Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Electric Youth: Michigan's top 3 finishers show future is bright for NASCAR

Posted On Sunday, 12 June 2016 00:00 Written by
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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It's easily lost when you look at the overall record books (i.e. Jimmie Johnson's six championships), but the overall trend in NASCAR lately is youth.

The top three finishers Sunday at MIS -- Joey Logano (age 26), Chase Elliott (age 20) and Kyle Larson (age 23) -- are part of an exceptional crop of young drivers who will be dominating headlines in the years to come.

Correct that, they're already doing it ... This was the youngest top 3 ever ... an average age of 23 (Note: 24.7 was previous average age of top 3; and those numbers go back to NASCAR's early days -- happening three times in 1951, 1950 and 1950).
Larson took note of this in his post-race press conference, saying: "It's exciting to see. I'm happy I got here in the first small wave of seats opening up. ... The youngest top three the Cup series has ever had. It's pretty special."

While drivers over the age of 30 are still among the most competitive on track each week (see Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, among others), the type of results you saw today from Logano, Elliott and Larson are just the beginning.

Here's what you can look forward to in the next decade as the veteran drivers start to make their way out of the sport:

-- Joey Logano is is a rare find: A driver who was tapped at a very young age to compete in the big leagues (even nicknamed "sliced bread"), and after some growing pains has lived up to his potential. He is already a veteran, and still so young, that he could go on his very own Jimmie-Johnson type run if the chips fall his way. Keep in mind that the new package with less downforce was in play at Michigan for the first time, and Logano excelled at it. If this becomes the norm, the competition better watch out.

-- Kyle Larson is a dirt-track racer, coming from the sprint car world. He is fast in whatever vehicle he drives, and with the new package being described as loose and nearly out-of-control and requiring drivers who have experience in that type of scenario, he's another one who should do well in 2017 with the new package, and should compete for the win at Kentucky when it is run again this year.

-- Chase Elliott: He is his father's son, in the best way possible. He was mad at himself for making some mistakes Sunday that took away a potential win, and should find Victory Lane before season's end (and likely make the Chase even without a win). He is a rookie, but he's every bit as capable as drivers double his age of winning the title -- even now. Imagine, when he matures, what he could do.

-- Ryan Blaney: Another chip off the old block. Father Dave and Uncle Dale taught him well. This young man is responsible for the Wood Brothers' strong return to full-time racing in 2016, and should lead them to Victory Lane and the Chase soon -- possibly even this season. Even when he was competing in ARCA as a teenager, I could see his potential -- and Ford has found themselves their next superstar in Blaney -- He'll be battling Elliott, Larson and Logano for titles for many years to come.

-- Austin and Ty Dillon: These two have a lot to prove, as they need to shake the image that the only reason they have a ride is because of grandpa and car owner Richard Childress. But I believe they'll do just that. Both brothers have shown they are championship-caliber in the right equipment, and if Childress can provide that equipment they are capable of running up front in the Cup series -- and if the 3 car won another Cup title (or even won Cup races regularly), it would be a sweet sight for Dale Earnhardt Sr. fans.

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Follow Matt Myftiu on Twitter @MattMyftiu; Follow AutoTechReviews on Twitter @AutoTechReview.

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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