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Should the Minimum Age for NASCAR be Raised?

Posted by chadmusselman on January 24, 2008

In 2001 NASCAR set the minimum age at 18 because federal law said that Kyle Busch couldn’t race at the California Speedway since it was sponsored by a tobacco company and he was only 16 at the time. The law says that you have to be at least 18 to participate in an event sponsored by tobacco products. (I guess they don’t care if people under 21 participate in events sponsored by alcohol companies.)

NASCAR is using the argument that by pushing the age up to 21 for the Sprint series (New name for the Nextel series), and leave it at 18 for the Nationwide series (New name for the Busch series) they’re allowing for the young, talented, drivers more time to mature and adjust to life in the “Big Time”. They say that this will give the kids a few more years to know how to deal with the media, fame, and money that could be thrown their way.

Of course this becoming a big topic because Joe Gibbs racing has a young phenom, Joey Logano, that is still 17 and is scheduled to run the Nationwide series a couple weeks after he turns 18. Gibbs plans to have Logano run the Nationwide series this year to get accustomed to the cars with more horsepower and then promote him full-time to the Sprint Cup in 2009, when he’d still be only 18 for the first few races.

NASCAR says they’re not considering the age increase because of Logano, claiming that they’ve discussed it before. Seems pretty coincidental to me. If they’re truly not doing this because of Logano, they should grandfather him in since he’s already under contract to drive for Gibbs. They should say this will only apply to drivers signed after the rule is actually put in place.

One argument for this rule is that other sports have it, so why shouldn’t NASCAR? The NFL says you can’t be eligible to play until three years after graduating high school. The NBA says you have can’t join it’s league until 1 year after high school. This comparison doesn’t hold much water. The NFL put their rule in place to allow time for kids to actually grow and pack on some muscle. A 170 lb kid in high school would get killed by a 260 lb middle linebacker in the NFL. The NFL’s goal is to avoid personal injury. The NBA’s rule was put in place more to protect young kids from idiots that tell them they’re ready for the NBA and bypass college, and they never make it. You can argue that there has been success by high schoolers going straight to the NBA (Shawn Kemp, Kobe, Jermaine O’Neil), but there have also been a lot that declared for the draft and never made a team.

NASCAR is nothing like the NFL or NBA. You don’t have to be a physical specimen to drive a stock car. Look at Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin. They’re pretty small guys, yet pretty damn good at driving the car. I think the results on the race track will tell everyone if a kid is ready to race in the premier league for NASCAR. If he gets out there and causes trouble, or if other drivers don’t like how he drives, they’ll let him know one way or another.

From everything I’ve read about Logano, he’s ready to race in the Sprint Cup series. NASCAR should stick to the original rule that they made 7 short years ago. 18 is old enough to drive 200 miles per hour if you have the talent. Why do you have to be in their “minor league” system for 2 or 3 years longer than your talent says you should be?

Hopefully NASCAR makes the right decision and keeps the minimum age at 18.

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2 Responses to “Should the Minimum Age for NASCAR be Raised?”

  1. Chad Musselman said

    Just as a follow-up, NASCAR has now said that they will not raise the minimum age for now, but they could in the future. “If we do this, we will give plenty of advance notice,” Helton said Thursday. “And we would have an adjustment period before it was implemented.”

  2. I love to read such fantasy posts, btw – I like the layout of your site.

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