When I was 19, like most people I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life.
As we head into the final Cup race of 2017, here are some facts that can not be denied about the incredible youth movement we are seeing in today’s NASCAR world.
-- William Byron, age 19, won the Xfinity title on Saturday. He had to fight off a 20+-year veteran in Elliott Sadler, age 42, to do so, and quite frankly Byron had a dominating season in 2017.
-- Cole Custer, also age 19, dominated the Homestead Xfiniity race and nearly lapped the field in the process. Impressive, and his future is bright.
-- Going over to Trucks, where so many young drivers start to grab our attention each year, Christopher Bell, age 22, has been knocking out wins all season and capped the year off with a Truck series title. He also beat off some legends of the series in Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter to do so.
Soon after the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup will head to Las Vegas as NASCAR hosts its annual Champion’s Week festivities. Fans will gather in Las Vegas for events honoring the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Playoff Drivers, Sunoco Rookie of the Year and other season-ending award recipients.
Beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 28 and culminating Thursday, Nov. 30, NASCAR Champion’s Week will feature the annual NASCAR National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers Awards at the Wynn Las Vegas as well as the return of the NASCAR Fan Lounge at Beerhaus located at The Park, situated between New York-New York Hotel & Casino and Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.
This year, a special celebration of the storied driving career of Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Appreci88ion An Evening with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Presented by Nationwide" will take place at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28. The exclusive fan event will feature surprise guests from Earnhardt’s career with proceeds benefitting Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs drivers will take to the famed Las Vegas Strip when they get behind the wheel of their race cars for NASCAR Victory Lap Fueled by Sunoco on Wednesday, Nov 29.
Lifelong NASCAR “fanatic” Patty Chemberlin of Imlay City, Mich., service director at the Lasco Ford dealership in Trenton, is the big winner of the T1D, Motorcraft & Me “Customize for a Cause” t-shirt design contest to benefit JDRF. Chemberlin’s winning design features the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion NASCAR racer appearing to drive off the wearer’s chest over the words: “Helping Break Through to Cure Type 1 Diabetes.”
She and three family members will be the guests of Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing during Ford Championship Weekend for the final race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 17-19. Her design also will be featured as a decal the side panels of the iconic Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 during that weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 400, which will decide the 2017 series champion.
The giddy smiles said it all after spinal cord injured participants took a 135 mile per hour spin at Dover International Speedway with Martin Truex Jr. in an adaptive race car donated by Furniture Row Racing.
Kelly Brush, a paraplegic and skier from Charlotte, Vt. was one of the 10 participants Thursday, who got to experience the thrill of a few laps around the Monster Mile.
“What an incredible experience to say the least,” beamed Brush after exiting the race car. “What struck me was how loud it was. It was so fast I was pressed up against the side of the door the whole time. It was awesome, a really cool experience. I kept thinking Martin won’t hit the wall because that would be really bad but it felt like he was going to. I now know he was just taking a casual ride. He goes a lot faster in his race car.”
Brush and other spinal cord injured got to drive the car which had special hand controls linked to the accelerator and braking.
“It’s neat to see how Dr. Falci and his team are using technology involving racing and race cars,” said Truex, who is the points leader in the NASCAR Cup driver point standings. “For me honestly it was just fun to take these guys for a ride to show them a little of what we do and giving them a feel for the Monster Mile. I had a great time.”
ACT I: Hurricane Trump
So I set out this past weekend to enjoy some sports -- a little football, a bunch of NASCAR, etc. -- and then Hurricane Trump hit on Friday and turned everything into a political circus.
Now here we are: It’s Tuesday, and all anyone can talk about online and at the water cooler is the stunning comments Trump made about the NFL protesters, how nearly every athlete and team in the country strongly responded against him (including Lebron James calling him a “bum”), and who’s right in this debate.
It’s a lot to unpack, and the reason I’m even talking about it here is that 45 brought NASCAR into the discussion, praising their lack of protests -- and a couple of NASCAR team owners made huge headlines in mainstream media with some pretty outrageous comments that don’t paint the sport in a very good light.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Rivalries are important ... they're a big part of the reason people watch sports so religiously.
They're also something that seems to be lacking in today's NASCAR. There really hasn't been anything on the level of Petty vs Pearson or Gordon vs. Earnhardt for a long time. On the contrary it seems like most of the top Cup guys go fishing with each other each weekend, which is cool on one hand but also kind of makes Sunday a bit less engaging.
That may be changing though.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Roush Fenway Racing has a long history of success at Michigan International Speedway, including 13 Cup wins, and a total of 23 wins, 89 top 5s, 148 top 10s in a total of 281 starts across the major NASCAR touring series.
As they return to MIS for this weekend's races, they hope to add to those accolades. In June, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. managed a top-10 finish, and is looking to improve on that this time around.
"After scoring a top-10 finish last time at Michigan, I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Every year we look at Michigan as a track that we want to do well at given Roush Fenway, Jack and Ford's success there in the past. We have been working really hard on our intermediate program, since it makes up a majority of the races in the playoffs. This weekend will give us the chance to evaluate our improvements."
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- As the drivers take to the track at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, there's a bit of drama behind that scenes on the minds of many in the sport.
As is often the case, it involves Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- the biggest name in the sport.
What's unique this time is that it involves a fellow driver being particularly critical of the perennial Most Popular Driver, who is retiring after this season.
It all starts with Kevin Harvick, who said on his radio show this week that since Dale Jr. is most popular driver but not running up front each week or winning regularly, it has limited the growth of the sport:
"I believe that Dale Jr. has had a big part in kind of stunting the growth of NASCAR because he's got these legions of fans and this huge outreach of being able to reach different places that none of us have the possibility to reach, but he's won nine races in 10 years at Hendrick Motorsports and hasn't been able to reach outside of that," Harvick said.
As you can imagine, that didn't go over well among Jr. Nation, who were quick to call Harvick disrepectful (among other colorful terms) and also remind Harvick that he got his start in Cup after the tragedy that befell Earnhardt Sr. at Daytona in 2001.
Earnhardt has responded to the comments, expressing that he was hurt by them, also but staying positive and saying that he still respects Harvick:
"I found some of those comments hurtful," Earnhardt said. "I still respect him as a champion and ambassador for the sport. That's just the way it is, I guess. I hate that's how he feels."