As NASCAR continues to wait for its next generation of stars to start winning and actually become stars, a few graybeards may be angling to return to the track and give the truck series the sport’s biggest star power.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., still NASCAR’s biggest star despite trading in a stock car for the broadcast booth this year, said during an interview this week he wants to run a race in the Camping World Truck Series. And he wants Jeff Gordon to join him.
The question originally proposed Earnhardt teaming with Gordon and fellow retired superstar Tony Stewart to race trucks at Bristol or Martinsville — NASCAR’s signature short tracks. Earnhardt laughed at the idea of running at Bristol, but then said:
“I’ve always loved Martinsville, and the truck race at Martinsville would probably be the one that I would be most excited about running, if I was to run a truck. No plans to run a truck, but I wouldn’t mind running a truck race once, just to say, ‘Hey, I know what a truck drives like.’ ... Martinsville, man, that’s where it’s at. Jeff Gordon loves Martinsville, so I know he’d be in for that.”
Gordon blazed a trail for Earnhardt, having retired to the broadcast booth prior to last season. Gordon now works for Fox, which carries NASCAR racing through June. Earnhardt works for NBC and will begin working races on a weekly basis July 1 at Chicagoland.
Stewart is co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, the most dominant shop in NASCAR right now with Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola currently in the fold. Harvick leads the Monster Energy Series with five wins while Bowyer has two wins, including the last race at Michigan.
Earnhardt has never competed in a NASCAR truck race, though he is planning to run two Xfinity Series races this season for the team he owns. Until his retirement, he was annually voted the most popular driver in NASCAR.
With that trio of stars now retired, and other big names such as Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick now in their 40s, NASCAR for years has been waiting for younger drivers to build a name through the minor circuits and become stars on the big stage.
But of the current group of regular Cup drivers in their 20s, only Joey Logano and Kyle Larson have more than two career wins, and only Logano and Austin Dillon have taken a checkered flag this season.
—Field Level Media