It’s time to embrace the future

Matthew T. Thacker/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

With Matt Kenseth confirming on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway that he would not be returning to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2018, some in the NASCAR world began to announce that they were done with the sport at the end of this season.

With the loss of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to retirement and the loss of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Kenseth, and potentially Danica Patrick the sport has lost some star power.

If NASCAR can survive the loss of Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, and Cale Yarborough, just to name a few, the sport can survive the loss of Gordon, Stewart, and Earnhardt.

The problem for NASCAR is that these guys who have retired or left the sport out of their own will have a rather large following. When you ask a random stranger on the street to name a NASCAR driver, they will probably name Earnhardt Jr. or Gordon.

Will the road to regain this crop of start power be easy? Absolutely not, but the sport will survive.

The changing of the guard is here. As people within the sport, we have to appreciate the past and embrace the future. The void is huge, but the future drivers have potential, we just have to embrace it. For the older NASCAR fan, I understand, it is hard to embrace change, but if we do not embrace the change, there may not be a NASCAR in the future. Although you may feel deserted temporarily, please take the time to embrace these young guys. This crop can bring NASCAR to new levels that it has never experienced before.

How?

This crop of young drivers provides the sport with the diversity it has longed for. This crop of drivers working their way into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series provides NASCAR with the opportunity to break the stereotype of being a “southern white man’s sport.”

The NASCAR Drive For Diversity program is slowly beginning to make strides in helping NASCAR break those molds with drivers like Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, and Darrell Wallace Jr. The work the program does now is just getting started and will only get stronger on the future.

The garage area may be seen as a place where drivers have neglected fans. In reality, they have taken fan engagement to new platforms outside of the garage.

Social media has allowed the personality and access of the drivers shine. Fans can joke around with drivers like Matt DiBenedetto or Landon Cassill. They may not be with the larger teams, but they make their presence known at the racetrack through their engagement on Twitter and sometimes Reddit.

In podcasts, people receive a raw, unfiltered and sometimes uncontrolled Ryan Blaney in his podcast, “Glass Case of Emotion” with Kim Coon and Chuck Bush. Daniel Suarez has also moved into the podcasting ranks with “Speedy Suarez”, allowing for his personality to shine away from the racetrack.

The future for NASCAR has never been brighter than it is now. Please stick around, and enjoy this fun and exciting journey NASCAR will take.

2 Comments

  1. frank

    November 6, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Nascar is BORING cars look like snowplows, to much follow the leader. They throw caution fl
    ags for paper or tape on the track. Nascar needs to more like Indy Car, lets the cars race cut the fields to 32 cars. Be like Indy if pieces of spliter or wings on track keep racing {Or Firestone tires that much better than Goodyear or the drivers better in Indy car] Indy always has more excitement.

  2. Al Torney

    November 6, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Did you see the empty seats at Texas or are you blind? How about those undies 2.0 TV ratings? And you’ve got the audacity to say the future is bright? Just how many African-American, Hispanic and Asian fans do you think will be filling those empty seats at NASCAR events? Like these people have the necessary dollars it costs to attend these races. Most black communities in this country still are experiencing double digit unemployment. Hispanics in this country while doing better then in their homeland are still near the bottom of the economic scale in this country. I have absolutely nothing against NASCAR’s Diversity Program. It has its merits but it is not the answer to the sports problems.

    As for these young guys being the answer that is out in left field too. Chase depends on daddy’s popularity, Jones, Byron, Blaney and the rest bring no fans with them. Guys like you have to create their popularity. Sure their looking good but keep in mind they are in really good race cars on top tier teams. They should do well. Driving for top Cup teams in the Xfinity series and the truck series beating underfunded teams doesn’t necessarily mean you’re great.

    I’m really concerned about the loss of Junior and Patrick, and to some extent Kenseth, next year. The empty seats at Texas really surprised me. I thought Juniors last race there would have been incentive to pack the place but it sure didn’t appear to mean anything.

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