Monday, November 3, 2008
TV Peek At NASCAR's Future Is Eye-Opening
The TV series on SPEED called NASCAR Confidential would have gotten the attention of the NASCAR fans this season if the network had ordered more than six episodes.
Tucked quietly away on Monday night, the fifth show in the series offered a profile of several young drivers with NASCAR aspirations. To say the least, it was an eye-opening confirmation that family money is the driving force behind this new breed.
In much the same way that parents awkwardly place children in adult-style beauty pageants, NASCAR Confidential was open in offering footage that sometimes showed the racing parents in unflattering situations.
Veteran journalist Mike Mulhern set the table for how the transition from established veterans to eager youngsters occurred when Jeff Gordon entered the sport. This program profiled five youngsters who were operating in very different environments while trying to make their way to the Sprint Cup Series.
Fans are certainly familiar with Joey Logano. ESPN reported on their E:60 program this summer that Logano's father had spent over a million dollars on his son's racing career. NASCAR Confidential documented the ups and downs this season as Logano tried to get a toehold in a Cup Series car.
14 year-old Logan Ruffin from Nashville was a new face on the racing scene for TV viewers. Ruffin's mother dropped her son off in her Range Rover because he is too young to drive on public roads. He has strength and conditioning coaches and has already made his way through several local and regional racing series.
Alex Yontz is 22 and is almost over the hill. In NASCAR terms, the "window" for him to be discovered and advance is essentially closing. Every TV show needs contrast and Yontz working on his own car in Ed Berrier's Late Model shop worked very well after seeing the resources surrounding both Logano and Ruffin.
Richard Childress is a NASCAR legend and has paid his dues in the sport during his career as a driver and an owner. To showcase a youngster from a racing family, NASCAR Confidential chose RC's favorite grandson Austin Dillon. This was a youngster that fans could relate to, as so many others currently in the sport are directly from racing families. Dillon is 18 years-old and races in the Camping World East Series.
Many fans know Marc Davis because of his recent TV interviews and exposure as a success of the driver diversity program. This 18 year-old African-American driver has been a success story and continues to climb through the ranks. Signed by Gibbs Racing to a development deal, it looks like Davis will see the big time in just a couple of seasons.
This show worked to weave the stories of the five youngsters together and show the wide variety of experiences in racing. Snapshots included the Logano struggle in the #96 Cup car and the success of Dillion as the Camping World Rookie of the Year. Most telling perhaps was the anger of Logan Ruffin's father being offset by the cool demeanor of his young son after a racing accident.
It is Ken Squier who opens and closes the shows in this TV series. As he ended this episode of NASCAR Confidential, it was clear he had chosen his words carefully.
"Today, the ability behind the wheel might not even be the number one criteria," said Squier. "The window for opportunity is shrinking, while the crop of drivers grows larger and younger. But, one thing is certain. The next generation will still be driven, first and foremost, because they love to race."
This episode of NASCAR Confidential re-airs at 1AM and 9AM Eastern Time on Tuesday for those who missed the original airing.
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