A Farewell To Colin Edwards

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Colin Edwards Retirement

I am not the sort of person to stand in line unnecessarily. I seldom ask for autographs. I’ve been fortunate to meet stars and celebrities of many stripes and, with the exception of some World War II pilots, most didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me.

But at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August of 2009, I broke my own rules, allowed myself to become a total fanboy for a couple hours, and stood in line to meet Colin Edwards.

I liked Edwards from the time I saw him in Mark Neale’s superlative documentary on MotoGP, Faster. He was raw, a little goofy, and clearly not concerned with political correctness. I became his fan not just because he was an American, but because he is American. He’s brash, and funny, and blunt. He likes big trucks and big guns and owns a ranch in Texas filled with both. He’s a family man who’s not afraid of dropping the occasional (or not so occasional) f-bomb.

Colin Edwards is my kind of people. Our kind of people, really, as fans the world over fell in love with the Texan as soon as they heard him speak.

Colin Edwards Retirement

Upon arriving on the world stage, rather than try to gloss over his twang and redneck style to fit in among the cool European paddock, Edwards embraced it, turning it into his trademark. At the Nürburgring round of the 1999 World Superbike Championship, oil left by Igor Jerman’s expired Kawasaki was left unflagged for an inexplicable number of laps. After becoming the one of the several hapless victims to toss his bike into the gravel, Colin vented his displeasure in the most appropriate way possible: a two finger salute to the marshals who failed to show the flags. And so was a star born.

But he was more than a personality. He was a double World Superbike champion before I even started riding motorcycles, winning his second title in what may be the most epic on-track battle for a championship that we’ll see in our lifetimes, at Imola in 2002. He slugged it out with Troy Bayliss, the best Superbike rider in a generation, and beat him fair and square, on the track. It was the stuff of dreams for riders and fans alike.

The next time we saw Colin with his fangs fully out was at Assen in 2006, when he battled Nicky Hayden in a two-lap brawl that more closely resembled their dirt track backgrounds, than the polished MotoGP experience we had come to know. Colin crashed in the final chicane, Nicky took the win, and I almost stopped watching motorcycle racing altogether out of frustration.

On a muggy Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, after a practice session, a sweaty Colin Edwards II sat at a folding table and signed autographs, and posed for pictures with hundreds of fans. When my turn came, I very nearly failed to get out the question I had practiced in line for the last hour. But after an assist from my wife, I finally stammered something about how he seemed to be getting through turn 1 faster than most everybody, and asked why he thought that was.

His reply? “Well, turn 1’s a big balls corner, so I guess if they’re not going as fast as me, they just don’t have big balls!”

It was vintage Edwards.

Colin Edwards Retirement

They say you should never meet your heroes. I say, pick better heroes. The man you see in the Saturday press conferences is the same one you’ll meet in person, and so will say everybody who’s spent time at his Boot Camp.

Today in Austin, at the age of 40, Colin Edwards announced his retirement from motorcycle racing, effective at the end of the 2014. There is no replacing him. Nicky Hayden, himself on the downward slope of his career and Josh Herrin, who is only just starting in GPs, will be left to carry the flag for the United States. But there is no one who can fill the boots of the man who provided some much needed flavor and comic relief to an otherwise stuffy paddock. Edwards was the everyman’s hero in MotoGP, and we may never see another.

It is doubtful that Edwards will disappear from the racing world entirely, but his presence at each round of the championship will be missed by every single person who rides, wrenches, writes or simply watches the sport. From all of us around the world, thanks, Colin. It’s been a helluva ride.

  • Dan

    Pete – like the articles you’ve been putting out. Nice to have content geared towards more experienced riders. Keep up the good work.

    • http://pete.hitzeman.com/cephas365 Pete Hitzeman

      Cheers Dan, I appreciate it!

  • MichaelEhrgott

    Long live the Texas Tornado!

  • Aaron Kirkland

    I was working Turn 12 at COTA this past weekend when Edward’s bike had a mechanical on Lap 18. We were at the break in the Armco, inside the turn. He pushed across the outside of the turn, and leaned his bike against the railing for us to handle. I radioed in the incident, and as I said “Bike Five” I realized who it was. He didn’t say a thing, but I could tell he was mad and very disappointed. I grabbed his bike, and radioed in for the moto-taxi again that hadn’t showed up yet. By the time I looked up at him again, he had his helmet off and was handing his gloves over the fence to a fan. She was glowing.

    Moto-Taxi showed up and he took off as the Gator pulled up for the bike.

    • HoldenL

      I love this story. Imagine being so gracious in his shoes. Sorry, I’d be too disappointed to do a favor for a fan. The guy is a class act.

  • skongara

    Big fan of Colin Edwards here. I find my self rather unfortunate to not have followed the early part of his career…or racing for that matter. Thanks to youtube, I realized what a competitor he was. A true world champion.The guy was truly the spark of any paddock. Spoke his mind, absolutely hilarious and a true crowd puller. Every interview he gave was a gem. His twitter handle is just amazing. The top riders that show up at his Boot Camp just goes to show what a likeable guy he is among his fellow riders in the paddock. An absolute class act. Thanks for everything #5.

  • Clint Keener

    Great article!

  • William Connor

    It’s just too bad he’s leaving. Not only does it end some fun but it means we as fans are aging as well.

  • Jack Meoph

    whoa, what happened to my post? I took some effort with that post because I’m a BIG fan of CE II. ah well. When I was going to the SBK races at Laguna from ’95 till around 2002 or so, you could walk the paddock and rub shoulders with the teams, from the racers down to the gophers. Colin was always friendly and funny and enjoying himself. He will be missed. That save at Jerez will live on forever.

  • Heather McCoy

    To the rider who isn’t afraid to let the beers fall out of the fridge in his motor-home in a billion-dollar paddock, this one’s for you, Colin! Maybe you could morph into the role of rock-star-rider-sensai-master and learn these younguns some swagger?!

  • Vincent T.

    He gave a similar “big balls” quote to BT Sport regarding Turn 1 at Phillip Island; did you just totally butcher that and pass it off as your own, or did that actually happen?