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Notes: Today’s Young Drivers Slower To Develop?

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 12 2013

Kevin Harvick says young drivers of today are not as prepared for Cup as they were in the past. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – Kevin Harvick doesn’t believe today’s rookies in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing succeed as quickly as those who preceded them about a decade ago because the training ground isn’t as good as it was in that era.

“I think that the Nationwide cars and trucks are so slow,” Harvick explained during preparations for Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “You get into a Cup car and the driving style that has been created for the younger drivers is so drastically different than what a Cup car is and has made the experience of the Cup drivers more valuable.”

About a decade ago rookies entering the sport included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. Earnhardt Jr. won two races in his rookie season and became the first rookie to ever win the All-Star race. Kenseth captured the Coca-Cola 600 in his rookie season, while Newman became the second rookie to win the All-Star race.

Like Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth, Newman captured his first Sprint Cup victory during his rookie year and then followed it with the most prolific sophomore season since Dale Earnhardt’s when he won the 1980 Cup championship. Newman’s eight victories and 11 poles during his second season garnered him Driver of the Year honors. Johnson won three races during his rookie season, which was the same year Newman defeated him for Rookie of the Year. Both finished in the top 10 in the standings that year.

“When I was coming in the cars were more similar,” said Harvick, who won two races in his rookie season. “You raced on pretty much the same tire, pretty much every week. The cars were a little bit faster.

“Obviously, the chances with the economy and the things of people taking chances aren’t there, but the training ground is just not as good as it used to be.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader Matt Kenseth said Friday he doesn’t view the races at Talladega and Martinsville as wildcard events in the Chase. Instead, one is opportunity and the other is predictable.

Kenseth, whose driving style is reminiscent of three-time NASCAR champion David Pearson, said he tries to approach Talladega as an opportunity.

“If the guys we’re racing and are trying to beat are being real careful and want to ride in the back and all that, then I look at that as an opportunity to try to hopefully lead some laps, get some bonus points and be in the mix,” Kenseth explained, “and if you do come out unscathed, maybe have a shot to win. We’ll go there and approach it like another race.”

Kenseth cites Martinsville as a predictable race, much like Dover.

“I could throw you five names and I bet that unless they break that all five of them are in the top eight,” Kenseth said. “I think Martinsville is actually really, really predictable. I don’t look at that as a big wild card.”

Kenseth said he hoped to run in the top five or six and get a good finish later this month at the circuit’s shortest track.

There won’t be a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway next year on Mother’s Day weekend. It was learned Friday that track officials in Darlington have swapped their date with Kansas Speedway.

Both races will be held at night.

That means the spring Darlington race returns to the month in which the race was held for much of its existence. The race was held in April 1972-86. After being held in March for two years, it returned to April in 1989 and remained in that month through 1991 before being shifted back to March in 1992. It remained in March until it was moved to May in 2005 at which time it became a night race.

Ryan Reed, a Roush Fenway Racing driver who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, works to manage the issues that could keep him out of the car with the same physician who counsels diabetic IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball.

When the 20-year-old Reed competes he has a glucose monitor attached to the outside of his stomach with a small “hair wire” inserted inside, all of which is attached to a device on his dashboard that monitors his levels. He has a hydration system on board with a high-sugar blend and a pit crew member who’s ready with a glucose gun or insulin injection should his levels become too high or too low at any point. Reed noted those were all safety nets supporting the work he does outside of the car with diet, nutrition and workout programs to combat his Type 1 diabetes.

“It’s a lot, but it’s all worth it,” Reed said. “I never expected to be in this position when I was diagnosed, but here I am.”

Reed’s Ford will carry the No. 16 and be sponsored by the American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes. It was a deal that came together in about three months.

“We met with them in July about the Drive to Stop Diabetes program and everyone up there was very intrigued,” Reed explained. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that two months later it was going to be a done deal. On Monday they told me the deal was done and then I signed my contract on Tuesday, so it all happened so fast. I just want to play a small part in helping stop diabetes and it means a lot to be here.”

Reed said he receives numerous supportive tweets after people hear his story.

“The ones that say I’m an inspiration to them or their family is unreal,” Reed continued. “It’s probably better than anything I can do on the track, so I just want to be a part of that and continue to be an inspiration. That’s something I never thought I’d be in a million years.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 12 2013
One Comment

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  • NASCAR No Credibility says:

    Harvick is way off base. The reason rookies are not progressing is because drivers like Harvick and other cup full timers have spent so much time pouching in the Nationwide series that the teams that used to provide good rides for the rookies to learn in are all gone.

    The multi-millionaire cup drivers spent them into bankruptcy.

    NASCAR needs to say no more cup drivers in the second division. Only than will you start to see rookie talent develop again.

    Further I think Roush wasted Trevor Bayne. The kid could have been developed but instead was parked. To bad the Wood Brothers Racing team does not have the proper finances to put a first class ride under Trevor Bayne.