These. Kids. Are. Good.

I really, really, really hope you’ve been paying attention this season to what is happening in the lower series and with a few upcoming young drivers. Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney may be three of the best young drivers we’ve had come up in a long time. There are a few others who will make their marks before the year is over, but these three in particular are the future of the sport.

The influx of “funded” drivers into the sport is something we’ve discussed on this site ad nauseam in the past (some of you might say ancient past). It’s easier for team owners to bring in a kid with his own money, than it is to take a chance on a young driver with no big time backer behind him. Because of this, some really good drivers never got legitimate shots to prosper. These three are an exception.

Blaney and Elliott definitely had a leg up because of their name recognition, but both are in the seats they’re in because they are very talented. Race wins in the Nationwide Series and Truck Series for both prove that.

Larson is a different story. He came up how guys used to come up, and how we wish they would all come up. No famous family members, and no rich benefactor writing checks to get him in seats. He earned every ride by winning, and winning a lot. Larson is a throwback to a different time, when all drivers wanted to do was drive. If Chip Ganassi would let him, Larson would still be running mid-week sprint car shows all over the country.

Blaney is running a limited Nationwide and Cup schedule this season, but don’t expect him to be without a full time ride in an upper series for long. If Penske can’t hang on to him, somebody else will give him that chance in the next year or two.

At this point, the future for Elliott would seem to be behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports Cup car. It might be a few years away, and will probably depend on how much longer Jeff Gordon wants to drive, but make no mistake, Mr. H. won’t let young Chase get away.

As for Larson, he’s obviously found a home in the Cup Series with Chip Ganassi and the Target ride. Going forward, Ganassi will have his work cut out to keep Larson in the fold. There have already been rumors of other teams making offers to Ganassi for “Young Money,” and his growing popularity and early success will make him a target for bigger teams (no pun intended).

Keep an eye out as the season progresses, because there are probably two or three other drivers in the Nationwide and Truck Series who could become household names very quickly. They have the talent and the backing to succeed, they just need that one break through performance.

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14 Responses to “These. Kids. Are. Good.”

  1. Doug in CA says:

    Indeed. I also have come to buy the Kool-Aid that was NASCAR’s decision to stop giving points to Cup drivers in lower series. It just gives that much more ink and air time to the Busch and truck regulars.

    Meanwhile, over a year of silence with no explanation? Make no mistake, I am really glad to see you back, but will you now vanish again? If so,tell us. We’re not gonna come after you or anything!

  2. Ryan says:

    I think it will be interesting if Ganassi can keep Larson. In the past when McMurray became a hot prospect they couldn’t hang on. With how impressive Larson’s been it will be extremely difficult IMO to keep him in the fold.

  3. @djsplitter says:

    Brad K was the next big thing in the Hendrick stable but he got away. I want to see Casey in a red Ford but I know that will never happen.

  4. T.C. says:

    Doug: Going to make a concerted effort to post regularly again. I’ve got a few ideas for some more posts, so we’ll see how it goes. Don’t know if we’ll see Journo post, so don’t expect that. I’ve honestly thought about coming back and posting a million times over the last year, and it just never happened. After five years of posting several times a week, I think we were both just burned out. You go away from it for a while, your life changes a bit, and it just wasn’t a priority anymore. I could have killed the site easily this year or last, but I kept the domain registered, and the hosting paid for so people could always come back and read old posts at the very least. So, we’ll see…

  5. Doug in CA says:

    T.C.: I understand 100%. All our lives have changed since you began this terrific site some years back. If you want to shut it down, who am I to complain? I guess the one request I’d have is that you post regularly, even if it’s only once a month. Save up the ideas and blast ‘em out once a month or so. You don’t have to discuss just one topic. Then we can look forward to a new discussion every time you post. The discussions are a real highlight of your site, and I hope to see some of the old regulars reappear here in response to this post.

    One thing I’d love to hear about is life back in the pack with the underfunded teams. No big media, no “we’re in this to win races” stuff, but “We’re in it to try to make a living.”

  6. Neon says:

    YeeHaw TNI. I didn’t forget about y’all, just concerned for ya.

    I usually don’t buy in the young guns moniker, as it seems that as soon as a young driver is told they are great and/or sign a big contract…the performance/attitude changes for the worst. This group of Larson, Elliot & Blaney seem to buck that trend and appear (at least from the outside) somewhat humble,respectful and let their talent do the talking. I wanted to see Johanna Long in some good equipment to do the same. What happened to her?

  7. Loren says:

    Welcome back!

    Best group of young drivers we’ve had in a long time and definitely not limited to the three you mentioned.

  8. Ray NJ says:

    Nice to see you sending these again…they are probably the most informative news

  9. Ric says:

    Nice to see you back!!

    Unfortunately I don’t get to watch as much racing as I like. What little I have seen of Ryan Blaney I think Ryan Blaney is a really good, up and coming driver. I feel that he is going to be significantly better than his dad, if given the chance to prove it in some decent equipment.

  10. Kim says:

    Welcome back! I get the burnout-on-blogging situation, I stopped after 8 years. I’m very happy to see this post, and say hi to Journo for us! :)

  11. Donna says:

    Glad to see you! Agree, I’m very excited about the young drivers now & coming up and, more importantly, so are my young adults, who identify even more with drivers their own age.

  12. Marthza says:

    I pretty much don’t pay attention to this “young guns” stuff. Especially now that we have the new “annointed” one, Bill Elliots son, did I say Bill Elliots son…lol. Like we can never forget the way the media is quick to latch on to something. He has been afforded opportunities that the fans of Old Bill scoff at concerning other drivers, I love the double standard. You get sick of hearing about it. Everybody screams about the underfunded not heard,during the broadcasts NW races..It’s Bill/Chase Chase/Bill always. Again hypocrites. Chase’s alliance and assurance of a future in Nascar pretty much no matter what, with Nascar favorites HMS and JMR frees me up to root for someone else. And yes world you can have a different opinion and know what you see and hear, and not be “jealous or hater” which is the lamest of lame these days.

  13. Mike says:

    Great to see you back. Kyle and Chase are look like they are a new high point for the young rookies, I just hope that Chase can get a Hendrick ride but looks like Gordon doesn’t want to retire so I’d be a little nervous if I was Kasey. I think Chip can hold on to Kyle with Targets help but I bet Tony would love to have him once the Go Daddy money train runs out and then Kyle could run some more dirt races during the week.

  14. RA Eckart says:

    Hendrick’s gonna have to make a hard decision. At the latest, Elliott’s full-time in Cup in 2017. So does Gordon go or Kahne?

    My money says Hendrick finds a place for Gordon (Childress?). It’s a hard choice, but Chase is the next 15 years.

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