Martin and Waltrip on the racing ladder

Martin and Waltrip on the racing ladder

Martin and Waltrip on the Racing Ladder By: Bill King Mark Martin has been working with his son Matt, who turned 13 last month, for a number of years, guiding him up the racing ladder. But Martin doesn't see an optimum route, especially for...

Martin and Waltrip on the Racing Ladder
By: Bill King

Mark Martin has been working with his son Matt, who turned 13 last month, for a number of years, guiding him up the racing ladder. But Martin doesn't see an optimum route, especially for the most talented youngsters.

Mark Martin on stage.
Photo by Harold Hinson Photo.
"Let's just call them child prodigies. Some of these kids that are really, really young that are really ahead of their time, have been racing five, six, seven years that are 13, 14 years old are capable of racing with adults, with us. Not to say NASCAR, but with adult drivers in racing series that are very competitive.

"In today's world, their opportunities are much more limited than they were just a few years ago. I don't have a perfect answer for this. Matt's getting a chance to drive in a truck series down in Florida. It's giving him great experience. I'm real happy about that.

"I also have a friend that I'm working with who's 14, not quite 15. In my opinion, he's as good a racecar driver as I am - today - at 14 years old as I am at 46. And there's nowhere that he can be challenged. He can go race, but he's way ahead of the kids he's going up against.

"Hopefully, somewhere in the future, we will find a way for these really young guys to be really challenged and not have to sit around for four or five years and wait to race on the NASCAR level. There needs to be something to fill that gap, and there's not much out there right now."

Darrell Waltrip then offered this: "It appears that we look at the traditional stock car series to be the feeder series for what we're doing, when in fact, many of the new drivers of late have come from the open wheel series. I think when you at midgets, sprint cars, champ cars right on up the line, they have a lot of challenging series there -- a lot of places for kids to plug in and get going early on. So we're going to have to look at those series as a place to train, a place to get your experience and a place to make your move toward the Nextel Cup."

You can't help but think of former USAC stars Jeff Gordon, Tony Steward, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Jason Leffler not to mention Dave Blaney, John Andretti, J.J. Yeley, Mike Bliss, Tracey Hines, PJ Jones and Kenny Schrader. Dirt tracker's ability to "drive off the right rear tire" serves them well in a stock car on pavement.

Please see other articles by Bill King:

Looking at NASCAR's new aero rules

Charlotte Media Tour: Monday Quips

MBSutton: NASCAR's newest team

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