The Frontstretch: The Question That Is Getting "Old" In NASCAR by S.D. Grady -- Friday September 25, 2009

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The Question That Is Getting "Old" In NASCAR

S.D. Grady · Friday September 25, 2009


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“Do you think it’s possible that somebody Mark Martin’s age can win a Sprint Cup?”

“Is it probable that someone as young as Joey Logano could compete at the sport’s top level?”

“Does your age give you an advantage over the younger racers?”

“Are you willing to work with somebody much younger than you?”

“Does your age give you an advantage over the older racers?”

Good grief! Have you ever heard so much discussion about how many candles are on NASCAR drivers’ birthday cakes? This is nuts!

There may be over 15 years’ difference in age between Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson, but both are easily just as capable of winning this year’s Sprint Cup championship.

I suppose since I passed the big 4-0 a couple years ago, I have begun to notice that more often than not, I fall into the “old fogey” category around many of my co-workers. But hey! I haven’t checked into any retirement community. My brain is still functional, and in this day of enlightenment, I believe I have something to learn from those who can text fifty words a minute.

So I’m not really sure why the populace, or at least the media, is seemingly convinced that age actually plays any kind of factor in racing. Tony Stewart has proven over the past few years that physical fitness is something you’ve got to work at, no matter if they call you a Young Gun or not. Back at Bristol, more than one driver said Austin Dillon’s maneuver of cutting down across the track in front of traffic was “stupid”… yet not one of them determined it was a direct result of his teenager status. Being a rookie? Oh yeah, that was agreed upon. But NASCAR doesn’t put that yellow sticker on your bumper because you haven’t passed the 30-year-old mark.

On the other end of the spectrum, NASCAR doesn’t issue license renewal tests to those drivers who have entered middle age. Nor are there bonuses paid out for every decade you’ve lived on the planet when the winnings are dispersed (Morgan Shepherd wouldn’t be selling off his assets if that were the case…)

The fact is, almost any question that centers around age — in regards to the ability to work with someone, compete against, and even win — is moot.

Cars are passed through inspection, seeing that they meet the required physical specifications to gain entry to the event. Drivers hop behind the wheel, and if they want to keep their job for any period of time, they have got to win. It’s a simple deal.

Now, would I choose to go roller skating for six hours, three times a week at my “advanced age,” as I once did in my teenage years? Probably not. But that has little to do with my ability to do so. I don’t want to.

Mark Martin, Ron Hornaday, and Morgan Shepherd want to race. Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and even young upstart Kyle Busch want to race — and all of them want to win.

Through varying levels of experience, ability, and social networking, they meet with different levels of success.

So let’s just put the whole thing to bed. Stop asking the question that has nothing to do with winning a championship.

The teams that have earned their way into the Chase all have awesome drivers behind the wheel. Maybe the one hoisting that silvery trophy over their head will be celebrating their fifth or their first visit to the head table come November. Whoever it is, they will be there because…

Their car was the fastest.

Their team made the fewest mistakes.

Lady Luck smiled on them over a 10-month span.


That driver is one of the best on the planet. Period.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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09/25/2009 02:50 AM

While auto racing keeps your heart rate higher than any other sport, driving just comes down to an ability you have or you don’t… age isn’t a factor. (Being in good enough shape to walk away from a bad wreck is though.)

My theory about Mark Martin deciding to keep racing full time is two-fold. (Let’s leave out the possible Danica factor here.)

1. He started out as dirt track driver, and if you haven’t noticed, the dirt guys seem to be able to drive the new CoT/PoS better than those that weren’t raised driving dirt.

2. I bet he has made more money this past year than he did the first 10 years he drove Cup.

Which also leads into the rumors of Gordon retiring after next year… has made a ton of money, and didn’t grow up driving dirt. (And quite a few drivers fall into that category.)

So frankly, Yes, I am sick of hearing about the age factor. But I bet these “young guns” will be retiring sooner than the “legends” because of the money they make these days. NASCAR is safer than it has ever been (granted, there is plenty of room for improvement) but the fact remains that they are still putting their lives on the line every weekend. If ya got the cash, have already fulfilled your wildest dreams of women, partying, etc., why keep risking your life every weekend? You ever hear these guys talk about how much fun they had racing go-karts in their backyards during off-weekends? Sounds way funner than racing a Cup race… and honestly, I would like to see footage of it. :)

So the old-timer, Mark Martin, is trying to get that elusive Cup he technically got screwed out of one year, and pad his bank account a tad more. And the new guys are trying to make a name for themselves… and will be in that “honeymoon” state of racing Cup for a few more years to come before they finally come back down to Earth.

If it wasn’t for Mark Martin making the Chase, would this age question even be an issue? I think not.

The Turnip
09/25/2009 05:23 PM

Hey Fred, FYI!

Jeff Gordon indeed grew up on the dirt. Last race I watched him in before the cup crap, was at the INDIANA STATE FAIR GROUNDS mile dirt track. USAC Silver Crown event.

Just info, (oh, then he had a police escort, sirens and everyhing to get to IRP for a pavement event.)

And your correct about Mark Martin, he is money hungry, with ZERO risk attached. I don’t like MM because he was one of the very first to start running the Nationwide/busch series regularly while signed to a cup team, thus STEALING money from the nationwide/busch series drivers, week, after week, after week, hell, he probably has more money in the bank than Jeff Gordon!

I personally think he should get the hell out of Dodge (err, Chevrolet) and let some of the younger guys make some cash!

I think MM is a bigger cash hog than King Brain Farce!

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