The 2014 NASCAR season kicked off in its traditional fashion this weekend with Preseason Thunder at Daytona Int’l Speedway in preparation for next month’s Daytona 500.
The drivers and rain soaked fans toughed out the boredom and monotony of rain after a complete washout on Thursday and a washout of the morning session on Friday. The diehard fans stood tough, proving the fandom of auto racing fans as more than 5,000 braved the misery just to meet their heroes on Thursday night.
Once the cars got on track there were stories abound. From a far-away distance it perhaps seemed like a glimpse into a mid-1990’s test session. Rusty Wallace was in the No. 2 car. A black No. 3 circled the speedway at the highest speed of the day. Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon pushed their machines through the high banks and an Earnhardt, as always, was wildly cheered. However, in order to understand what 2014 might bring, this time machine and retro fun is not the wave of the future.
The 2014 rookie crop in NASCAR’s top series is perhaps the best in almost a decade and during Friday’s on track action the youth served notice. Young Austin Dillon, in the famed black RCR No. 3, put Chevrolet on the top of the scoring pylon in a scene reminiscent of days past.
Dillon along with Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Parker Kilgerman, Michael Annett and Cole Whitt make up the stout 2014 rookie contingent. NASCAR as a sport is now not only dominated by younger talent, as the infiltration into the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 shows, it is also dominated by engineering. Tool boxes have more laptops and electronical data contraptions than actual wrenches or screwdrivers. Today’s modern driver simply tells the engineers what he feels and they set to work typing various equations and variables into a program that spits out data. Most fans have no clue and neither do the younger video game generation of drivers.
The landscape of the sport is changing along with the type of driver. In today’s X Games culture the attention span of many is growing less. There are more options than ever before. NASCAR, for its part, has seemed to be proactive. The Daytona test is the start of what should be a very unique season for the sport. With many rumored changes fast approaching, some historical pasts being tributed or brought back, and the best young crop of drivers in years the fans have a lot to look forward to.