Recognizing the number of recent retirements of the sport’s biggest stars, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said the talent pool of up-and-comers is deep.
France, accompanied by his six-year-old son, Luke, made an impromptu visit Sunday to the Richmond (Va.) International Raceway media center prior to opening ceremonies for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
“It’s really not uncommon to see three, four or five of your top drivers decided to exit around the same time. The good news is the talent pool that is coming is deep. We’re excited about that,” France said.
“I’ve said this a long time ago, careers are not going to last as long as they did in previous decades of NASCAR. The demands are high, the opportunity to leave a race car and do something else because of the financial situation they are fortunate enough to be in allows them to pick and choose their careers a little bit differently.”
No need to be humble?
France said one thing he tells the sport’s emerging stars is that they shouldn’t feel they need to be humble about competing at the sport’s highest level.
“They can’t be humble when they race out there with veteran stars that they’ve looked up to. They can’t be humble to say they are ‘happy to be here.’ They are here for a reason – they are very, very good. And they stay for a reason, meaning you have to compete at a high level,” France said.
The transition to a new generation of fan favorites will take time, France said, as will those drivers’ willingness to embrace their new roles.
“The drivers are going to take some time finding their way competing at that high level and what we’d like to see always is their personalities come out; their competitive zeal come out,” France said.
“That takes time, too. They have to develop a comfort zone and they have to figure that out on their own.”
What Dale Jr. means to the sport
As he did in a statement he released earlier in the week, France praised the contributions of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to NASCAR. Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular drier, announced Tuesday this would be his last season of full-time competition in NASCAR.
“He’s meant a lot to this sport in many ways, both on and off the track. Not just his popularity, but carrying on the Earnhardt name in such a good way,” France said of Earnhardt. “He was always competitive on the track, always raced at a high level and always worked with NASCAR to make the sport better, just like his father did.
“That’s not always the case with drivers that come in. Some of them just drive the car – that’s what they do. Dale Junior was quieter about that but nonetheless it was important to him to give his input.”