FYI WIRZ: NASCAR Brings 2014 Youthful Wave of Drivers at Fast Pace

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIIMarch 10, 2014

Austin Dillon prepares to talk to media at Daytona International Speedway.
Austin Dillon prepares to talk to media at Daytona International Speedway.Credit: Fastlines

The top three series in NASCAR, the pinnacle of motorsports sanctions, rev up the 2014 season by including 21 rookies in their speeding ranks. Fast math indicates it will be a learning curve season.

Most in this youthful group are not of legal age to consume adult beverages yet. And adding up the ages of almost any three in this large rookie class would not equal the minimum age for one senior to qualify for Medicare at age 65.

Considering that in NASCAR’s top series, only 43 cars start a Sprint Cup race, 30 cars start a Nationwide race and 25 trucks start a Camping World Truck Series race, the number of rookies is significant. 

The impressive sum of 21 rookies will compete for 98 starting spots during events in the 2014 season.

Still, the huge rookie class consists of experienced racers, many of whom began their careers as children in go-karts and motorcycles. They all have much to learn, but they all have learned so much about racing by just getting this far.

To enhance fan understanding on so many skilled rookies moving up at once, a single question was asked to many rookies during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway Speedweeks. 

The Question: What’s your take on the many young guys moving to upper levels like NASCAR’s top three series in the 2014 season?

Comments by rookies Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Dylan Kwasniewski and Cody Coughlin might clarify the many moves.

Dillon, at age 23, has brought the cherished No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet back to fast NSCS tracks after a 14-year hiatus, owed to Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash. Dillon is the grandson of venerable team owner Richard Childress

“The rookie class is unbelievable,” Dillon said. “I think it’s one of the best years for NASCAR as far as the young guys coming up and taking these new opportunities and trying to see how the younger move into our sport. It’s a great opportunity for our sport.”

Elliott, at just 18 years old, has brought his famous last name as the son of legend Bill Elliott to the NNS tracks. He'll look to prove that speed genes can be passed on from father to son. 

“When you have $5 million races in the Cup Series, you have to take your time and be patient,” Elliott said. “Everyone in this young series is going to have hold back a little bit, being a little bit more give and take out there. Be respectful and gain respect.” 

Kyle Larson talks to media at Daytona International Speedway
Kyle Larson talks to media at Daytona International SpeedwayCredit: Fastlines

Larson hasn’t wasted any of his 21 years by taking a giant leap up to the NSCS, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya when he departed from Ganassi Racing with Felix Sebates. He has shown considerable skills in his brief NASCAR climb.

“I think that it’s such a good thing for the sport,” Larson said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had these many rookies in the series compete. It’s only better for the sport. I think it’s going to attract younger fans which we need.”

Kwasniewski, only 18 years old, brings his striking character from Las Vegas, with his Rockstar sponsor also based in Las Vegas, to the NNS Series racing for Turner Scott Motorsports. The 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion impressed Chip Ganassi so much that he chose Kwasniewski to be the newest development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

“Getting respect,” Kasniewski said. “I don’t want drivers to think I’m perceived as kind of punk kid. I want to be known as a respectful driver that can race everybody clean, hardily. And hopefully show people that I have talent.”

Cody Coughlin turned 18 in December and quickly joined the solid group at Joe Gibbs Racing via a significant 2014 NASCAR development route in ARCA Racing with established Venturini Motorsports. He is a third-generation racer from JEGS Mail Order, a family organization that has had championship roots in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for more than five decades.

Coughlin’s uncle, Jeg Jr., is a five-time NHRA Pro Stock champion. But unlike most in his family young Coughlin chose to race in circles instead of down straight tracks.

“Obviously, you’ve got to have track performance, which I think we do a good job with,” Coughlin said. “But I think with media, how you carry yourself, sponsorship, obviously. There are a lot of things that take the whole package to get to where you want to go.”

These five young drivers will likely prove much in seasons to come and have already impressed many with their poise, energy and eagerness to go fast and learn fast. 

Choosing and obtaining the fast world of NASCAR takes boldness that is often the essence of youth. These youths are off at a very fast pace.


FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.