of all this 'young gun' talk
By Tim Packman, Turner Sports Interactive
May 11, 2002
11:40 AM EDT (1540 GMT)
Is it just me, or is the term "young guns" being
shoved down your throat a lot lately?
For the past few weeks I've been sitting back and observing various forms of the media tout
the "young guns" of Winston Cup like Colonel Parker used to promote an Elvis concert. Frankly, I think it's time to drop the
term and quit ignoring the more experienced racers and their efforts on the track.
Now, before you get all revved up at me and send off the hate emails, let's delve into this
a little further.
The history of NASCAR is what made this sport what it is today and --- being the traditionalist,
I am at 37 years young --- I love to read and hear about those early days. Tales of Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts, Cotton
Owens, Smokey Yunick's tricks and the struggles and sacrifices each made to win is noteworthy.
They took equipment that was by far less technical than today's rides and drove on fueled
by pure passion. The rewards were checkered flags on dirt and asphalt tracks of the East and Southeast.
I have nothing against guys like Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman being referred
to as the next generation of NASCAR. And, I'm not saying they don't have the passion for the sport. They obviously do or they
wouldn't be where they are today.
But, the constant barrage of information comparing them to Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and
Terry Labonte --- to name a few --- during a race is getting kind of old, I think.
Knock Knock. Hello! Did anyone notice that currently nine of the top 20 drivers are in their
40s, seven in their 30s and only four in their 20s. So, four young guns are mowing down nine veterans, huh? I don't think
What really matters is where you finish at the end of the race; not how young vs. veteran
is doing on lap 200 of a 400-lap race. Championships are won and lost where you finish, not how you were doing at the halfway
But, this is just my opinion. By the way, we are only 11 events into a 36-race schedule. Much
too early to hand out trophies, wouldn't you say?
So, I thought I would ask a few guys who are actually of the veteran experience and see what
their thoughts are on this recent "young guns" hype factor.
"Evolution, man, part of evolution," said Bill Elliott, who entered his first Winston Cup
race in 1976, which was two years before Bush was born. "The key to this business is whoever gets their stuff dialed in is
going to win the races.
"They don't necessarily have to be the quickest car. If a guy calls the right shot and does
the right thing he can find himself in front. Last year, a lot of different people won and you kind of see the same trend
In 1983, Elliott won his first of 41 races and his only championship five years later. He
does remember, for the most part, his early days.
"When I came into this sport a number of years ago, I was one of the younger guys and now
I'm one of the older ones. I don't remember that far back about how I was treated back then --- I've hit too many walls.
"The hype doesn't really bother me, as long as they spell my name right is what matters to
Fair enough, Bill E-l-l-i-o-t-t.
Our current point leader Sterling Marlin has competed in 550 Winston Cup races with 10 victories
since his first start in 1976. Four of those wins have come in the last two seasons, just so you know.
He also doesn't seem bothered by the whole "young guns" hype.
"The young guys are really coming on good," Marlin said. "Ryan Newman, I knew he was going
to be good last year. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch and them guys are really going good, too.
"Us old guys are going to have to step it up a little bit, but we'll try to hold our own with
them. I'm 44, so I still feel young.
"I'll take 'em on in football anytime."
Marlin was the team captain, quarterback and linebacker for his high school football team.
He was also named the Professional Athlete of the Year for 1995 and 1996 in his native Tennessee.
Earlier this week, Ricky Rudd said he has had thoughts of retiring because he doesn't like
the direction the sport is going. He commented that NASCAR racing has become more of a show and hopes that drivers won't have
to wear bathing suits and flex their muscles like wrestlers.
His car owner, Robert Yates, has had some talented drivers working for him in years past.
Names like Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan and Kenny Irwin drove for him during their youthful days.
Both his current drivers, Dale Jarrett and Rudd, are in their 40s. Yates said he's seen the
trend from both sides.
"Everyone loves to speculate and it has a lot of interest," Yates said. "I've seen it from
both ends - the young side and the older side. Our driver's abilities are certainly at a peak; they're not over the hill.
So, I don't have a problem with the whole thing.
"Heck, I heard what Ricky said the other day and I went and got my hair dyed because I figured
I had to "young up" here (laughing).
"A lot of this success for these younger guys has to do with equipment. Johnson and all them
are great guys and drivers, too. But, they're also bringing good equipment to the race track."
Again, I am not trying to take anything away from the young crop of drivers that have been
doing so well this year. I personally enjoy working and talking with each of them and was happy for Johnson's and Bush's first-time
wins this year.
I just hate to see the guys who have thrilled us for so many years and drew us to NASCAR races
--- and are still doing so --- get overlooked for their on-track endeavors. Have we become so complacent about Bobby Labonte,
Jarrett and Wallace winning a race that it's just not impressive anymore?
Man, I hope not. That's one gun I don't want
to see silenced.
I agree 100% withTim
on this one, I'm sick of hearing all the "Young Gun" bullshit...Maddogg