Me: So switching gears a little bit, to Joey Logano. He’s 18 and he’s going to have a full-time Cup ride next year, do you think that’s a case of too much, too soon or is it different for everyone? I mean, do you think there should be an age restriction in racing at the Cup level?
Jarrett: Well, obviously now that there’s the 18-year-old rule to whether it’s the Nationwide or any of the NASCAR events, the Trucks or anything, I think that’s a good thing.
Is it too much, too soon? Well that’s going to be hard to tell, I guess we’re going to have to see. If it’s happened before that an 18-year-old, and I don’t think that it has, has gotten a ride — ya know it’s rare that they get a ride at that age in the Cup Series — but to get a Championship caliber ride that’s what’s so very different this day in time versus things that have happened in the past.
Again, it’s very rare that someone would come along with that kind of talent that someone’s willing to take that chance, that soon, on them. But to put them in that level of competition and a ride with the opportunity to literally be going to his first races, especially if he gets in the next year, to be considered a contender because he has the equipment is pretty rare.
Because everyone is different it’ll be interesting to see how Joey handles everything that goes along with being a Sprint Cup race driver in a high profile situation. He’s shown nothing but class so far and I think that’s probably a tribute to his parents bringing him up that way. And he seems to have a really good head on his shoulders, but he’s really getting ready to be thrown to the wolves so to speak and he’s going to be under the microscope. So it will be interesting to see.
To say that it’s too much, too soon, again, people handle different situations differently and it will be interesting to follow this. There is going to be a lot of times that he’s going to be in a situation to probably receive a good bit of criticism for something but he’s also going to be in the situation for success to come to him very quickly and see how he handles that. And I believe that if anyone can do it, by what I’ve seen so far, he will be able to handle it.
Me: So what are the biggest changes that you’ve seen in terms of the drivers that are coming to the sport, in to NASCAR in general? It seems like the drivers are getting younger and they’re more groomed for the sport, they know kind of what to expect in the landscape of the sport. So what’s been the change that you’ve seen from your career, from when you started out to now?
Jarrett: I think that you hit on it, the age, that’s the biggest thing. We’re talking about an 18-year-old young man here, someone who is literally just out of high school that’s having the opportunity to get in with a first-class organization with a top-notch ride. Before, that was unheard of, you just didn’t see something like that happening, the opportunities that are available now.
These young people, as you said, are being groomed now. Their parents are getting them opportunities because our sport has become such a big entity that they see opportunities out there now. It wasn’t like that before. Not many parents twenty years ago would be setting their kids up, saying ok, you have talent here whether it was driving a go-kart or whatever we’re going to start you on a fast pace here, basically like college or a different type of schooling.
Just like we see young people going to tennis schools and golf schools to where literally at 13-, 14-years-old they’re going off to school to not only get their education but to learn the game or the sport that they want to make a living at and NASCAR is becoming a lot like that. Even though there’s no schools, these parents are taking the opportunity to groom these young men and women to become race drivers.
I think that you see them, they’re much more polished and ready and much more experienced when they get here now to handle these type of situations. To me that’s been the biggest change. Obviously media has had a lot to do with that, not only with helping young people come along but to give our sport the recognition that it’s been trying to get for a long time. There’s a lot of opportunities there and a lot of changes that have taken place but to me that’s the biggest thing, the ages that we see, these young people coming along and getting opportunities.