NASCAR is in the midsts of a massive turnover. Out with the old and in with the new has been the name of the game for the last few years. Fan favorites have exited gracefully or suddenly and the sport has started pushing a younger generation of drivers to the forefront. As more drivers approach the end of their careers the sport has had an influx of young talent.
Every year a hot new name pops up, manufacturers, sponsors and teams throw their support behind these young kids. From K&N, to ARCA, to SLM, there has never been more money in the lower levels of racing in the hopes of finding the next big thing. What was once a grassroots type of racing now has drivers with multiple PR reps, sponsor reps, handlers galore. Some would say we have too many “prospects.”
With only 38 cars showing up for a NASCAR Cup Series race these days thanks to the brilliant charter system the number of seats is very limited. Because of that, a good number of these prospects will never make it to the Cup Series or if they do they better perform or they’ll be shown the door. Dylan Kwasniewski got the boot from Ganassi after one year. Casey Atwood was out at Evernham after a season. Joey Logano was almost on this list.
So who will be the biggest bust out NASCAR’s young talent group?
Todd Gilliland- At this point, it’s almost too easy to pick David’s kid here but they hype around him was massive 18 months ago. Flash forward to this year and he’s racing for his job at Kyle Busch Motorsports. The kid who won in everything before getting to the truck series can’t figure out how to get it done anymore. In the lower series Gilliland had the best equipment and the best people, he still has that with KBM but so do other teams. Good equipment can mask driver flaws, unfortunately, it can’t do that forever. Todd was a “can’t miss” prospect but he’s flirting with his bubble busting.
Austin Cindric- Team Penske historically doesn’t field an Xfinity car for “prospects.” They wouldn’t even field the #22 full-time Ryan Blaney. When team President Tim Cindric’s kid along the team decided to field a car for him full-time. Austin has shown evidence of having talent but the question remains, if he wasn’t Tim Cindric’s son and at Team Penske would another team sign him?
Noah Gragson- The kid from Las Vegas who has won in everything he’s climbed in is struggling bad in his first full-time season of Xfinity competition. Maybe he needs time to adjust but if he’s not careful a switch from KBM to JRM could prove to be disastrous. Gragson has talent but does his talent outweigh the money he brings?
Erik Jones- People are going to look at this name and scoff at it. He’s won a Cup race, he’s in his third year of Cup competition and while all of that is true Erik Jones should be looking over his shoulder. JGR has a track record of having a quick trigger with young guys. Logano won 2 races for the team and was booted nearly out of the sport. Daniel Suarez was thrust into the #19 and kicked out within 2 seasons. JJ Yeley got two seasons before being cast off. JGR has Christopher Bell chomping at the bit to get to the Cup Series. While the rest of JGR is winning Jones is complaining for the 99th straight week about how hard his car is to drive.
William Byron- The kid that was crafted in a NASCAR lab to be the next big star has underperformed immensely in his year and 8 races at Hendrick Motorsports. We know the kid can drive, he’s won multiple races in the lower two series. Yet his Cup career has gotten off to the slowest start imaginable. Could he see his time at Hendrick run out before it ever got going? Or will the company look at the #88 first?
Tanner Gray- The NHRA racer turned oval tracker (again) has all the money in the world to buy his way into the upper echelon of stock car racing. He and his family are going at it the right way currently with an ARCA and K&N schedule. However money can only take you so far.
Riley Herbst- “What a douchebag.” – Hannah Newhouse. That’s all you need to know. Money and family lineage don’t equate to driver talent.
Follow us on Twitter @ApexOff