It is obvious to those who know me and know of my lifelong passion for NASCAR racing that I sometimes become somewhat obsessed with the sport and those who participate. In recent years, I have found myself focusing on the up and coming young drivers.
For some time, there were only a few new faces and names who came into the sport. Some have made it big while others faded quietly back into the unknown. The two who may be best known are brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch, who are not known as fan favorites even though they have had tremendous success. A few who seemed to have disappeared without notice are Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrano and Casey Atwood. Carmichael and Pastrano had made names for themselves in other sporting arenas before taking a shot at NASCAR. For whatever reason, both found out quickly that racing at the top level of motorsports was harder than they may have expected.
Lately we have been incredibly blessed with a crop of young drivers that appear to be poised for great success in racing. This year’s field of rookies in Nationwide and Sprint Cup have generated a great deal of excitement and they have made even the most skeptical fan into believers. It is interesting to note that these young drivers are as varied as they are talented.
Chase Elliott, son of former star and champion driver Bill Elliott, is laid back, easy going and seemingly intelligent and mature well beyond his 19 years. Ryan Blaney, son of former Cup driver Dave Blaney would be easy to ignore if not for his determination and drive to succeed and win. Then there is Kyle Larson, my personal pick for driver to watch.
This young man is so intriguing. His ability to come to terms with every track, every challenge and every competitor is nearly magical. He can show up at a track that he knows nothing about. For the first half of the race, he may be nowhere to be seen. As laps wind down, you will see him begin to make his way to the front.
He finds his way around and through traffic like a brain surgeon using precision and skill. He never shows any concern for the fact that he is racing against the sports biggest names like Busch, Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson. You sometimes wonder if he even knows the names and reputations of the other drivers. It seems that he is just focused on passing that car ahead of him, no thought given to who might be behind the wheel.
He races clean but he is often not shown the same consideration. He races with a fierceness that hasn’t been seen since a young Kyle Busch came bursting onto the scene. Yet he is never booed by the crowd as Kyle often was (and at times still is). When he is interviewed, he seems nearly mousy. When this thought came to me, it was clear what I was seeing. This young man is Mighty Mouse in the flesh.