While attending this year’s DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, I noticed the new upgrades to the facility, which have been going on there every year.
The most noticeable one this year was the new frontstretch grandstand that towers over the existing ones to each side.
There will also be a new press box at the top, and it just might be the highest point in Barberville, Fla. The view from the top and the comfortable seating in the new stands is something fans will enjoy for the future.
The concession area was also expanded out into the parking area because of the new stands. The changes to the facility are everywhere, and they have continued to make the track safer for fans and the drivers.
Another noticeable change that has occurred to me over the last five years, and even more in the last 10 years, is the loss of many of the top-name drivers in the sport.
If you are new to sprint car racing and have been attending races for the last three to four years, you would not notice. But if you have been going to Volusia, or many other of the multi-day shows around the country, for the past 10 or more years you would notice many of the big-name drivers have either retired or just don’t have rides.
This isn’t just at Volusia. It appears that most of the older drivers either just have trouble finding full-time rides or just don’t want to do all of the travel anymore.
The World of Outlaws point standings for 2019 only had three drivers in the top 10 the same from 2010. Donny Schatz, Jason Sides and Kraig Kinser are those three. All the other drivers are younger and new to the series.
This is a very good thing for the sport, but not for some of the other drivers, who maybe weren’t actually ready to retire yet but didn’t have much choice.
A few drivers have been racing for the last five decades and are at retirement age. Quite a few from the next generation have quit or just run closer to home. It is a veritable who’s who of our sport that weren’t racing at Volusia – and most haven’t for a few years.
Even some of the younger drivers have walked away to work in a family business or raise a family.
Some are still involved and help out with family teams or work with the younger drivers as a mentor. It might just be me, but it seems that we lost a lot of big name talent in a short time.
The fans need to get familiar with the newer names, as some will hopefully be around a long time. This does open doors for younger drivers coming along, and there are many quickly becoming the new stars.
The list of younger drivers entering the sport is possibly the best it has ever been, with drivers coming from all parts of the country to race with the touring series.
Younger drivers have been joining the All Star Circuit of Champions and World of Outlaws every year, with both series healthy and paying well.
Also, the ASCS tour is a great series to get drivers in the door for their first taste of traveling and racing new tracks, with some then moving on to the All Stars and World of Outlaws.
I guess I’m just missing all these drivers because I am as old or older than they are and I have been watching many of them on the track for the last five decades.
For the future, though, I’m thinking it will be tougher for drivers to continue their careers into their 50’s, like drivers of the past have done, unless they have their own teams.