NASCAR has a talented farm system loaded with the stock car racing's future stars.
From the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series through the sanctioning body's touring divisions and on the All-American tracks, there's a single common denominator: Lightning-fast youth.
The pipeline leading to the Sprint Cup Series figures to overflow for years to come. And from the looks of 2012, current Cup competitors had best be ready to defend their turf and their jobs.
Two of the most talented drivers to watch in 2013 are the Dillon brothers.
Austin Dillon made history in 2011, becoming the Truck Series' youngest champion at age 22. That goal accomplished, his owner and grandfather, Richard Childress, gave Dillon a greater challenge, a full-time opportunity in the Nationwide Series, driving the No. 3 Chevrolet. Dillon won twice at Kentucky Speedway, never left the top four in the points standings and claimed Rookie of the Year honors.
His 20-year-old brother, Ty, also is coming up fast. Like Austin, Ty won Truck Series rookie honors in his first full season. He also scored a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, led the championship standings with his No. 3 Chevrolet and was on the threshold of a title in 2012.
Danica Patrick became NASCAR's highest-finishing female competitor in 2011 with a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas. She set another record for her gender as a full-time Nationwide competitor in the No. 7 Chevrolet during the past season. She is the first female to produce a season-long top-10 finish (10th) in a national series. Patrick's 17th-place performance at Phoenix, her last of 10 premier-series starts, readied her for a Cup rookie campaign in 2013 at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Sputtering the fast paced accomplishments of the future talent are the economy and the lack of sponsorship. Cup stars are finding it difficult to keep dollars rolling into their operations. Top teams are using multiple sponsor deals to keep afloat.
NASCAR has toyed with the idea of limiting the number of competitors in 2014. The Camping World Truck Series was the first to lower the on-track drivers to 36. The Nationwide and Cup Series may follow suit. This would increase the dollars available for lower financed teams, better competition on the tracks and possibly increase the number of fans in the stands.
* One side note about the newly designed cars in the Cup Series. The cars now reflect the characteristics of today's manufactured counterparts. Since the first day of testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, drivers have voiced the sixth-generation race car puts the level of competition back into the hands of the driver. The drivers were breaking the 193 miles-per-hour mark during the two days of testing. Toyotas seems to be carrying more speed than the Chevys and Fords
Officials will rate the varying speeds and come up with a competitive package for all three manufactures as they roll into Daytona for the 500 on Feb. 24.
Contact Eddie Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org