louis on Saturday as one of the recipients of the Musial Awards from Maryville University. The award is named after the  Hall of Fame left fielder who played for the St. Louis Cardinals for 22 seasons.

Musial was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969.

The award ceremony, honoring “the year’s greatest moments of sportsmanship and the biggest names in sports for their class and character,” came a year after Edwards’ last start in a Cup car.

Edwards unexpectedly announced in January he would be stepping away from NASCAR.

Even though he was occasionally seen at the track early this year as a mentor to Daniel Suarez and for sponsor obligations, the 38-year-old said in an interview with STL Motorsport Magazine he hadn’t heard the siren call of auto racing until last week.

“Monday or Tuesday I woke up and thought, ‘Man, I’d like to be going to Homestead to battle for another championship,'” Edwards said. “This is the first time I’ve really thought it would be fun to be at the race track.”

What happened in his last race led to Edwards being recognized with the Musial Award.

On a restart with 10 laps to go, Edwards attempted to block Joey Logano, but wound up causing a wreck that included himself and eight other drivers and ended Edwards’ championship bid.

After exiting his car, Edwards walked from Turn 1 to Logano’s stall on pit road, where he shook the hand of Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, and apologized.

STL Motorsport Magazine asked Edwards what his personal definition of sportsmanship was. Edwards used a story involving Jimmie Johnson from 2005 to explain his view.

“My definition of sportsmanship is someone who truly loves the game, truly loves the race. Win, lose or draw, that’s the result. But the actual event it what it’s about.

Jimmie Johnson’s a perfect example. My first win … at Atlanta, I beat him by three feet for something, won the race. He was the first guy in Victory Lane high-fiving, dumping Gatorade on my head. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s probably why Jimmie Johnson has seven championships. He just loves the sport. He just loves to race. That’s sportsmanship to me.”

The Columbia, Missouri, native was asked if he would ever return to his roots in dirt racing.

Edwards said he has a “feeling” he’ll be back in a dirt car, while adding he may give Global Rally Cross a try.

“I love dirt racing,” Edwards said. “I miss it. Basically for me, I was riding my bicycle the other day and I was thinking. ‘I just about got this door closed in my mind. It’s shut.’ I’m just getting to where I can get up in the morning and not think about racing and kind of move on. But there will be a time where it’ll be real hard not to go up to Moberly (Randolph County Raceway in Moberly, Missouri) or come over here to Pevely (Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Missouri) or something and race a little bit. When that time comes it’ll be a lot of fun.

“I talk to Steve Arpin on and off about the Global Rally Cross cars. We’ve talked about doing a test with that.”

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