If I asked you to name some of the up & coming drivers, you would probably tell me ?Justin Allgaier? and ?Trevor Bayne?. If I asked you why, you would undoubtedly say ?Because they are well-spoken, respectful, mature young men that have a bright future ahead of them.? But is that so certain? I would definitely like to think so, and a couple of months ago I would have stated that there was no doubt of that. The last couple of weeks has brought all of that into question though. Why? Because there aren?t enough sponsors to go around.
Wait, not enough sponsors? Aren?t these two drivers the top performing Nationwide drivers with no Cup experience? Yep, but apparently that doesn?t count for much when someone could have their product promoted by Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards.
As NASCAR continues to allow these Cup guys to run away with the championships that used to prove how good a young driver is, the sponsors no longer see the upcoming future of NASCAR as assets, instead they are risks that would be better avoided. Even when they are the top Nationwide-only driver in points or are proving they can run with and, in some cases, beat the Cup drivers. And if big time sponsors don?t invest in the young drivers, a huge portion of what could be future Cup champions will slowly disappear. I applaud what Roush is doing by putting young drivers in two of his cars, but even they haven?t been fully sponsored while Carl Edwards hasn?t had a problem any problem getting funding.
When owners like Jack Roush and Roger Penske have a hard time getting sponsors, something is seriously wrong. The economy has slowed the rush of sponsors into the sport, but if Mr. Penske would promote Justin Allgaier more, drawing attention to him instead of Brad Keselowski, he wouldn?t be on the verge of seemingly losing his hold on the best driver he might ever have. Even Joe Gibbs can?t get full funding to be able to give Brad Coleman a legitimate shot at NASCAR. A few races here or there have shown a few glimpses of brilliance, but then he has to wait months while he watches Kyle Busch and Joey Logano win before he can step into the car again. Now Brian Scott is rumored to be heading to JGR and time will tell if Joe and J.D. can get someone to fund his team.
A Cup driver has won the championship every year since Martin Truex swept the Busch Series championships in 2004 and 2005. But even before that, Cup drivers were affecting the series, most notably when Brian Vickers won the driver trophy in 2003 while Richard Childress took home the owner honors thanks predominantly to Kevin Harvick. In the seven years since, the series as changed from a development series to ?Cup lite? and transformed from Nationwide regulars winning the majority of the races to being a novelty. This year it is a huge feat if the up & comers even finish in the top five.
Where would Brian Vickers be if he hadn?t won the Championship? If he had been forced back to third or fourth in points behind people like Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth, he would have been less likely to move up in to Cup the next year. He has had some struggles, especially early on with each team, but once he gets back to racing he should be able to grab a couple of Cup championships over the rest of his career.
Trevor Bayne has come the closest to knocking the Cup drivers out of victory lane lately, but he still lost his ride. I?m sure there are a lot of reasons behind it that I don?t know, but what I see is a talented driver without a devoted owner. In time Ryan Truex might prove to be as good as Trevor (even he struggled earlier in the year), but Michael Waltrip Racing should have let Trevor finish out the year instead of dumping him with only seven races left.
The window of opportunity can be so small, and even if you have a shot, sometimes it gets pulled out from underneath your feet, as Danny O? Quinn Jr. and Casey Atwood have found. Don?t forget, Casey was being called ?the next Jeff Gordon? and while part of his problem was getting moved up too quickly, he also had to perform quickly. That was a problem with the new teams and sponsorship ended up pulling out in his case, if I remember it right. For Danny he had a great opportunity with Roush Racing and won Rookie of the Year and still wound up without a ride the following year. I would hate for that to happen to Justin and Trevor.
That being said, I do believe that they will be alright. If any team is looking for a driver, they would be absolutely crazy not to pick them up. Things are already looking up for Trevor and Brian Scott as they have picked up something to drive and could potentially even get an early start on next year. NASCAR needs these guys in order to have a healthy future!
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