While Tony Stewart was one of the most fierce and dominant drivers to ever race in The Monster Energy Cup Series, he was also one of the most outspoken drivers in the sports history as well. Not only is that evident by his countless one liners, and gaffes with the media throughout his career, but also due to how likable he was as well.
And that’s why Tony Stewart’s words hold a little bit more weight with NASCAR fans and also why his comments this week are making waves in the sports world. Unfortunately for NASCAR, the comment wasn’t praise or even support and took a heavy shot at some of the sports young drivers.
“They’ve got to get drivers that have personality. It’s great having opportunities to drive cars, but shoot, they’re not even old enough to go to a bar and they’re trying to make these 18-year-old kids heroes,” Stewart said. during a Q&A session with The Virginia Post “I’m still a race fan, too, and it’s hard for me to embrace somebody who’s just graduating high school and they’re driving a Cup car. What have they done to really, legitimately earn their opportunity?”
With that being said however, and the bluntness is Stewart’s words, its not like the three time champion is wrong. In fact, while drivers like Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney have seemingly earned their racing stripes and endeared themselves to fans, other drivers haven’t done the same.
Think of drivers like Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones. sure, we know who they are and we would be happy if they won a race, but who is really sitting in the stands as a diehard fan of any of these three guys?
Going back to Stewart’s statements, don’t they seem right when it comes to drivers like those three? Beyond that, have any of them done anything to show that they deserve to be where they are right now or have personalities that you align with?
In many cases the answer to that question is no and while a lot of that is just the nature of the beast, one would think that if they had the talent to compete at the cup level, that they would be. Instead, however, they all mostly seem to failing to keep up.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also don’t have gleaming personalities either, which also makes it hard to relate to as well. If nothing else, drivers like Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney might have names to rely on, but they did something with those names and carved their own paths.
The others have not.
That wasn’t the only bomb Stewart would drop during the Q&A however as he also discussed drivers that have had financial advantages getting Cup rides as well. Again, he didn’t name any names, but you can kind of tell who he was talking about from his statements.
“There’s hundreds of thousands of race-car drivers across the country that have clawed and scratched their way at Saturday night short tracks, and worked on their cars all their life to get where they are. Then you get kids with rich fathers and deep pockets that put them in race cars. … All the sudden, because they’re 18 years old, they think they deserve to be in a Cup car. I have a hard time with that. I think there are drivers out there with the experience and personality that makes race fans want to follow them. That’s what’s lacking in NASCAR.”
he’s right about this too. There have been an influx of drivers with deep pockets able to secure top rides over other deserving talent. Take Austin Dillon for example, who sits 20th in points right now and is only arguably there due to his grandfather owning the team.
And then there was Paul Mendard, the man that was able to stay with RCR also for so many years due to his fathers money and then later got a full time ride at Wood Brother Racing. Sure, he won at Indianapolis and has proven to be a pretty decent competitor, but remember how he got here.
But how do we change it? How do we injert personalities and sometimes talent into drivers that might not have any of either? How do you ensure a driver is really ready for the challenges that the Cup Series presents? Furthermore, how do we find another big name like Earnhardt or Stewart?
The answer, while difficult to admit seems to be that we have to build them up our self’s and grow with them over time. Sure, some of the drivers listed above might not be ready for the Cup Series, but its a learning process and will require a lot of patience.
So why not grow with them? Why learn a little bit more about them? Not just Stenhouse Jr, Dillon, and the others, but drivers like Daniel Hemric, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher. Go look those drivers up and see what they are all about. You might just end up becoming a lifelong fan!