Tha Sports Junkies 101

How Does Recent Driver Retirements Affect NASCAR?


For decades, it’s been no secret that drivers come and go from the sport. From retirements, to career ending injuries NASCAR has seen some of it’s biggest drivers in history leave at various points of their careers.

But, the retirements of future NASCAR Hall of Famers Tony Stewart & Jeff Gordon and the sudden departure of Carl Edwards has left an nearly unprecedented void in the sport in the last 2 years. The trend is only expecting to continue for the next 2-3 seasons as a “changing of the guard” is starting to take place. NASCAR has been sorely affected before these 1-2 punches and now reels once again as it finds it’s next stars.

Thankfully, NASCAR doesn’t have to look far as far as it’s next generation is concerned. Already full time stars Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Ryan Blaney have begun not only filling the void of established veterans, but a gap among younger fans in recent years. Upcoming names like Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez will only continue that trend entering this season. The question is however is, how much can they fill?

It’s no doubt they have some of the biggest shoes to fill in the history of the sport. Established fans are struggling to adapt to a changing landscape of drivers with less personality than the ones they rooted before. As a result, some either scout for the next one they root for or leave entirely. Which in turn reduces viewership and ticket sales for events. Bolstering and promoting this upcoming generation with personality naturally can not only win back lost fans, but gain new ones.

Events are also another issue why drivers are retiring, and it has to do with the number of them. 20 years ago, there was 32 races with approx. 7 off weeks spread out every 4-5 races on average. Entering the 2017 season, there’s 36 races and ONLY 2 off weeks for the entire seasons. The sport has simply become a grind for some and burnouts are beginning to take it’s toll on the established generation of drivers. NASCAR needs to either add off weeks and spread out more, or just reduce the amount of races altogether to counter this issue.

The point being at the end of this is the fact NASCAR is already in a up-and-down period. Driver retirements are just another added curve ball they must deal with. This issues regarding it will be up to them to fix. They already have a start with a younger generation that’s highly touted replacing them. But, are they enough to keep or gain new fans and survive a 36 week schedule for 20+ years will be the long term issue.