Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: Young Guns – the Next Generation

After years of drumbeats, NASCAR’s Youth Movement that began in the mid-2010s has reached its crowning moment.

When the checkered flag waved on Sunday’s (Oct. 29) NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, it marked a significant moment in the modern playoff era.

The Championship 4 that will compete Sunday at Phoenix Raceway – Kyle Larson (31 years old), Ryan Blaney (29), Christopher Bell (28) and William Byron (25) are the youngest quartet yet in the elimination era.

Together, the four drivers form an average of 28.8 years old.

That’s down from a peak of 39.1 in 2019 and 34.2 just two years ago.

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Nine years ago, the current format began in 2014, with Kevin Harvick claiming his one and only title. Sunday’s title bout will mark just the second time that none of Championship 4 drivers are in their late 30s or early 40s.

Let me put it another way for my fellow NASCAR followers born in the vicinity of 1991.

This is the first time no one competing in the Championship 4 is older or even the same age as me.

My bones creaked while I wrote that sentence.

As Dr. Soran said in one of my favorite Star Trek movies:

Screenshot 2023 11 01 At 8.23.44 Pm

Now, this horrifying situation could be rectified in the coming years if guys like Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, to name a few, are able to put championship runs together.

Inevitably they’ll be just like Harvick, moseying off into the sunset.

Eventually, the oldest guy in the room will be *check notes* … Joey Logano.

And I don’t think any us are ready for that.

But that day is still a ways off.

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Five years ago, Busch complained about NASCAR promoting the relatively unaccomplished members of the Youth Movement over its seasoned veterans (which resulted in a hastily put together media teleconference with NASCAR executives to conduct damage control).

This weekend, a new generation of Young Guns – minus a clever Gillette commercial campaign to boost the public’s awareness of them – is going to hog the spotlight.

2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com. 

The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

About the author

danielmcfadin
 | Website

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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