DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – The Daytona 500 has always been a race that rewards veterans. Just look at the recent winners. Entering 2018, nine of the last 11 winners were over the age of 30. But, the sport is in a transition of a new wave of drivers are here. Gone are the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and others. Replacing them are younger inexperienced drivers with loads of talent.
NASCAR has been promoting the new found youth movement. Rightfully so too. But, some drivers spoke up recently in their displeasure with that. Instead of focusing on young drivers like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and others who are still in their prime, the series is turning their attention to the younger stars.
Well, Sunday’s Daytona 500 showed that the youth has arrived.
Early in the race, veterans like Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were out of contention to win the 60th annual race. So were some of the other big young guns like Chase Elliott, William Byron, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez, but in the end, the youth prevailed.
27 year old Austin Dillon won Sunday’s Great American Race. 24 year old Darrell Wallace Jr. was second. In fact, five of the top seven finishers on Sunday were 27 or younger. The only two not were two 37 year olds, Denny Hamlin (3rd) and Paul Menard (6th).
Other than that, you had Joey Logano (27) in fourth, Chris Buescher (25) in fifth and Ryan Blaney (24) in seventh. As far as laps led goes, 151 of the 207 laps were led by drivers 27 or younger too.
The new wave is here. The Daytona 500 proved that even more.