NASCAR driver Kyle Busch created quite a stir a couple of weeks ago when he was asked if there was an emphasis on the younger generation of drivers and whether it bothered him.
“It is bothersome. We’ve paid our dues, and our sponsors have and everything else, and all you’re doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver.” Busch added, “I think it’s stupid. But I don’t know, I’m not the marketing genius that’s behind this deal. You know, I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what my part is. I guess one thing that can be said is probably the younger guys are bullied into doing more things than the older guys are because we say no a lot more because we’ve been there, done that and have families, things like that, and want to spend as much time as we can at home. You know, maybe that’s some of it. But you know, it’s some of these marketing campaigns and things like that, pushing these younger drivers, is I wouldn’t say all that fair.”
In 2001 Kyle Busch drove the No. 99 Ford Truck in what was then the Craftsman Truck Series in six races. He was 16. He had two top ten finishes; finishing ninth in his first race at IRP and last race at this home track at Las Vegas. He could not race at California as the tobacco company who sponsored the race objected to a 16-year-old racing.
In December of 2001, NASCAR enacted a rule that all drivers had to be 18 years old in order to compete in all three-top series. Kyle Busch was not able to race in 2002 and until his 18th birthday in May of 2003. Roush was not able to hold the 99 Truck open in 2003 for Busch as they had another great driver, Carl Edwards, available.
If only NASCAR found a way to embrace young talented drivers. Such as finding ways for the sponsor to change the message such as the “21 means 21” message when a driver under 21 would win the Coors Light Pole.
On Twitter and at the track, I have met a lot of Kyle Busch fans. They are very passionate. They are also very young. When I say young; I mean under 30 young. The demographic that NASCAR needs and wants.
Oh, what could have been. Imagine how much more phenomenal Kyle would be had he been able to compete in the Truck Series in 2002 and 2003. Could this have brought more attention to NASCAR? Could this have brought even more young fans to NASCAR?
Kyle Busch is right. NASCAR is putting an emphasis on the younger drivers. They must in order to keep the series fresh. It is not a slight on the seasoned veterans and their sponsors; who as Busch said “paid our dues”. More eye balls watching is good for everyone. That is the goal.
Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.
Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.
Feature Photo Credit: 352835 Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images