It’s that time of year again when NASCAR teams and drivers start playing musical chairs.
Usually when the music stops playing, it’s the familiar drivers who find chairs and announce their plans for the next season, but the past few years has been very different.
NASCAR has recently lost several big-name marquee drivers to retirement, and at the end of this season will lose at least one more in Dale Earnhardt Jr. The big gun teams have lost or are on the verge of losing their heavy hitters, and that’s a big deal for some.
Hendrick Motorsports will see Dale Earnhardt Jr. retire at season’s end after Jeff Gordon did the same two years ago (before coming out of retirement to sub for an injured Earnhardt, coincidentally). Joe Gibbs Racing is letting go of Matt Kenseth to bring in young gun Erik Jones.
Tony Stewart got out of the driver’s seat last year. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are also gone. Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne are both, like Kenseth, looking for rides next year. It’s even rumored that Danica Patrick may be packing her bags and leaving Stewart Haas Racing.
When you look at all that, you’d have to think NASCAR is sweating bullets, right?
Will the loyal fan base continue to sit in front of the television and come to the track to see the new kids? Can Chase Elliot, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez and some of the other newcomers keep the fan base coming back for more?
That’s a big question that will be answered next February.
In the meantime, NASCAR is busy trying to adjust and fix things at breakneck speed. The old saying “the wheels of change turn slowly” definitely does not apply to NASCAR lately.
It seems that NASCAR is giving every idea they can think of a try, including segments, playoffs points, possible spec engines for the Truck Series, tightening up the restrictions allowing Cup veterans the ability to race in lower series … the list goes on and on. It seems that every time you turn around NASCAR has tweaked or totally changed the rules.
To be quite frank, it makes my head spin.
It seems that NASCAR is trying to re-invent itself before Junior and the other veterans step out the door.
I appreciate what NASCAR is trying to do, but to be honest, I don’t think they have as much to fear as they may think. The numbers of fans watching and attending races won’t get any smaller because Dale Jr. is water skiing on Lake Norman on Sunday instead of climbing into a stock car.
I think it has become apparent that the heydays of the 1990s and early 2000s are nothing but an old memory. The die-hard fan base is what NASCAR now has with it.
I’m one of them.
We were the ones who were with them before the heyday, and like an old friend we remain. We welcome the new drivers. We are excited to see another Elliott becoming successful in a sport that his father mastered. We are pumped to see what a young upstart like Byron, or a third-generation star like Ryan Blaney, can do as they work to carve out their footholds in the premier level of stock car racing.
In short, we are ready for the next generation of NASCAR.
Break out the yellow rookie stripes and get ready, because the show must go on.
And I don’t know about you, but I sure am excited for it.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Andy DeLay is a career law enforcement officer for Clearwater, Florida who carries a passion for motorsports at both the local and national levels. He is an avid iRacer who also spends time away from the virtual circuit at local tracks.
In addition, DeLay is a host of the long-time Burning Rubber Radio Show on the Performance Motorsports Network, the wireless mobile radio affiliate of Race Chaser Online, as well as an onsite reporter for PMN in various capacities.
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