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NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch believes NASCAR’s push to boost younger drivers’ popularity is “stupid”.
With the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr retiring in recent years, plus Danica Patrick only contesting this season’s Daytona 500 before stopping, NASCAR has lost some of the most recognisable names of this generation.
As part of Autosport’s look into NASCAR’s present challenge, the likes of Gordon and 2012 NASCAR Cup champion Brad Keselowski said rising stars had a key part to play in securing the category’s popularity.
But Busch, 32, called the push to market younger drivers – like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney – “bothersome”.
He said: “We’ve paid our dues, and our sponsors have and everything else, and all you’re doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver.
“I think it’s stupid.
“But I don’t know, I’m not the marketing genius that’s behind this deal.
“I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what my part is.”
Hendrick Motorsports has dropped Kasey Kahne for 2018 in place of teenage protege William Byron, Stewart-Haas Racing decided not to take up 2004 champion Kurt Busch’s deal for next season and Joe Gibbs Racing replaced ’03 champion Matt Kenseth with Erik Jones.
Earnhardt, who is being replaced by Xfinity Series race winner Alex Bowman, suggested the number of past champions and veterans losing their drives is a symptom of declining sponsor interest and drivers having been overpaid.
Busch reckons it is because younger drivers will do more for less.
“Probably the younger guys are bullied into doing more things than the older guys are because we say no a lot more,” he said.
“We’ve been there, done that and have families, things like that, and want to spend as much time as we can at home.
“Some of these marketing campaigns and things like that, pushing these younger drivers, I wouldn’t say it’s all that fair.”