Opinion: Going In Circles

Homestead-Miami Speedway

MRN's Pete Pistone says young drivers run the risk of slowing down their careers if they stay in an uncompetitive ride for too long. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Every athlete dreams of getting to "The Show." Any kid that picks up a baseball bat hopes to make it to the Major Leagues. College sports are full of athletes playing for an opportunity to get drafted by the NFL or NBA.

In NASCAR, those aspirations mean landing a ride in the Monster Energy Series. Ask any driver in the XFINITY and Truck Series garages or even the K&N Pro Series about their ultimate goal and across the board, the answer would be "Sunday racing."

NASCAR is experiencing a rush of young talent like never before. 19-year-old William Byron won the XFINITY Series championship this year, and makes the move to Hendrick Motorsports and the Cup Series in 2018. Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are only a few years older but already making their marks at NASCAR’s highest level.

But there is another young group not quite as lucky as that list. Rather than getting an opportunity to show their potential talent with powerhouse teams like Hendrick, Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing, this collection has to scrape and claw to first find funding just to get a seat with a lower-tier organization and then compete in the top series.

In most cases, "compete" is a relative term.

Underfunded and low-resource teams have virtually no chance of running with the sport’s behemoths. In nearly every case, an anticipation of finishing inside the top 25 is considered a success.

What cost does season after season of mediocrity have on a promising young driver’s career path?

At some point, the stigma of being an also-ran or back-marker tends to stick with drivers who - in reality - have no opportunity to showcase their talents because they’re in rides that simply won’t allow them to compete.

While it’s understandable that getting to the top of the ladder in any profession as quickly as possible is human nature, the sport’s history is littered with names forever attached to "what might have been."

Perhaps the better plan is to make a mark in a lower series rather than moving too quickly up the ladder. Consistent top-five performances in the Truck or XFINITY Series have a much better chance of gaining a prospective team owner’s attention rather than a series of 35th-place finishes or worse sprinkled among the DNFs.

Patience is a virtue and it’s a lesson too many young drivers are finding out the hard way.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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