HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- After reports surfaced that he would be retiring from NASCAR competition in 2017, Carl Edwards announced Wednesday that he will be stepping away from driving full-time.

The Missouri native said he knows that there are many people who won't understand why he's walking away, especially after reaching the championship round of the Chase in 2016. Edwards dominated the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway before crashing with Joey Logano on a late-race restart, ending his championship dreams.

Edwards refused to call his decision "retirement," and said if he ever considers getting back in a race car, his first call would be to Joe Gibbs Racing. 

"If I'm going to be back in a race car, which I'm not saying the 'R-word' here, I've seen how that's worked out for guys," Edwards said. "But if I'm going to get back in a race car, I'm calling Coach Gibbs first."

In a separate announcement, team owner Joe Gibbs announced that defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez will replace Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota. Suarez said his existing relationship with JGR's drivers helps make the sudden change easier to swallow.

"I have had an amazing relationship with Carl Edwards, with Kyle Busch and everyone in this organization," Suarez said. "I spoke with them already, and they are all willing to help me and to teach me everything I need, to ask questions, and when you have that kind of support, you just don't feel alone."

Edwards, who has a reputation as being one of, if not the most genuine personalities in NASCAR, had to fight back tears when asked about his perception in the garage area.

Edwards said there are three reasons why he's stepping away from competing in NASCAR: he's satisfied with his career, wants to spend more time with his family, and wants to get out of the sport with his health intact.

During a press conference that lasted nearly an hour, Edwards went to great lengths to explain why he's pleased with his career, despite not hoisting a Cup Series championship.

"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," Edwards said. "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."

The 28-time winner in NASCAR's top series said the decision was simply a personal choice and that he's not moving on to another opportunity within NASCAR or television.

"There's no life raft I'm jumping onto. I'm just jumping," Edwards explained. "And in a way, it makes it easier, because I'm not being swayed by some carrot out here, something going on. There is no new manufacturer ride coming in three years that they're paying me a fortune for, there is nothing like that.

"This is a pure, simple, personal decision, and for that I'm grateful."