Last week was a very busy news week for NASCAR, headlined by the announcement by both Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler that they would retire at season’s end. There have been several drivers who have hung up the helmet at the top of their game the past few seasons.
However, there is suspicion that NASCAR will use the All-Star package in select races and that has created some unease with drivers. Some have said they may look elsewhere in other forms of racing if NASCAR implements this package. The question is if they do it, will it lead to more drivers retiring at an early age?
Short track racing in NASCAR has been excellent to say the least. Many drivers, fans, and media have demanded and begged for more short tracks on the schedule, but NASCAR cannot add any more until 2021.
Is the schedule perfectly fine with the number of short tracks right now, including in the Playoffs, or should they add more?
Q: With Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler retiring this past week, will younger retirees be a trend? And will this new package lead to that if they implement it? — Zack P., St. Louis, MO
A: If we look at Sadler, who is in his 40s, I feel like his is more a normal retirement age for drivers these days. But if we look at Kahne, he is 38 years old, and that is quite a young age to retire. He has said he did not want to compete full time in NASCAR anymore. It was his decision to leave and he was not forced because of sponsorship or any circumstance like that. The NASCAR circuit is grueling for more than 36 weeks a year, and competitors only have two months of an offseason to really enjoy life.
— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) August 16, 2018
The question here is, will it be a trend? It’s tough to say because every driver is different when it comes to their mentality and physical fitness. There is one factor that I believe will go into whether or not the “young retiree” will be a trend. Many drivers have been outspoken about this too and that is whether or not they implement the “All Star package” at tracks that are a mile and a half or larger.
Drivers have said they are not a fan and some believe that it will lead to superstars leaving the sport if they use the package. This could be the one key factor on whether we see guys retiring young. Now if they do not use the package, then we should see many guys stay in the sport longer.
If they do wind up going to this package, we’ll start to see drivers retire as early as 35, especially because multiple drivers have said they want the cars to be hard to drive, not easy. If this package is used, cars will be too easy to drive, and a ton of drivers may go elsewhere or just call it quits. This would be a bad thing for the sport if they did, and as a supporter of the sport, I would hope NASCAR listens to the drivers about it.
I will say that it has been quite shocking to hear some of the drivers who have retired in the last few years. There have been many rumors throughout the years of when drivers will hang up the helmet, but I do not expect any more drivers to retire this year. I think we may see a surprise or two next year depending on how things play out, but for now, I do not think anyone else will be gone from the sport in 2019.
Q: Being that more short tracks are a topic of discussion, should we move more into the Playoffs? Or are they fine the way they are? Christopher F., Great Falls, MT
A: Fans, media, and drivers have been shouting “more short tracks!” for many years. Unfortunately, with the agreements NASCAR has in place with the current racetracks, the schedule cannot be altered until 2021.
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) August 20, 2018
Short track racing in NASCAR is great right now, and the Bristol race proved that to be true. We saw an excellent race from flag to flag and I have not heard from anybody who hated that race. We have two more short track races this season, both in the playoffs with Richmond in September and Martinsville in October.
Should there be more short tracks in the playoffs though? Personally, I would like to see more of them than there are at the moment. However, I do not think we can fit them into the equation. The Bristol night race is a crown jewel in the middle of August and we have Martinsville and Richmond in the first 10 races as well.
If NASCAR decides to add more short tracks to the playoffs (if and when they have the ability to do so), not only would it be entertaining for everyone, but we would see the sport benefit from it too. It would be a very popular decision if NASCAR were to add more of short tracks to the schedule, but especially in the playoffs. There are already two of them and a road course in there now, which should make for a good postseason.
Right now things are fine the way they are, though. as this is the first year in a while that they have shuffled up the playoff schedule, and I am a fan of it. After a few years, the schedule may begin to grow stale again, and change can be a good thing. Once there is an opportunity to add more tracks to the schedule, it will be a great idea for NASCAR to not just add more short tracks to the schedule, but to put them in the playoffs.
I am a heavy advocate for this because of the excitement short track racing brings. Whether it happens or not, though, is ultimately up to NASCAR.