FYI WIRZ Fast Take By Dwight Drum
Web work by Larsen & Drum Images by Drum
Young Rising NASCAR Stars Bring Big Sparks
NASCAR is fortunate to have an abundance of young, talented drivers with fast experience moving up quickly from short-tracks. Some have exploded into the top three levels of NASCAR to display their own version of fireworks through early results.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney have shown exceptional skills and keen adaptability in their quick rise to NASCAR’s top three series. A little youthful math is telling. Larson is 22, Elliott is 19 and Blaney is 20. All have burst onto the racing scene with winning outcomes.
Moving up the NASCAR ladder is logistically treacherous. Many in the ranks know the difficulty all must face and conquer.
Legendary Joe Gibbs knows young talent from his extensive NFL football and NSCS racing experience. Coach Gibbs shared his thoughts about the fate of young drivers.
“It’s hard for us to work with young guys,” Gibbs said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen with their career. They’re just getting started.”
Gibbs expanded on youthful circumstances with a few words about Joe Gibbs Racing development driver, Cody Coughlin, a third generation son from the motorsports family operating JEGS.com
“It’s neat to put them in good stuff, put good people around them and see how they do,” he added. “There could be some great stories there and he could be one of them.”
Others share the reality take that Gibbs professes.
Brad Keselowski’s youthful rise in NASCAR started about 10 years ago when he was 20. He is hardly elderly now at 30, yet he has learned much on his way to earning a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2012 and multiple wins at the top level.
Keselowski was quick to point out the significance of funding for his Brad Kesleowski Racing team in the NASCAR truck series. He also values the young talent of Blaney, son of veteran NSCS driver Dave Blaney, who drives for BKR.
“Ryan makes your job easier and a little harder,” Keselowski said. “It makes me want to put a lot more money into the team. Then I gotta figure out how I’m going to pay for it. You don’t want to make the financials the reason why you weren’t the champion.”
Kyle Larson is not the youngest star rising in NASCAR, but at 22 he certainly isn’t old despite his extensive experience. Larson has the keen ability to seemingly leap over steep learning curves. He has moved quickly to NASCAR’s top level, and earned the respect of fellow Cup drivers as he notched 17 top-10 finishes in his rookie year.
“I was seven when I started racing the outlaw karts, Larson said. “But I was four I think, when my dad built me a little kart to play around in.”
Larson also spoke about his ability to adapt and conquer learning curves.
“I think growing up racing a lot of different types of cars, being young helped me learn things quick,” he said. “I got good at adapting and learning really fast. I think that helped train me for being young in the Cup Series with not a lot of stock car experience.”
Elliott secured the Nationwide championship for owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season. He shared thoughts about his superstar dad, Bill Elliott, and some of his mentoring.
“He's always kind of let me figure things out on my own and to grow as a racer and as a person, and to know what you want in these race cars,” Elliott said. “He can help me, but I have to go and learn a lot of things myself and get the job done.”
Young Elliott also spoke maturely of his best advice to those younger than himself.“The biggest thing is just being honest with yourself, whether you like it or not,” he said. “If you can't get through it yourself,
then it doesn't matter what people say about you. It's irrelevant if you can't face those things personally and get through them on your own.”
Blaney attributes a lot of his success to his father, veteran NASCAR and Sprint Car racer, Dave Blaney.
“He put in so much when I was younger and spent so much time and money on me that I think he can finally sit back and relax,” Blaney said. “He’s still teaching me things nowadays that will help me week-in and week-out.”
Blaney also exudes of maturity like his friend, Chase Elliott, and spoke about rising to the top.
“The Cup Series, it’s a lot of big changes,” Blaney said. “You have to take your time and be patient in the early going. Everyone young in this series is going to have hold back a little bit, be a little bit more patient, being a lit bit more give and take out there.
Blaney concluded his take on maturity with vision.
“Hopefully they’ll get enough respect and keep doing that stuff like that. Be respectful and gain respect.”
Sparks of results shown by real fireworks set off in Victory Lane are welcome to this fast sport. Sparks from too much bumping and driving on the edge on the racetrack are not.
Young drivers bring hope and stamina to NASCAR’s top spots. It no doubt hoped by NASCAR that they will also bring young fans. That might be the kind of boom that would match fireworks that skilled, young drivers bring after checkered flags.
Much of that is the stuff of future skies, but the arrival of young stars in NASCAR ranks is a refreshing reality.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.
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