As ratings dip, NASCAR desperate for rookies to establish themselves
Four races into the Sprint Cup season, the big story remains the freshman class' continued struggles. While it's early still, Logano has yet to record a top 10 finish, and he's languishing at No. 33 in the standings while racing for a team that won two championships in the past seven years behind
Tucked in behind Logano, rookie rival
"It just takes time," Logano said after registering the best run for all freshmen to date -- a 13th at Vegas -- a little more than two weeks ago. "That's part of being a rookie."
The problem is, with NASCAR ratings down significantly this year (13 percent in metered markets), time isn't on anyone's side. Last year, zero new drivers made the Chase for the first time in its five-year existence, causing the sport to experience stagnancy at the top. Sure, it's nice to see a refocused
But though the old guard has slowly made its way out to pasture, the new guard hasn't shown up to replace it yet. It's now been a good year and a half since any rookie scored a top 10 finish in the Cup Series, and no freshman has won a race since
The problem runs deeper than just the sport's top division. In the Nationwide Series last season, not a single rookie won a race he entered and the two top contenders for rookie honors (
So far this season, rookie candidate
Part of the problem is the sport's two minor league divisions have been suffering from a case of major league overload.
Every Busch trip to Victory Lane pushes the young drivers looking for their shot at glory further down the list, and when they're out of sight, they're out of mind for potential sponsors. With Cup drivers allowed to race in these lower-tier divisions, sponsors would rather take a chance on them scoring an easy victory than spend years developing a young driver running 20th every week who won't get the company the millions it's paying for in exposure.
As its lower divisions watch their talent pool break apart, the sport has been reaching out to other types of racing series to discover the next generation of driving talent, a move that's led to mixed reviews at best. For the past few years, open-wheelers have been trying their hand at stock cars, with everyone from IRL champ
Now, the sport appears to be looking to Motocross as the next breeding ground for future talent. AMA champ
And that brings us to Logano, who's aligned with one of the sport's higher-end sponsors but has yet to deliver expected results. There's still plenty of time for the 18-year-old to turn it around, and with drivers like
But NASCAR can't necessarily afford to wait for that payoff. And if that's the case, it's unclear where the next "great superstar" will come from.