NASCAR experiencing youth movement

Robert Leveille, Assistant Sports Editor

Roughly every 10 to 20 years, NASCAR experiences a change of the guard.

Over the last couple of years the sport has seen three of its superstars retire. The legendary Jeff Gordon called it quits after the 2015 season, followed by two-time champion Tony Stewart. In a surprising move, championship contender Carl Edwards walked away from the sport citing personal reasons. Rumors are circulating that one of the biggest names in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has been contemplating retirement in the near future.

Fans have reason to be optimistic about the sports future. Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and rookies Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez look to fill the void that the aforementioned superstars are leaving.

Larson was the 2014 Rookie of the Year. It’s been 118 races since he began running full time in NASCARs premier series.

He has registered two wins, 47 top-10 appearances and started. The California native resonates with fans from the West coast and is leading the new wave in NASCAR’s expansion.

The 2016 Rookie of the Year Elliott is the son of one of the most popular drivers to have ever raced in NASCAR, Bill Elliott. Elliott replaced the retired Gordon for powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports. He won the 2015 Nationwide Series Championship in his rookie year, racing for Earnhardt Jr. While Elliott has yet to find victory lane in NASCARs top series, the pulse around the sport suggests his time with the checkered flag is imminent.

Elliot currently sits second in the standings and has led laps in every race this year. In the first seven races this year he’s recorded three top five victories and five top 10s. Elliot started on the pole in back to back Daytona 500s.

Current rookies Blaney and Suarez may fill out the best rookie class NASCAR has seen since Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth entered the series in 2000.

Blaney drives the iconic Wood Brothers’ Number 21 Ford once driven by NASCAR legend David Pearson. Blaney’s aggressive and tenacious driving style has helped make a name for himself among sports veterans. Finishing second in this year’s Daytona 500, Blaney also registered three top 10s in the first seven races of his rookie year.

Suarez followed up his 2015 Nationwide Rookie of the Year campaign by winning the series championship in 2016.

The Mexican native was called to fill the seat for Edwards with Joe Gibbs Racing with little time to prepare for the upcoming season. In the first seven races of the season, he has registered two top 10 finishes. Suarez is the first driver from a foreign country to run a full-time schedule in NASCAR’s premiere season without experience in another premier motorsports series.

While NASCAR has seen and will continue to witness its top star move on from the sport, the future of NASCAR is bright.

The Lewis Flyer

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