Economics could push veteran drivers out of sport early, Denny Hamlin says

While there’s definitely a lot of merit to the young driver movement in NASCAR, there’s a flip side to the trend that has a big dollar sign attached.

Denny Hamlin, while acknowledging the influx of young talent into the sport, said hiring young drivers may not be what teams would prefer to do.

“It’s a shame the teams are not in a position to just put in who they want — put in the best guy available,” Hamlin said Friday during an appearance at the Indianapolis FedEx hub. “You wish the teams could operate and say, ‘You know what? We want this guy. We don’t care how old he is. We don’t care whether the sponsor likes him, because we have enough money in our company to field the car.'”

Hamlin said that because current teammate and free-agent-to-be Matt Kenseth is currently looking for a job despite still being at the top of his game.

“Without a doubt, Kenseth would be in a top-notch ride with a top-notch team if the business of NASCAR was run like that,” Hamlin said. “But it’s just not anymore. It’s tough to make money (for) these teams, and they need those sponsors to be OK with the drivers. … Kenseth, on talent, deserves to be in the sport for a fair amount of time.”

Veteran drivers, of course, demand a much higher salary than young drivers who are just happy to have the opportunity at the NASCAR Cup Series level.

Hendrick Motorsports hired unheralded Alex Bowman to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car, Erik Jones will replace Matt Kenseth at Joe Gibbs Racing and Daniel Suarez replaced Carl Edwards this season.

So is Hamlin, 36, worried his driving days might end prematurely after seeing Kenseth and Greg Biffle pushed out of rides while in their mid-40s?

“Not as long as I have this company behind me — I don’t think so,” Hamlin said with a smile, motioning to a FedEx jumbo jet over his shoulder. He added: “I know my years are probably numbered and I probably know as far as I want to go.”

Denny Hamlin walks by a FedEx plane during a visit to the company’s Indianapolis hub on Friday. (Photo: Jeff Gluck)


11 Replies to “Economics could push veteran drivers out of sport early, Denny Hamlin says”

  1. I thought NASCAR was the best drivers in the world. I will not watch no names. It is looking like goodbye Nascar after 30 years watching it.

    1. How do you think the “no names” came to be Popular? What kind of a joker are you. Our favorite drives will not be able to drive forever. I had to trade Mark Martin & Davey Allison for the Logano’s, Keselowski’s and Blaney’s. Bubba Wallace & Chase Briscoe are probably in my future.

    2. I remember when Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were “no names.” I look at tallents like Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney and what they’re doing this year. The current trend of getting younger guys in the car certainly has merit.

  2. Dear Mr. Lange,

    The young guys coming into NASCAR do have the talent to be the best in the world. It’s just that, like Denny is saying it isn’t fully developed yet and they don’t cost as much. I truly believe that NASCAR has a very bright future to look forward to. That being said I’m still hold how hope for #MyManMatt.

  3. The goose that laid the golden eggs has flown the coop. Everybody was making tons of money. NASCAR, track owners, car owners and drivers were raking it in. TV, sponsors and the fans were picking up the tab. Those ticket prices just kept going up and up along with sponsorships and tv contracts. And who got the blame. The economy, hotels overcharging on race week ends, gasoline costs etc. No not us (NASCAR and its stake holders). Well look in the mirror gang you did it. You allowed greed to take the place of good business sense. The cash register was never going to stop ringing. And now it’s over. And it is time to pay the piper.

    I have nothing against hiring young drivers. However when the reason is economic it just doesn’t get it. Pushing fan favorites out is not a good thing. The fans will rebel. In addition these young drivers bring no fans with them. So what are we seeing and hearing now. These young drivers have absolutely no personalities. Their interviews are bland and appear to be scripted.

    As far as the youth movement goes think about this. How many young people, 18 to 25 yrs. old, are sitting home on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon watching tv? And how many do you think have the extra $100.00 to $200.00 to attend a race? How many young people own those rv’s you see at the races, not many? Get my point?

  4. Al Torney, you said it the way it is. We’ve gone to races since 2003. Typical race weekend for 2 of us costs about $1000.00 between tix, hotel, food, gas etc. Daytona 500 weekends -4 races- you can double that. We can’t see young people spending that. Most fans at the tracks that sit around us are 40 or older. With Jr leaving we gave up the 500 tickets- I do not have any favorites that I want to spend that much to see anymore. Sorry kids, you may have talent but I’ll watch a few years from my living room before I go back to a track.

  5. Colleen I completely AGREE with you!!

    When I started watching NASCAR way back in 1987, at the ripe old age of 19, I was an Earnhardt fan because he was “class of the field” of what were the 43 best STOCK CAR DRIVERS in the world….

    There were sponsors, but NONE of them at the 15 million a year level like today. And there were at least 38 teams with only a few “multi-driver” teams. Teams ran out of garages not the palaces they do today. It was not “cheap” but with the shorter season, you could reasonably field a competitive team for a FRACTION of todays cost and have the driver YOU want in the car-Sponsor be damned….

    But then came the “wonder kid” Jeff Gordon. Fast forward to now. I KNOW I race with (I race at a local track in the SuperStock division now) BETTER drivers than those I see run “Cup” today. A ton of them deserve to climb into the upper tiers of racing-BUT most are OVER 3) and will NEVER get that chance.

    Maybe, just maybe NASCAR will finally listen to the fans that have been with them for the long haul and make HEALTHY changes that will being the sport back to what where the “hey days” of the late 90’s….BUT I DOUBT IT! (26 race season, SEASON LONG Championship, one set of rules no matter what or where you race)

    NASCAR is a “personality” driven sport. Unlike most sports which are “team driven”, we NASCAR fans root for DRIVERS-and we want the BEST ones available-NOT THE MOST “MARKETABLE”…and a LOT of the “BEST” stock car drivers in the world do not exist in “Monster Energy” racing but at your local asphalt track!! Even IF they are older than 30-35!!

    Like you Colleen I am almost ready to drop my Winston Tower, Next Tel Tower, Sprint Tower, Tower Club seats at Daytona that I have owned since 1998 because Jr is leaving. I am not sure I can stomach paying $400+ for a pair of seats to root for ANY of todays “drivers”…..and I don’t know any “miilenials” that can afford to buy them either (or even would if they could….)

    Sorry NASCAR, I might save my money and just make trips to watch my Los Angeles Rams when they come to this side of the country while STAYING HOME and MAYBE watch your racing…..

    ….Which BTW I ALWAYS DVR so I can fast forward thru the commercials and just watch the first 15 laps and then just fast forward and watch the last 5 laps before each “stage” and then maybe watch the last 30 laps of the “race”….I can get done watching a “race” in less than an hour this way….

    I can’t wait to laugh at you when you try and negotiate another TV contract in 2022…..

  6. NASCAR RACING has lost its role of popular drivers to drivers the sponsors want and like. Yes it is dollar oriented as is becoming the way of everything. Roll with it people. . . .

  7. Brian France KILLED the true spirit of NASCAR It’s not like it was back in the day of Richard Petty, Harry Gant, Dale Sr. and DW. Or even Dale Jarret. I’ve hung in there though cheering for Matt since Dale Jarret got out of a Ford. I’ve gone from # 17 Dewalt to #17 Best Buy to JGR #20 and even a Toyota. But this new stage thing SUCKS!!!!! I hardly watch now as it is. This may be my last year. If I do continue and Matt does leave. It would have to be Awesome Bill Elliott’s boy Chase.

  8. After going to numerous tracks from 72 to 93, I gave up my seats mainly because the “fans” changed.. It used to be you could walk thru the motel area or camping area at the tracks and discuss favorite drivers without arguments or being told your driver sucks. Race fans went to see a race, but the fans of today got to see their driver race.. If they fall out, a lot of the fans head for the exit.. Race dans would walk around the camping area handing each other a beer, soda, or burger, but since the 90’s, the “driver” fans either talk about their driver non-stop or hide in their motor homes…
    During the races, the fans ysed to have manners, but in ths last 20 yrs, many of them changed into inconsiderate people that stand up the entire race, blocking everybody elses view.

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