It’s the changing of the guard as drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart make way for the younger generation of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors.
The numbers from Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway tell a compelling story.
Race winner Joey Logano, 26 years old.
Runner-up Chase Elliott, 20 years old.
Third place Kyle Larson, 23 years old.
Daniel Suarez, who won the MIS NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday, 24 years old.
And William Byron, winner of Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, is a mere 18 years old.
Throw in guys like Ryan Blaney (22 years old), Erik Jones (20) and Cole Custer (18), and this much is clear: There isn’t a youth movement coming to NASCAR, there’s a youth movement that’s already here in NASCAR, and it’s going to get stronger in the next few years.
This is one of those times in NASCAR that comes along every decade or two: The established stars of the sport are on their way out and the young guns are coming. Are they ever.
Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon retired after the 2015 season and three-time champ Tony Stewart will be hanging up his driving gloves at the end of this year.
Among the current crop of other frontline Cup drivers, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray are all at least 40 years old.
What you saw at Michigan on Sunday is going to be a much more commonplace sight, as older drivers begin to cycle out of the series and younger ones start to cycle in.
For Logano, who began Cup racing at 18 and has had plenty of scrapes with veteran drivers over the years, he welcomes the youth movement.
“It’s cool to see the future is here,” Logano said after his victory at MIS. “And it’s fun for me. Shoot, I’m usually the youngest guy by a long shot, so it’s fun to be racing for the win with some guys that are close to my age up there racing for the win.
“The future of NASCAR is present, and it’s going to be big,” he said. “It’s amazing you see some of those guys that are coming in how good they are, and particularly with Chase today and Larson, as well, here recently how fast he’s been. Their wins here are obviously right around the corner. You can see that.”
And then Logano added something you’d expect a racer to say: “I’m glad we got ours first.”