Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budgets Tighter: Veteran Drivers Feeling Job Squeeze

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budgets Tighter: Veteran Drivers Feeling Job Squeeze

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

Kurt Busch, a former series champion and defending Daytona 500 winner, doesn't have a job for next year. Neither does Matt Kenseth, another former champion and two-time Daytona winner.

Monday Hendrick Motorsports sent Kasey Kahne, who won last month's Brickyard 400, to the unemployment line.

As operating budgets continue to shrink in NASCAR, veterans are being squeezed out by younger drivers who are willing to work for pennies on the dollar.

"A lot of these young drivers are taking smaller contracts," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "You've got to look at guys like myself. There's sort of been a major shift in how much drivers are getting paid. How they're getting obviously changed with the new agreement we had a couple of years ago.

"Drivers started taking more of the purse. I don't know everybody's contract situation, but there is a less of a base and more purse-driven. But one thing that's changed is that you've got a lot of young guys coming in being offered and accepting contracts that are a fifth-to-a-10th of what veterans are getting paid."

Alex Bowman was picked to replace retiring Earnhardt at Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman's racing credentials include no top-five finishes and three top-10s in 81 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts. He's also winless in 50 Xfinity Series starts and a pair of Camping World Truck Series races.

Current rookie Erik Jones, 21, will move from Furniture Row Racing to Kenseth's car at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018. William Byron, a 19-year-old who's won three Xfinity races this year, is projected to replace Kahne.

Kenseth, 45, and Kahne, 37, said they are committed to finishing the current strong. Neither has anything in the works for 2018.

"I do not have a job for next year," Kenseth said. "I certainly hope to be racing. I think I've still got some wins left in me and hopefully can race for championships but right now, my goal is focusing on this year."

Busch and Danica Patrick both work at Stewart-Haas Racing. The team decided last week not to pick up Busch's contract for 2018. Patrick currently doesn't have enough sponsorship to compete beyond the current season. …

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