The 2016 NASCAR Cup Series season doesnât seem like all that long ago. Has it really been three years since Jimmie Johnson was en route to winning his record-tying seventh championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 20, 2016?
But if you take a look at the driver lineup for the 2016 season, it seems like ages ago.
Jamie McMurray. Kasey Kahne. Matt Kenseth. Greg Biffle. Carl Edwards. Tony Stewart. Dale Earnhardt Jr. You can even throw in Jeff Gordon, who replaced the injured Earnhardt in a number of races toward the end of the 2016 season.
There are others that fit into this category, too. But these are the veterans, the household names, the proven race winners and the fan-favorites.
They have all retired now.
Yes, drivers come and go, year in and year out. But it is well-documented that NASCAR is in the midst of a youth movement, and with a youth movement comes the departure of several âfaces of the sportâ.
Even after these notable departures have taken place over the last few seasons, things only appear to be just getting started.
Johnsonâs contract with Hendrick Motorsports, the team for which he has driven in every race going all the way back to the end of the 2001 season, ends next season, and he has stated that he is considering staying in NASCAR for one or two more seasons. The 44-year-old expects to know the answer regarding whether his retirement will come after the 2020 season or the 2021 season within the next four to six months.
Clint Bowyer just signed a contract extension Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2020 season. But given how much uncertainty surrounded just this one-year extension, there is already speculation that the 2020 season will be the 40-year-oldâs last season with the team, perhaps even in the Cup Series.
Kevin Harvick also drives for Stewart-Haas Racing. He has shown no signs of slowing down and has stated that he will retire when he âgets tired of itâ. But the 2020 season is slated to be his 20th season in the Cup Series. Not even Tom Brady can compete forever. Harvick is set to compete through 2021 as of now. Will that change?
Kurt Busch still doesnât have a contract extension to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing next year. It is expected that he will get one, although it likely wonât be through more than the 2021 season, if even that. Could he also be gone from the Cup Series within the next two years or so?
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What will the NASCAR Cup Series driver lineup look like in a few years? Who will the veterans of the series be â and how old will they be â by the time the current drivers in the 40+ crowd retire? Will any of the full-time veteran drivers be above the age of 40? There is no doubt about it; big changes are coming, even with so many having already occurred in recent years.