The Next Generation of NASCAR
Many children dream of growing up and becoming an actor, pop star, baseball player and many other things. Some dream of following in their parent’s footsteps and the sons and daughters of NASCAR drivers are no different. Many start going to races before they are old enough to walk, or even crawl to watch daddy (or mom) race and start to dream of the day when they will be big enough to sit behind the wheel of a race car.
For many of the children who dream of following in their parent’s footsteps and pursuing a racing career, they don’t have to wait long. Some are starting their racing careers before they even start kindergarten.
John Hunter Nemechek, son of NASCAR racer Joe Nemechek, is a prime example, starting his racing career at age five. John went along with his parents to races, experiencing the thrill of his father’s victories before he even turned a year old. It didn’t take long for John to decide he wanted to do more than watch from pit road. When he turned three he worked hard to get the training wheels off his bike so he could earn his first motorcycle and begin his racing career. He has raced and won on dirt bikes, go-karts and quarter-midgets. And he moved into cars in the Allison Legacy Series this year when he turned 14.
“He taught me a lot,” John said of his father. “He’s been racing since he was 13. I’m just following in his footsteps.”
Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR driver Dave Blaney, began his racing career at age nine, winning in a quarter midget at the dirt track on the grounds of Pocono Raceway on a weekend when his father was also competing. Ryan raced Bandalero cars, Quarter-Midgets, Legend cars and moved into Late Models when he turned 14. The younger Blaney has wins in every series he has competed in throughout his career. He made his ARCA debut this season at Winchester Speedway, where he earned the pole and led the most laps, but unfortunately blew a tire late in the race, which cost him the victory.
Chase Elliot is the son of NASCAR champion Bill Elliot, but he is quickly stepping out of his father’s shadow and making a name for himself in the sport. In February, Chase signed a multi-year agreement with Hendrick Motorsports despite the fact that he won’t be eligible to race on one of NASCAR’s national touring circuits until he turns 18 in 2014. This season, Elliot is concentrating on the K&N Pro Series and in 15 starts this season, he has four victories and 10 top-10 finishes.
“Mom and Dad said from the get-go: It’s my decision, not theirs,” said Chase of his decision to follow in his father’s tire tracks. “But it’s such a cool sport.”
Ross Kenseth is the 18-year old son of 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth. Ross is proving himself in late model races across the country and this season he currently has three wins in the American Speed Association’s Kwik Trip Midwest Tour.
Chrissy and Matt Wallace are the son and daughter of NASCAR Nationwide driver Mike Wallace. The two siblings currently compete at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Missouri and Matt also runs a Legends car in the Charlotte area. Twenty-one years ago Mike Wallace won his only NASCAR championship while racing at I-44 Speedway and he enjoys getting to come back and watch his children try and make their dreams come true at the same track his career blossomed on.
These young drivers are making a name for themselves in a sport where their last names are already known. But the younger generation of drivers wants to prove that they can win too.