It’s hard to believe but we’re only a little over a month away until Speedweeks in Daytona. With that being said, we still need to put a bow on 2017 first. That officially comes to a head this weekend. But, as 2018 is in the windshield and 2017 is heading into the rear view mirror, NASCAR’s focus is changing elsewhere too.
2018 is the year where NASCAR ushers in a new era. Gone is a lot of star power. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. won’t be competing for the Cup championship anymore. They’ve all stepped away.
Replacing them are Chase Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola. Out with the old in with the youth.
Not that any of those prior names are old though, none even eclipsed 46 by time they retired, but NASCAR is transitioning into a much younger generation. The veterans’ replacements are barely old enough to legally drink adult beverages. A decade ago, it was unheard of to let a driver barely over 21 to race in NASCAR’s premiere series. Now, it’s the norm.
Mix in Bubba Wallace Jr’s ride with Richard Petty Motorsports, Ryan Blaney’s with Team Penske and Ty Dillon’s with Germain Racing, and you have the you have the youth movement in full focus.
Factor in Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon into this equation too, and you’d see that NASCAR’s focus the last three to four years with younger drivers in mind. Now, they’re all here and ready to compete with top rides.
Take this stat for example, take Jimmie Johnson away and Hendrick Motorsports has zero combined Cup wins out of their other three drivers. Take Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin away from Joe Gibbs Racing and the other two drivers with JGR have also yet to see victory lane in a Cup race.
That’s why NASCAR’s landscape has changed and they’re searching for a new identity and broaden their fan base. 2018 is going to be a lot of change and the first year of the new era.