The 2014 NASCAR season is all about generational allegiances.
Raise your hand you are an old-school type smitten by the rise of Jeff Gordon as a legitimate contender for his first Cup title since 2001.
Raise your hand if you are a son or a daughter of the digital age, smitten by the young whippersnapper appeal of Chase Elliott.
They both are great stories as we settle into the grind of another season.
Gordon, 42, is having one of his best years in recent memory, emerging as the points leader and virtually assuring himself of a spot in the Chase atop the pecking order of 16 drivers.
Elliott, 18, just graduated from high school this past week, yet he is the points leader in the Nationwide Series, two ahead of veteran Elliott Sadler.
NASCAR could not be happier about these developments.
Gordon has gone from good to great in 2014, with a victory and five Top 5 finishes. It’s all about what happens come closing time in November at Homestead, but Gordon deserves to be in the championship conversation.
“The race cars that I’ve been driving are just making it a lot of fun,” Gordon said after winning at Kansas. “I just feel so competitive out there, and that makes me feel young again.‘’
That means the R-word — retirement — isn’t in Gordon’s vocabulary. He had suggested during Speedweeks at Daytona that he would retire if he won the Sprint Cup title this season.
“The whole retirement thing, I think, is thrown out there too much, and I’m probably somewhat to blame. But there’s no secret; I’m going to be 43 this year but, man, if 43 is like this, I can’t wait for 50,” Gordon said. “This is all right. I’m having a good time. That’s why I feel young — because I’m just having a great time.”
And so is Elliott, one of the young guns who will be there to carry on once Gordon retires. There are a lot of young fresh faces in NASCAR these days, including Darrell Wallace Jr. and Austin Dillon.
Elliott isn’t too cool for school despite the perks of his profession. He graduated from King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Ga., Saturday morning. Just hours later, he qualified sixth for the Nationwide race at Iowa Speedway
“I definitely think it was worth it to go home and be part of that,” Elliott said. “It was definitely weird to be here, and then gone, and then back just for qualifying. It’s a little odd, but other than that we’re happy to get back.”
That precious diploma in hand, Elliott now will concentrate on working for a living.
“What’s going to be weird is not going back to high school this fall,” he said. “That’s going to be the deal that makes you sit back and think. I’m kind of waiting for that moment.”
Young Chase needn’t worry. “Old” guys such as Jeff Gordon will tell him that there is still lots to learn, no matter what your age.
NASCAR Hall of Fame
The envelope, please:
NASCAR will unveil its sixth class of inductees to its Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon.
The five inductees will be introduced by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France in the Great Hall area of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.
Who gets in?
It’s all highly speculative, but here are two guys who should scream “recount” if they are left off the list of inductees:
Bill Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup Series champion and winner of the Daytona 500 in 1985 and 1987.
Rick Hendrick, who has won 11 Cup series titles and three combined in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series.
Elliott (aka Awesome Bill from Dawsonville) had a fan base that only guys named Earnhardt can relate to these days. Chase Elliott’s dad, Bill was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver 16 times.
Hendrick, beyond all that success, has shown the true grit of a champion after losing his son, brother, nieces and best friends in a plane crash a decade ago.
The five new inductees will have been chosen from a list of 20 nominees by a voting panel that includes 22 members of the hall’s nominating committee and a group consisting of former drivers, former owners, former crew chiefs, manufacturer representatives, media members and community leaders.
Kurt Busch working OT
The biggest story this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway involves an Outlaw: Kurt Busch.
The race car driver with the prickly nickname is set to become only the fourth driver in history to try to compete in the daunting double-double by racing in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
Busch, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will start the Indy 500 around noon on Sunday and then fly via private plane to Charlotte to race in the Coke 600 that evening.
Busch got a sample of what it’s all about last week when he qualified 12th at Indy before going back to Charlotte to compete in the Sprint All-Star Race.
“It’s a lot of fun to qualify into the Indianapolis 500 my first outing,” he said. “First time there to be 10th, 11th, 12th is right in the mix. And it’s really exciting to have had the chance to go 230 mph, and then to have a fast plane with Cessna to get back here to be ready for the all-star race.”
Regardless of how good a driver Busch is, there is still a learning curve. He crashed while driving for Andretti Autosport during Monday’s practice.
“I was starting to feel comfortable,” Busch said. “That’s when I made the mistake of just letting my guard down. Made a mistake of just settling into that long-run-type mentality, whereas with IndyCar you have to be on edge.”
Tony Stewart, Busch’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, is the only driver to successfully complete the full double.