by Ryan Isley
They say that drinking coffee can stunt your growth. When it comes to NASCAR, the growth of drivers is stunted by the rules.
In 2014, Dylan Kwasniewski gained experience in the NASCAR Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series by competing in a full slate of 33 races for Turner Scott Motorsports and finishing 11th in the season standings. Unfortunately for the 19-year-old driver, Turner Scott Motorsports ceased operations over an ownership fight and his ride was no longer there.
As the team dissolved, it looked as if Kwasniewski might be without a ride for the 2015 campaign but former owner of Turner Scott Motorsports – Harry Scott, Jr. – teamed up with Chip Ganassi to create a one-car team for HScott Motorsports . The downfall is that Kwasniewski will only have a ride part-time in the series in 2015. The reason the former K&N Pro Series champion in both the East and West won’t be running the season full-time is because he will be sharing the No. 42 car with 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson.
That’s right – yet another young driver not getting a full-time opportunity because of a Sprint Cup Series driver getting time behind the wheel in the lower levels. This is continuing to hurt the sport and the development of the next generation of drivers.
Larson should be focusing on maintaining the momentum that he gained in the second half of last season, where he dominated the Rookie of the Year race over Austin Dillon. Instead, he will get to do what drivers such as Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth do – race in the Xfinity Series as a full-time driver in the Sprint Cup Series and not pick up any points in the lower series.
This isn’t Larson’s fault, by the way, nor am I blaming the 22-year-old for taking advantage of the rules that NASCAR has set in place. In fact, it would be counterproductive for him not to do so, as each race he runs in the Xfinity Series gives him more seat time. Nor is it something that Kwasniewski should hold against Larson. Drivers are going to do what they are permitted to do and in this case, they are pretty much permitted to do whatever they want when it comes to racing in either the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series.
That doesn’t mean it is right.
As for Kwasniewski, he will now scale down from a season in which he drove every week to splitting a ride. So much for being able to build on a good finish to the 2014 season, where he finished in the top-20 in eight of the season’s final nine races with five of those finishes being 14th or better. This came after a rough middle of the season stretch that saw Kwasniewski finish 23rd or worse in seven out of 10 races from April 11 to June 21. That stretch came after he finished 15th or better in five of the season’s first six races, including an 8th-place finish in the season opening race at Daytona. The finish at Daytona ended up being tied for the best finish of the season, a feat he matched at Mid-Ohio.
A second full-time season would have been a chance for Kwasniewski to show the improvement that he displayed in his second season in the K&N Pro Series West in 2012. After finishing 2011 in 5th place in the standings with two wins and nine top-10s in 13 races, Kwasniewski finished in the top-10 in all 15 races in 2012 with three wins en route to the series championship. He backed that up in 2013 by winning six of the 14 races in the K&N Pro Series East, winning yet another series title.
Now by cutting Kwasniewski down to a part-time ride in 2015, it hampers his ability to improve upon the ground he gained in 2014. That isn’t to say that he won’t find success on the track this coming season, just that it will be increasingly more difficult with less seat time.
We can only hope that NASCAR addresses this issue soon so that the younger drivers will be able to properly grow into the stars of tomorrow.