NASCAR Driver Kyle Busch Questions Young Start of Some Racers
One of NASCAR's most successful drivers thinks some racers are climbing into full-size race cars too early.
Thirteen-year-old race car driver Jake Garcia made history in Nashville, Tennessee last weekend when he strapped into a pro-late model at Fairgrounds Speedway for a Saturday night 100-lap feature race making him the youngest driver ever to compete in a top-division, points-paying race in the track’s history.
"My classmates think it's cool that I race, but I don't think some of them really understand what's happening,” Garcia told The Tennessean, before climbing into his 500-horsepower race car, capable of speeds up to 140 mph.
Racers have been getting earlier starts on their potential careers the last few decades, perhaps taking the lead of former NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart who got early racing starts in go-karts.
At least one of NASCAR’s current stars, though, is questioning the youngsters racing full-size cars at such a young age. Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion of NASCAR’s premier series, is among them.
While on-track activity was interrupted by rain and snow during the Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia last weekend, Busch was asked during his media availability on March 24 about Garcia’s scheduled pro-late model debut in Nashville later the same day.
“I’ve heard of a 10-year-old in a late model, so there you go, and that’s way too young,” Busch said. “I don’t know that it’s just smart to start at 10 or start at 13 in a late model. That absolutely should not be possible.”
Busch, himself, got an early start. He’s even been credited with NASCAR’s minimum age limit of 18 in its national series that has been relaxed to 16 on some tracks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. As a 16-year-old, Busch made his Truck Series debut for Roush Fenway Racing in 2001. He made six series starts that year, resulting in two top-10 finishes and 17 laps led. At year’s end, though, Busch was sidelined by his age, not returning to national competition in NASCAR until reappearing with Hendrick Motorsports in 2003 in what is now the Xfinity Series.
Even Busch, though, didn’t start racing a full-sized car at the age of 13.
“As far as me, yeah, I started at 13 in Legend cars, and when I got to the late models for myself at 15, 16 mainly. I finally got caught at 15, but I tested a few when I was 15, but then, I couldn’t race until I was 16. I was scared to death of the ting with how much faster it is than a Legends car, how much cornering speed it has more than a Legends car and more than anything I’ve been in and more than I’m used to with the grip level and the G-Forces and things that it gives you. It was just a big deal at 16 years old for me.”
Busch also pointed to himself and 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron, who also is the reigning Xfinity Series champion, as proof a later start isn’t a detriment to a premier-series NASCAR career.
“I don’t think that it’s all that important as young as some of these cats are getting in late models at 10 or 13 years old, because I look at myself not being 15 doing that, and I look at William Byron not being 15 or 16 and doing that. He got a late start like I did, so you can still have a late start and be good and be able to make it to the big time. I don’t think you have to be so young getting in and pushing yourself along.”
Byron began his racing career with iRacing, not climbing into an actual racer, a Legends car, until the age of 15.
“If you have it, then you don’t have to learn it at that young of an age,” Busch said.