Commentary

A minimum age of 21 for Cup drivers? Say no to the 'Logano Rule'

Does the "Logano Rule" have a chance? Call it what you want, but instituting a minimum age of 21 for Sprint Cup drivers is just a bad idea, writes David Newton.

Updated: March 10, 2008, 3:03 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Attempts to reach Joey Logano to discuss the possibility of NASCAR increasing the minimum age limit for the Sprint Cup series from 18 to 21 were unsuccessful.

"JGR just doesn't wish to comment right now," came the reply from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Logano is the 17-year-old star for JGR. He is scheduled to begin driving in the Nationwide Series at Dover International Speedway on May 31, a week after his 18th birthday.

It has been widely speculated that the 2007 Busch East Series champion will become the fourth Cup driver at JGR in 2009.

Unless this rule is instituted.

Call it the Logano Rule.

Call it ridiculous.

NASCAR will insist that this rule has nothing to do with Logano, that it is for the long-term best interests of the sport and that there always will be a Logano on the horizon. The governing body will argue that this will give drivers more time to hone their skill and mature so they can handle the pressures of a Cup season -- on and off the track.

They will say it could help the Nationwide Series -- formerly the Busch Series -- by keeping young stars there for a few years to generate more interest. They will say most teams -- JGR obviously not included -- have offered little opposition to the change.

C'mon.

There are drivers in their 30s who are less mature than Logano. No names need to be mentioned. You know who they are.

There certainly are drivers with less talent. Just ask Mark Martin, who has called Logano the "real deal," saying he already has more talent than many of the drivers Martin competes with in Cup.

And as far as the Nationwide Series, if a driver under 21 can't drive in Cup, then maybe a Cup driver over 21 shouldn't be allowed to drive in Nationwide.

Yes, that's silly. But so is this age limit that officials insist is far from a done deal but is in line with what other sports have done. Translation: It's likely to be implemented this year.

Somebody tell LeBron James he should have spent a couple of years in college instead of making the jump from high school to the NBA. Major league baseball certainly doesn't mind drafting kids after the 12th grade if they can throw a 95-mph fastball.

The NFL requires that a player be three years out of high school before turning pro, but that was done to give the body time to mature to the level necessary to take the punishment of a 16-game pro football season.

[+] EnlargeKyle Busch
AP Photo/Matt SaylesKyle Busch's record of being the youngest driver to win on NASCAR's top circuit could hold up if a new minimum age limit is instituted.

It doesn't take huge muscles to drive a stock car. Have you looked at the size of Martin and Kasey Kahne?

If someone is good enough to drive in Cup, age shouldn't matter. This isn't to suggest 16-year-olds should be allowed to compete. It made sense in 2001 when NASCAR imposed the minimum age limit of 18 six weeks after then-16-year-old Kyle Busch was kicked out of California Speedway because of a federal law prohibiting those under 18 from participating in events sponsored by tobacco companies.

In that case, Marlboro was the sponsor.

Of course, there was no law prohibiting Busch from competing in the Busch Series until he was the legal drinking age of 21. The only real stipulation was he couldn't have Busch beer on the hood of his car after a win.

Imagine if NASCAR had implemented the age limit at 21 then. Busch would not have been allowed to compete in Cup racing until May 2006.

He obviously was ready. He finished 20th in points as a full-time rookie in 2005, winning two races and collecting 13 top-10s. He entered the 2006 Chase fourth in points and finished 10th after a series of unfortunate mishaps.

Sure, he's shown signs of immaturity. Again, so have others who are much older.

So what's the point of raising the limit?

"I don't see the point, to be honest with you," Busch said during Nationwide testing at Daytona International Speedway. "Guys coming into the sport at 18 years old, they want them to go through the Truck series and the Nationwide Series and then get to the Cup Series so they can't get to the Cup Series too soon, and that's kind of going to be the forceful thing, to require the age to be 21.

"I think that's their philosophy, just trying to slow that progression down a little bit and make guys spend more time in the Nationwide Series to try to make the Nationwide Series better. I think that's their point."

There needs to be the possibility for exceptions. Grandfather in kids who already are prepping for the jump to Cup. Or have a set of guidelines even stricter than the current ones that a driver under 21 must pass to forgo the age limit.

"They didn't give me the grandfather clause [when the age went to 18], so why should they do it now?" Busch said skeptically.

Particularly in the case of Logano.

"That's the thing," said Busch, Logano's teammate at JGR. "Do you grandfather a kid that's already here racing at 18, or do you make him sit in the Nationwide Series for three years and win three championships before he's allowed to move to Cup? I think there needs to be some more philosophy to this deal than what there is."

NASCAR hasn't ruled out such exceptions. Officials say they are looking at all sorts of possibilities.

Let's hope this is the case.

If not, maybe NASCAR should implement a maximum age limit while it's at it. Do we really want drivers cruising around like Grandma Jones as Darrell Waltrip did the last few years of his career? Do we really feel safe with 73-year-old James Hylton trying to qualify for the Daytona 500?

A lot of rule changes make sense. NASCAR is looking at tweaking qualifying rules so those outside the top 35 are on the track at the same time. That's a good move because it gives them an equal chance to make the race under the same conditions.

Changing the minimum age limit makes no sense, particularly if you're JGR with a star such as Logano.

ESPN associate editor Mark Ashenfelter contributed to this report

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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