Daniel Suarez, the new driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota, has a bright future and Toyota's NASCAR program is loaded with young talent. That said, the departure of Carl Edwards will leave a personal void for those he worked closely with.
Team owner Joe Gibbs told FOXSports.com that initially he was concerned about how Edwards would fit in to the organization when he left Roush Fenway Racing and signed with JGR prior to the 2015 season.
"You're never sure when you get somebody," said Gibbs. "Because you're looking at him with another race team. I figured he (Edwards) was going to be on edge at times and I thought he might be a handful."
Fortunately, for JGR, that was not the case. Edwards was a great fit with the team from the beginning. "Really, when he came over here, total professional," said Gibbs. "Not what I expected at all."
For Gibbs, a real test came in the spring 2016 Richmond race, where Edwards nudged teammate Kyle Busch out of the lead on the last corner of the last lap to win the race.
"The way he handles that stuff, very professional," said Gibbs of Edwards.
Gibbs also said Edwards' demeanor in the race car is far calmer than most drivers.
"A lot of guys, when bad things happen in the car, they go nuts," Gibbs said, laughing. "He was always pretty rational and seemed to be pretty calm about it. 'We're going to get this fixed.' Between he and Dave (Rogers, crew chief), they cheered each other on. Very different than what you get normally with drivers and crew chiefs."
Another executive strongly in Edwards' corner is David Wilson, the president of TRD, U.S.A., Toyota's racing arm.
Wilson said that when Edwards became available for 2015, he and the Toyota organization were thrilled to get him. "For us, it wasn't just 'yes,' it was 'hell, yes,'" said Wilson. "Because we had been watching that young man, even before we came into the garage.
"And what we admired -- forget about what he does on track, that's a given that he's talented -- but what we always admired and respected was how he treated his (sponsor) partners."
Wilson said that while all of Toyota's drivers are sponsor-friendly, Edwards excels at those relationships. "Let's be honest, he's at a different level," Wilson. "What was obvious to us, is that it's not just words. He does it in such a genuine manner. And it comes across that way."
Not only was Edwards enthusiastic about the brands he represented, he would not work with companies he didn't like.
"He is very highly principled," Wilson said. "… There are companies, organizations, who have resources, who have money that Carl would not align himself with because he doesn't believe in that particular product. That's hard to do in this sport, because it's all about money and how much you can bring to the table."
Wilson also said he admired Edwards' independence and desire to do things his own way, including living in Missouri while most NASCAR drivers and teams are based in the Charlotte area.
"Carl does things differently," Wilson said, a sentiment shared by the team owner.
"Out of anybody in the NASCAR world, Carl is his own man," said Gibbs.
And one who will be missed.