With Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon walking away from the sport in back-to-back seasons, all the talk is about retirement among fans. The biggest fear we all want to avoid is finally hitting us straight in the face. That fear, is a fear that all we came to know over the last few years is slowly disappearing. The fear that all of our heros are leaving NASCAR and we have to hand over our sport to a bunch of young guns. That fear is justifiable but this must happen. Every sport deals with it's legends slowly disappearing. Drivers, football players, golfers, you name it, all have to retire. I guess most of us were hoping we could adjust to a life with Jeff Gordon slowly, but now we also have to address Stewart leaving as well.
In this post I want to make something clear, that sooner than later the drivers we came to know and love the last 10 years will be gone. Here I want to talk about who I think might be next, and give a reasonable time table for some of the more notable drivers around the garage. I am going to highlight the next five big name drivers I think will be calling it quits in the next few years. Hope you enjoy, but don't be too disappointed, we all have to suffer through it. So... let's get started!
Biffle is the oldest driver currently in the Cup Series garage at 45 years of age. Biffle who found early success early in his career at Roush-Fenway Racing has simmered down the last few years. Biffle is aging and RFR has struggled lately which is not helping Biffle find the fountain of youth. The 13-year Cup Series vet, hasn't found victory lane since 2013, and was never even mentioned in the Chase battle this season. If Biffle wants to have success again I believe the solution is leaving Roush, but he has been dedicated to the Cat in the Hat since the beginning, I am sure he will stick by his side with hopes of turning things around. My prediction is that Biffle will call it quiets after 2017, at the latest 2018. Biffle is signed through 2016, but I think he could be hesitant to re-sign a long extension. Biffle may give another two more years, but after that I think he is done. Biffle knows his golden days are over and it is time to move on to another chapter of his life.
Matt Kenseth is a very interesting story. Dedicated to Jack Roush through the first 13 years of his career, Kenseth was a mainstay near the front of the pack. Kenseth who was arguable the head-honcho at RFR for many years finally stepped away in 2013 to go to Joe Gibbs Racing. Since stepping into the #20 Toyota, Kenseth has rolled off 12 wins, and is a favorite to win this years championship. Though Kenseth keeps racking up wins, something else is also racking up... his age. Kenseth is 43 years old which puts him near the top of the age list of Cup regulars. I predict that Kenseth will stay strong for a few more years until calling it in 2019. Kenseth's contract covers him through 2016, but when it comes to an extension I don't think Kenseth is looking to drive until he is 49 or 50. I say Kenseth signs a 3-year extension to JGR in 2016 that will allow him to drive until 2019 when he finally calls it quits. That would put Kenseth retiring at the age of 47, which is a solid age for Kenseth to step away and open up the seat for a new young gun... who knows maybe even his son Ross.
3) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Age: 41 as of 10/10/15 Accomplishments: (Cup, 25 wins) (Xfinity, 23 wins, 2x Champion)
The kid out of Kannapolis, North Carolina is no longer a kid anymore. Jr., turns 41 just a week from now, which means it's about time to start talking about his retirement plans. Now, Earnhardt is a little different than others considering he has stated before that he would be interested in running Xfinity or Trucks before he is completely done racing. To me this means he may call it before he is 50 and enjoy some of his last years competing in the lower divisions. Earnhardt is in the middle of another peak in his career and is still looking for that first Cup championship. Though I have my own opinions on Jr., he has been running up front the last few years. Even with the success we must remember Jr. is no spring chicken anymore. My prediction is that after his current contract runs out in 2017, he will extend for the last time in his career. I predict a three year deal that will put him in the #88 until 2020, assuming he doesn't have interest in moving JR Motorsports to the Cup level.
Johnson recently extended with Hendrick Motorsports just a few weeks ago. Johnson, who looks to become another Hendrick faithful throughout his career is now signed through 2017. A two year extension does seem a little awkward considering sponsor Lowe's and crew chief Chad Knaus signed through '18. I expect that Johnson will race longer than two more seasons though. Honestly, I think Johnson really wants to get to championship #7 and possibly #8 before he calls it quits. Looking forward I see Johnson signing a three to five year extension during the 2017 season that would lock him somewhere between 2020 and 2022. I think 2020 could be the year he is done considering he will be 45 years old, but then again why wouldn't Hendrick keep ole 'six time' around as long as he can. It is very hard to read Johnson, at times he seems like the guy who would call it quits before his age increases too much, but then again he definitely could be the next Mark Martin type of racer who can win in his 50's.
Happy Harvick seems to be very happy these days (in terms of overall performance, not with Jimmie Johnson). Harvick who has peaked since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 has become a champion and the most consistent driver on the circuit. With Stewart leaving Harvick will be the new leader of SHR starting in 2017, assuming he resigns. Harvick's contract is good through 2016, but most fans would agree that Harvick is sure to resign to Stewart's team considering his success. My prediction is that the 2014 champ will sign a mega deal after the 2016 season. Being the age of 40 come this December I wouldn't be surprised to see Harvick sign a 5 year deal that would keep him in the #4 until 2021. At this point Harvick will be on the cusp of turning 46-years-old and hopefully have his second championship. Harvick is also hard to read considering he does what he wants, but I think he will stick around for a while considering he has emerged as the face of the sport the last two years. Then again you also have to consider Keelan Harvick. Kevin could walk away early to focus more on his family life.
Other Notable Drivers & Prediction ranges of retirement:
Well, thanks for reading!!! Let me know what you think!! Am I missing anyone? Am I wrong, let me know!!! Thanks for reading!
(STATS: racereference.com, jayski.com) (PICS NOT MINE, USED FROM VARIOUS SITES)