Suarez: 'Next 9' successes speak well of NASCAR Next program
Daniel Suarez reflects on the friendship and success the 2012 NASCAR Next class of himself, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace Jr. and others have developed over the years.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers take over Indy's Fan Fest
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers took over the streets outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday for Fan Fest.
Meet the NASCAR Next Class of 2017-18
These nine young drivers have been named to the latest NASCAR Next class, a program that first began in 2011.
Earnhardt: With young talent, 'sky's the limit for NASCAR'
RELATED: Blaney on Dale Jr.'s influence on him CONCORD, N.C. -- High-profile departures have been a recent trend in NASCAR's top division, a development that began with transcendent four-time champion Jeff Gordon's retirement at the end of the 2015 season. Popular three-time champ Tony Stewart followed after 2016, then fellow star Carl Edwards stepped away just before this season. That list will include the most popular of all -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- at the end of 2017, a move he signaled in a Tuesday announcement at the Hendrick Motorsports compound. But instead of sounding an alarm about a possible void, Earnhardt issued a strong vote of confidence for the sport's future with positive remarks about the stock-car racing's recent influx of spellbinding talent, a group of young stars that have the potential to dazzle fans for future generations. RELATED: Larson, Elliott top point standings "We definitely have tons of talent. There is no question, but I love the people they are," Earnhardt said, naming 21-year-old teammate Chase Elliott and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kyle Larson, 24, as two brilliant examples. Being marketable, approachable and having a level of savvy with social media certainly hasn't hurt. "These guys are effortless at it," he added. "So once they start to pick it up and understand the power of what they have at their fingertips, the sky's the limit for NASCAR . I'm super excited about the future." MORE: Dale Jr. announces retirement " Vote: Favorite Junior win Earnhardt has done plenty himself to help cultivate the next crop of stock-car prodigies, fielding JR Motorsports' four-car effort in the NASCAR XFINITY Series as a developmental program for next -gen stars. Among those is 19-year-old William Byron, a product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative and a top prospect for success at the sport's highest level. It's why team owner Rick Hendrick was quick to echo Earnhardt's sentiment. "I've never seen so much young talent," the 67-year-old team owner said. "I can remember when the question was all of our drivers are in their 40s or they're going to be, what are we going to do when they retire? I think we've got the answer. They're here, they're young, they're aggressive, they're fun." RELATED: Hendrick: Dale Jr. is 'like a son' to me The current group of 20-somethings -- or younger -- includes a diverse group of Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates in the Monster Energy Series. Erik Jones, 20, was the first to throw his hat into the rookie race with a full-time jump hitched to a newly expanded Furniture Row Racing operation. Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez, both 25, followed with their offseason announcements. Their task now: To become better acquainted with fans who have long-running associations of support for Gordon, Stewart, Edwards and Earnhardt. Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said that transition and exposure to a broader stage will come in time. "It's something that evolves," O'Donnell said. "That's you getting to know them more, them being in Victory Lane more. People like winners. … As they win and compete for top fives and are exposed more, we have no doubt that people will see their personalities and then it'll be up to them as well to take those personalities outside the sport also." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NASCAR Next's Alon Day eager for new chapter
RELATED: Meet the 2016-17 NASCAR Next class There are several traditional routes to stock-car racing's big leagues. Several stars have emerged from asphalt Late Model circles, others from the sprint cars ranks, either on pavement or dirt. Alon Day has made a path where just five years ago, he says, none existed in his homeland of Israel. "I grew up without any motorsports -- nothing," says Day, who fantasized about NASCAR and Formula One as a youth. "When I started racing, which was in 2012, actually motorsport was illegal in Israel." Day's presence in NASCAR's pipeline reaffirms the notion that there are no uniform directions to the national stage. The NASCAR Next driver's roundabout journey has taken him from his home in Tel Aviv, to racing single-seaters and other vehicles in Europe, and stock-car sojourns to the United States more than once. It's a journey, he says, that's not nearly complete. "That's my main priority, for sure, being here in NASCAR , in Trucks or XFINITY or doesn't matter -- but be here, in the United States and not in Europe," says Day, who has spent the last two years in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. "For me, going back to Europe is probably going to be a step down because I feel ready enough to race here, but that's life. It can be tough sometimes." The eagerness led to opportunities for the 25-year-old Day in two national series last year: Two road course events on the XFINITY tour with Carl Long 's team, and a pair of Camping World Truck Series races on ovals for owner Carlos Contreras . The road races played to Day's wheelhouse and he capitalized on his expertise with a 13th-place finish in his XFINITY debut at Mid-Ohio. But his truck time -- at New Hampshire and in the Homestead-Miami finale -- provided a valuable training experience. "It's still a different kind of racing for me," Day says. "I'm still learning as much as I can in ovals. I try to absorb as much information and more knowledge about oval racing, which is not easy. So definitely the two races I did in trucks were probably the most valuable races I've done." Besides his forays into racing in the USA, Day's success in NASCAR's European circuit -- stacking up six victories in his first two seasons -- has resonated back in his homeland. Early in January, he was recognized as Israel's Athlete of the Year in a newly announced category for motorsports. While he's still working on making his dreams of racing in the states a reality, he's also changing popular conceptions of what NASCAR means in his home country. "In Israel, if I would be very honest, people always -- until now -- think that NASCAR is just people who turn left and that's it. Sitting in the car and just turning left," Day says. "And now when I actually get more success in NASCAR and especially winning the Athlete of the Year, people get more and more interest now. The NASCAR races are broadcast in Israel and I'm really glad. "People really have the opportunity to understand it and realize that NASCAR is one of the toughest races in the world."
Trackside Live: Charlotte
Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch and Daniel Hemric join NASCAR Trackside Live at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Trackside Live: Kentucky Show 2
Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Michael McDowell join NASCAR Trackside Live in Kentucky.
Trackside Live: Kentucky Show 1
Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Daniel Hemric join NASCAR Trackside Live in Kentucky.
GarageCam: Drivers hope to kiss the bricks
Drivers gear up to conquer Indianapolis Motor Speedway in hopes of kissing the bricks on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GarageCam with host Matthew Dillner.
Trackside Live: Sonoma
Kyle Larson, Boris Said and Alon Day join NASCAR Trackside Live in Sonoma.
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