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2018 – NASCAR’s Changing of the Guard

Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, one of the Young Guns in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. [Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images]

Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, one of the Young Guns in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. [Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images]

Turk’s Tracks
A Few Lug Nuts from Pit Row

by Gene Turk

By all indications, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018 has seen some major changes in its driver lineup. We no longer have veterans like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Danica Patrick behind the wheel.

They have been mostly replaced by a group of talented, but yet much younger drivers. Now it is true that we still have the veterans like Jimmie Johnson, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard, and Ryan Newman, the percentage of new rookie drivers has seen a significant increase for this season. So let’s take a look into this new batch of drivers.

Chase Elliott is 22 years old and is the son of famous Bill “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Elliott. He drives the number 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports. Chase had quite a year in 2017 with a number of second place finishes. A little luck here or there and he just could win his first race this year. After five races and a post-race penalty in Phoenix, Chase is in 21st place in points.

Eric Jones is 20 years old and drives the number 20 car for Joe Gibbs. This young man takes over for Matt Kenseth and I believe he has some big shoes to fill. Matt is a past champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner. The good news for Eric is that he does have a team that does know how to win. Eric is now in 13th place in points.

Ryan Blaney is 24 years old and drives the number 12 car for Rodger Penske. Ryan is off to very good start this year and is presently in 5th place in points. This young, talented driver is one to watch in 2018. I expect him to have a good year.

Daniel Suarez is 26 years old and is a native of Mexico. He took over the number 19 car from Carl Edwards and drives for Joe Gibbs. His start in 2018 has been a little rocky. He is presently in 23rd place in points.

Austin Dillon is 27 and drives the famous number 3 for Richard Childress. Austin started off the season with a big bang by winning the Daytona 500. To be quite honest, I thought that Aric Almirola had the race won going into the last lap in Danica Patrick’s former ride, but then again that’s Daytona. Austin has a great team behind him, so I do expect some more good finishes from him. He is presently in 12th place in points.

Darrell Wallace Jr. is 24 and drives for Richard Petty in the number 43 car. King Richard must have seen something special in this young man when he put in the number 43 car. His faith in this man was proven to be correct when Mr. Wallace finished second in the Daytona 500. By the way the celebration went on in his pits, you would have thought that the number 43 car won the race. He is 19th in points. Things have sorta gone downhill since the Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman is 24 and takes over for Dale Jr. in the number 88 car. He drives for Hendrick Motorsports. We know that the number 88 team does know how to build a fast race car and Alex has proven that he can drive the car fast by winning and pole for the Daytona 500 and qualifying well in other races. He is 16th in points.

So there we have a short overview of some of the up and coming NASCAR drivers. From what I see, the changing of the guard looks like NASCAR is in good hands and has a great pool of young talented drivers for the future. As the year unfolds, I’ll keep checking back on how well these new drivers are doing.

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Gene Turk was born with racing in his blood. At age 8 he started racing Quarter Midgets as member of the Great Milwaukee Quarter Midget club. For five years he raced the #7 car that his father built. He then graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Internal Combustion Engineering.

While in college he obtained his Private Pilot’s License.

Along the way he has attended numerous Indy car and stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile during the 60s, 70sand 80s along with area Midget car races. He would also frequently fly to the Brickyard to watch the Indy 500 time trials in the 60s and 70s and more recently attended the 2014 Indy 500.

He has also attended numerous sports car and NASCAR races at Elkhart Lake Road America. Finally, Gene has owned many classic cars including his present 1990 Corvette and is a self-described “Gear Head.”