NASCAR’s push to showcase its younger generation hasn’t slipped past Kyle Busch.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran and 2015 champion quickly jumped on a question about the topic during Tuesday’s portion of NASCAR’s media tour. Having competed at the NASCAR national series level since he was 16 years old, Busch continues to be as much a headliner as the new kids on the block.
“It is bothersome,” said Busch, who is now 32. “We’ve paid our dues and our sponsors have and everything else, and all you’re doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver. I think it’s stupid. But I don’t know, I’m not the marketing genius that’s behind this deal.”
Among those under the age of 25 are rookies Darrell Wallace Jr. (24) and William Byron (20). Ryan Blaney is also 24, while Chase Elliott enters his third full season at just 22. Erik Jones, now a sophomore, is 21.
Then there’s Kyle Larson, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher at 25. Daniel Suarez is 26.
“I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what mine is,” Busch continued. “I guess one thing that can be said is probably the younger guys are bullied into doing more things than the older guys are because we say ‘no’ a lot more because we’ve been there, done that and have families, things like that. And we want to spend as much time as we can at home.
“Maybe that’s some of it. But some of these marketing campaigns and things like that, pushing these younger drivers, is I wouldn’t say all that fair.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver wasn’t necessarily alone in this perspective.
Clint Bowyer will turn 39 years old this year during his 13th full season at the Cup level. Bowyer understands the need to showcase new drivers in the sport’s familiar cars, but also expressed that the love is shared equally at the appropriate times.
“They’re good kids and I understand. You have somebody getting in Jeff Gordon’s car, somebody getting in Dale Jr.’s car. We have to figure out how to fill that void somehow and it can’t always be the same old guys that have been there,” Bowyer said. “I get it. If they deserve it, push it now. If people are beating them – there were drivers last year, look at Matt Kenseth. He was outrunning them pretty much every week and not getting the limelight.
“Some of those things are bothersome at times. Did I deserve [the attention]? I wasn’t running as good as I needed to. If I was running up front and should have been in the limelight, I would have been barking back a little bit.”
From the younger perspective, Byron, the reigning Xfinity Series champion who moves into the No. 24 car, said it’s all relative and what happens on the racetrack is all that matters.
“When new guys come in it’s kind of a fresh thing to talk about, but we’re going to ultimately have to prove ourselves on the race track and do things that show we’re capable of being a part of this sport,” Byron said.
“I think that’s going to show over time and hopefully a couple of us young guys can win some more races.”