Geoff’s Journal: The youth movement

By Geoff Bodine
August 31, 2017

This has to be the most active silly season in recent memory.

When I was racing full-time, I don’t remember seeing this much moving around between drivers and teams.

Unlike today, teams didn’t have the sponsorship dollars they have now.

Team owners were looking for experienced drivers, and when they had them, they held onto them as long as they could. Don’t get me wrong, there was still drivers changing teams, but not like we’re seeing this year.

It’s all a cycle; younger drivers will eventually replace the older drivers, and this season happens to fit that criteria.

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his comments earlier this month about driver salaries, there is a lot of truth to it.

A lot of veteran drivers are making really good money, and younger, anxious drivers, will race for a lot less money.

From a team owner’s perspective, it’s a no-brainer because their budget will be reduced.

Team owners also aren’t going to just throw a younger driver into a ride, unless they feel they have talent to run competitively.

Additionally, sponsorship dollars are much harder to secure.

Because of the high salaries somebody like a Matt Kenseth or a Kurt Busch makes, it is quite possible you could see somebody with that high of caliber without a ride in 2018.

10 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see a driver retire from racing full-time in their late 40s to early 50s.

It seems as of late, drivers are stepping away around the early 40s mark.

This could start becoming the norm.

Drivers who retired after my era made a more tremendous amount of money. Higher base salaries and endorsements are more common site.

Drivers from my era; we made decent money, but we were in it for the long-haul.

The other factor too, is that drivers are making it to NASCAR’s top series at a younger age. It wasn’t till I was 32 that I raced full time in the Cup Series.

Hopefully the youth movement brings more fans into the sport.

I’m really enjoying seeing these young guys come up through the sport. It reminds me of when I was climbing through the ranks of motorsports.

Young people are the buyers of the future, so on the sponsorship side, companies may like the younger talent too.

There’s a lot of potential positive with the young guys. But I also feel bad for the older guys, because they may not get the chance to continue racing.

Then again, I probably shouldn’t feel bad for the older guys, because they’ve made plenty of money over the course of their careers.

Drivers who are about to hang up the helmet can go spend time with their families and have fun.

Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts Daniel Courson/The Racing Experts
Dante Ricci/The Racing Experts

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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