You may have noticed, NASCAR is hemorrhaging star power.
It may not be an exaggeration to say the fan bases of those four drivers may account for three-fourths of all NASCAR fans — or more.
The good news for a sport that can use some is that an exciting cast of young drivers is looking to give the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series that “new star smell.”
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“In the past few years, a lot of drivers have retired who have been big for the sport, from Tony to Jeff and with Dale Jr. retiring this year,” Ryan Blaney, one of the emerging NASCAR stars, said Wednesday. “I would hope (their) fans still enjoy the sport and will want to pick new drivers.”
Hometown: Elk Grove, Calif. (near Sacramento)
Car: Drives the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.
2017 calling card: The current Cup Series points leader, the 5-foot-6 Larson has won twice (California and Michigan) and been second in five races.
Did you know? Of Japanese-American descent, Larson considers himself a throwback to the 1970s when even the biggest stars in NASCAR might race 100 times a year in varying kinds of cars. Larson has recently won six sprint car races in a row on dirt tracks.
History at Kentucky: Is not good. In three prior Cup races in Sparta, Larson has yet to finish on the lead lap.
Hometown: Dawsonville, Ga.
Car: Drives the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
2017 calling card: Sixth in points but still looking for first Cup Series win after 58 career starts. Finished second at Michigan and third at both Las Vegas and Martinsville.
Did you know? A genuine prodigy, the son of NASCAR icon Bill Elliott began racing at age 8 and signed a development contract with HMS in 2011 at age 15. At 20, he replaced NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon as driver of the famed No. 24 car.
History at Kentucky: Finished 31st last year in his first Quaker State 400. Best finish in four Xfinity Series races was fourth, twice.
Hometown: Hartford, Ohio
Car: Drives the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing.
2017 calling card: Won his first Cup Series race at Pocono in June. Finished second in the Daytona 500. Stands 13th in points.
Did you know? The son of former Cup Series regular Dave Blaney has his own podcast, “The Glass Case of Emotion,” and competed on TV’s American Ninja Warrior for an episode scheduled to air July 10.
History at Kentucky: Has won twice (2013 and ’15) in seven Xfinity Series starts with two other top-five finishes. In his first Quaker State 400 last year, finished 35th.
Hometown: Byron, Mich.
Car: Drives the No. 77 Toyota for Furniture Row Motorsports.
2017 calling card: Is 17th in points with a best finish of third at Pocono.
Did you know? Jones won the Camping World Trucks Series championship in 2015 and was Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year in 2016 after winning four races. His success last year was tinged with sadness after his father, Dave Jones, owner of a Michigan auto parts and restoration firm, died from cancer at 53.
History at Kentucky: Has led laps in all five NASCAR races he’s run in Sparta — four Xfinity Series events and a trucks race — without winning. This year will be his first Cup Series race at Kentucky.
Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico
Car: Drives the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing
2017 calling card: Moved into a full-time Cup ride unexpectedly after Carl Edwards’ surprise decision to “step away” from racing in November. Is 18th in the points with four top-10 finishes.
Did you know? With the blessing of his father, Alejandro, moved from Mexico to Charlotte with the goal of breaking into NASCAR. Eventually did, becoming the first Latin American to win a NASCAR national touring series championship when he won the 2016 Xfinity Series title.
History at Kentucky: Has finished in the top four three times in four Xfinity races. In two trucks events, finished fourth in one and led 59 laps in the second before finishing 11th. Has never run Cup in Sparta.
Hometown: Mobile, Ala.
Car: Drives the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports
2017 calling card: Has driven three Cup races in place of injured Aric Almirola, and has improved his finish in each. Wallace Jr. has gone from 26th (Pocono) to 19th (Michigan) to 15th (Daytona).
Did you know? Wallace Jr. won five races in the trucks series, becoming only the second black driver ever to claim victory in a NASCAR national touring series (The first was Wendell Scott, who claimed victory in what is now the Cup Series on Dec. 1, 1963, at Speedway Park near Jacksonville, Fla.).
History at Kentucky: Of six NASCAR races in Sparta — four Xfinity, two trucks — has led five of them. Finished between fifth and ninth in all four Xfinity races. Was second in trucks in 2014. This will be Wallace Jr.’s first Cup race at Kentucky.