Qualifying for respect


Shelby Foster

Harrison Burton (No. 18) in his 17th career start, trails seasoned NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series drivers Johnny Sauter (No. 13) and Matt Crafton (No. 88). Young drivers like Burton are finding ways to move up the respect ladder in the eyes of the more experienced drivers.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

This season provides new faces throughout all three NASCAR series. The influx of new, young drivers joining older, more experienced drivers is best seen in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.

One big question that arises with this parity is how these inexperienced drivers can gain the respect from their veteran counterparts.

You have to do the best you can in the situations you’re given, and rookies handle it different than veterans.

— Truck Series young gun Ben Rhodes

“You can tell when someone’s being a smart driver out there or when they’re just trying to do everything they can with what they have,” Ben Rhodes, driver of the No. 99 Carolina Nut Ford for ThorSport Racing, said. “You have to do the best you can in the situations you’re given, and rookies handle it different than veterans.”

In the Truck Series alone, veterans Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter have combined for three championships and 30 wins in 36 years of driving. These two are now mixing with drivers such as Harrison Burton and Sheldon Creed, who only combine for 26 starts.

Then there are racers like Austin Hill, who has 53 starts and earned his first win last week at Daytona, who is just now stepping into the spotlight. Hill joined Hattori Racing and took over the No. 16 truck that won last year’s series championship.

“Race [veteran drivers] how they race you. If they race you tight, they race you dirty, give it right back to them,” Hill said. “That’s the biggest thing I see, race how you want to be raced.”

The story doesn’t differ in the NXS. Drivers like Justin Allgaier with 76 Cup starts, 275 NXS starts, and 10 wins, are paired with the likes of Michael Annett, who boasts 231 starts in nine years. They share a track with young guns like Cole Custer (73 NXS starts), Austin Cindric (36 starts), and Brandon Jones (106 starts).

“If they just do their job and run up front like they’ve been doing, they’re going to earn the respect they deserve,” Allgaier said.

However, some old souls are still just out to turn laps.

“I don’t really care. I don’t pay any attention to it. I’m out there racing,” Sauter said. “I’m not worried about who’s getting what for respect. It doesn’t matter to me.”

But for many drivers, it all comes down to turning laps, making smart moves, and just proving it on the track.

“Once you get racing throughout the season and those guys start seeing that you can run clean with them, then that’s where the respect comes in,” Noah Gragson, NXS driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, said.