With William Byron being the newest signing for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, one thing is apparent, the youth movement is not just coming, but it’s almost here on full blast. Byron, joins Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and several other younger drivers to join the Cup ranks in the last few years as full time drivers in the 2018 Cup season. Now, it appears that over half of the seats for the marquee teams on the Cup level, are filled with younger talent.
Gone recentky are Jeff Gordon (46) Tony Stewart (46) Carl Edwards (37) and at the end of this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (42). Notable free agents right now are Danica Patrick (35) Kurt Busch (39) Kasey Kahne (37) Aric Almirola (33) and Matt Kenseth (45). Replacing this talent in those seats (current age at the moment in parenthesis) are some young drivers.
Chase Elliott (21) Alex Bowman (24) and William Byron (19) are with Hendrick. Daniel Suarez (25) Erik Jones (21) are with Joe Gibbs Racing for 2018. As you can see, it’s an out with the old, in with the new mentality in NASCAR now.
I haven’t even mentioned Austin Dillon (27) and Joey Logano (27) yet. What about Chris Buescher (24) too?
If you count the two Chip Ganassi Racing seat, four at Hendrick, four at JGR, one at Furniture Row, two so far for RCR, one at Germain, two also so far for SHR, the Wood Brothers seat, three at Penske and two at Roush/Fenway and two at JTG, that’s 24 seats we know of for 2018 for the top tier teams. Literally half of those seats will see drivers aged 27 or younger when they show up to race in the Daytona 500 next February.
Look at the ages too for these drivers when they show up to Daytona:
26- T. Dillon
27- A. Dillon
All of those drivers will have a shot to win not just the ‘500, but most of the races on the NASCAR schedule because they all have quality rides. Then, you factor in drivers that are still young and in their prime like Brad Keselowski (33) Kyle Busch (32) Denny Hamlin (36) AJ Allmendinger (35) Paul Menard (36) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (29) and you have another group of six to that mix.
The old guns now would be Martin Truex Jr. (37) Clint Bowyer (38) Ryan Newman (39) Jamie McMurray (41) Kevin Harvick (41) and Jimmie Johnson (41) in those seats. What’s that say?
Heading to Daytona next year, just Newman, McMurray, Harvick and Johnson will be over the age of 40.
We will have 12 drivers 27 years of age or younger, and only four that are 40 years of age or older showing up to Speedweeks next season. The shift is coming and it’s honestly, almost done.
That’s the biggest reason why Danica, Busch, Kenseth and Kahne are free agents. Their age, even if it’s not even close to being old by the worlds standards, is holding them back. They don’t have the funding to find rides and they get paid too much. The younger drivers have sponsorship backing and will take way less money for those marquee rides.
If Kenseth gets a seat, that’s five drivers over the age of 40 next year. But, will he have a marquee seat? Furniture Row Racing has said that the only way the second car is on the track next season is if they having funding. Stewart-Haas would like to have four cars, but they need funding for both. They could scale back to three. Same for the third RCR seat. They could scale back to just two cars.
Richard Petty Motorsports wants to have two cars, but it’s looking more and more like they’ll have just one. They want 33-year old Almirola back, but 23-year old Bubba Wallace Jr. is sitting there. It could be conceivable to see Almirola (33) end up with SHR and Wallace at RPM or vise versa. That would shuffle out at least two current drivers of Danica (35) Busch (39) and/or Kenseth (45).
The tide is changing.