NASCAR is different from any other sport, but none more than the rise of young talent. The levels of competition in racing starts at the cart level for young children then eventually the talent will rise through each level with the small elite group making it to the big leagues, NASCAR. In the Camping World Truck Series the youngest a driver can be is 16, which was lowered in 2012 from 18. Anyone can watch the races and realize that these kids have talent, but are they ready for the big stage and everything that come with it. Lets take a look at some situations.
More from NASCAR
- NASCAR Cup Series: New team set to compete in 2024
- NASCAR: Will Kevin Harvick’s major record ever be broken?
- NASCAR: Surprising name continuously linked to new seat
- NASCAR driver at risk of missing the Daytona 500?
- NASCAR set for rare appearance last seen 13 years ago
Let’s start with the defending Xfinity Series Champion Chase Elliott. Elliott is the son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and has been in the racing world since birth. He has seen his dad do it and succeed, so his situation is different.
Elliott did start like most, racing in carts and working his way up and unlike some not just by his last name but also by winning. He raced in the Camping World Truck Series in 2013 nine times winning one at the age of seventeen. Then we all know what the age of eighteen did for Chase, an Xfinity Series Championship. All in all Chase can handle himself and the move to Sprint Cup is a year away and no one doubts he is ready.
Now, look at Austin Dillon, the son of Mike Dillon who in all honestly was not a winner. Mike Dillon raced in 154 races in the Xfinity Series and zero wins. Wait! He raced one time in the Sprint Cup Series and finished 35th at Fontana in 1998. Now Austin, big surprise here, has yet to prove he can win either.
He started at 19 in the Camping World Truck Series, that is five years ago and he has only won six times including once already this year. Dillon has been in the Xfinity Series for eight years and has only won three times. Last year the move to Sprint Cup full-time was announced; He now drives the No. 3 car for Richard Childress, who is his granddad. Was Dillon ready for the big time? Is he ready for it now? Has he proven that he can handle it? Or is he riding his “connections” and name to the top series?
This begs the question when are they ready?
The problem lies within NASCAR and auto racing itself. The sport is not like baseball or football where there is little league and you can pay seventy-five dollars for registration and a jersey so your kid can see if he likes it. Instead auto racing on any level is just downright expensive. There is no way around it and nothing will change that. This mixed with the need for a younger audience will force NASCAR and teams to thrust raw and sometimes not very good drivers into the spotlight. For every one Chase Elliott there are four Austin Dillon’s. This is not me saying that the sport is hopeless and no young talent exists anymore, though I will say that these young drivers need time.
What are the lower level series here for if teams just rush these kids through and force them into a Sprint Cup car? NASCAR cannot except to market young losing talent. It is hard to market a loser plain and simple. Kids come to the track with their parents and want to root for someone young like them, yet are faced with the disappointment of their driver getting lapped multiple times in a race they should have never been in. If teams and drivers would face the reality and wait to move up until they succeed or at least show signs of improvement NASCAR would have marketable young talent that wins races or at least finishes well. Instead NASCAR has a bevy of young talent to simply fill the field and run towards the back of the pack.