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How Old is Too Old in NASCAR?

October 23rd, 2013 at 7:38 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

NASCAR has always been a sport known for longevity. Unlike the stick and ball sports the older you get doesn't mean a whole lot. NASCAR drivers have always been in a sport where drivers 40 or older could still be very competitive in the Sprint Cup Series. 

If you take a look at NASCAR's list for oldest drivers to win a race you'll see that there have been four drivers to win a race over the age of 50. Harry Gant is the oldest driver to win a race when he won at Michigan in August of 1992 at the age of 52. Gant also has the record for most wins over the age of 50 with eight. Morgan Shepherd won a race in March of 1993 at Atlanta at the age of 51. Mark Martin has won five races over the age of 50 with his last one coming in September 2009 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bobby Allison won the 1988 Daytona 500 at the age of 50. 

There have been plenty of drivers to win over the age of 45 including, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Geoff Bodine, Richard Petty and Terry Labonte. Drivers well into their 40's have been extremely competitive and even won championships. 

Richard Petty, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Allison and Dale Earnhardt all won championships over the age of 40 in the modern era (post 1971). This makes me ask the question, how old is too old in NASCAR

In stick and ball sports most players are at the end of their prime in their late 30's to early 40's. It's an interesting concept because the fact still remains true today. Matt Kenseth is second in points right now four points behind Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth is 41 years old and has won seven races in the 2013 season, having the best season of his career. Kenseth is not the only driver to win in 2013 that is older than 40. Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart are on that list as well. Jeff Gordon made the Chase as did Biffle and Kenseth. 

The age of a NASCAR driver is something people always debate about and its changed over the years. In the 1980's and early 1990's it was much easier for an older driver to compete on the NASCAR Cup circuit. The races were closer, there were less sponsorship demands and there weren't as many races on the schedule as there are now. From 1980 to 1996 the NASCAR Cup schedule consisted of 31 races or less. Since the 2001 season the schedule has increased to 36 races a year. 

Instead of racing at Rockingham twice a season and North Wilkesboro twice a year, NASCAR has moved more towards the west, meaning drivers are flying to more races and not getting enough rest during the season. Flying is tiring for any driver, especially for drivers who are older in the age department. Mark Martin, who is now 53, has gone to a limited schedule in his career because he got tired of running all the races on the schedule.

This makes you wonder if the age of a driver being competitive is coming down. Drivers are getting younger and younger on the Sprint Cup Series circuit as sponsorships want a younger drivers to promote their image for several years. These drivers have overtaken some real competitive rides and the younger age of drivers have made it difficult for the older drivers to compete. The age of 40 still isn't a concern but for many fans 45 or older seems to be too old for a driver to compete for a championship. 

How old is too old in NASCAR? Is there even an age limit? I believe that the age is getting lower and lower because of the expectations for drivers by sponsors. 

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Tags: Dale Jarrett, Greg Biffle, Motorsports, NASCAR

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