Monster Energy’s push toward a younger audience could help NASCAR reach a new crowd and comes as the premier series is going through its own youth movement.
With Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart having retired from the series since last year and other stars, including seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and former champions Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth over 40 years old, the sport is changing.
Now comes Monster Energy as the new entitlement sponsor for the premier series (the series name and length of the deal were not revealed in a Thursday press conference).
There’s no doubting Monster Energy’s reach is with a younger crowd.
“Young people set trends in fashion, and then older people adapt, and I don’t want to say old,’’ said Mark Hall, chief marketing officer for Monster Energy on Thursday. “Fashion is set by a small group of influencers. The challenge is to make your product relevant to that group and then have them influence the others. If we’ve been successful in the past, we’ve followed that model.’’
Monster Energy, which already sponsors Kurt Busch’s car at Stewart-Haas Racing, also could rely on some of the sports younger drivers as well to reach a younger crowd.
This year’s Chase included Chase Elliott, who turned 21 this week, 24-year-old Kyle Larson, 24-year-old Chris Buescher, 26-year-old Austin Dillon and 26-year-old Joey Logano, who competed in the title race for the second time in three years.
“It’s pretty cool to see everybody kind of on the rise to the Cup series, all the other young kids that are out there,’’ Larson said this week in Las Vegas for Champion’s Week. “I think NASCAR is in a great spot and (am) excited to see kind of what is in the future.’’
At least a quarter of the 40-car field could feature drivers under 30 years old. Also included in that group will be 2017 rookies Ty Dillon, who is 24 years old, and Erik Jones, who is 20. Also in the series is Ryan Blaney (22 years old), Trevor Bayne (25), Matt DiBenedetto (25), Landon Cassill (27) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (29).
There are more who could be on the way.
Xfinity champ Daniel Suarez is 24 years old. William Byron, who won a series-high seven Camping World Truck Series races, is 19, has signed with car owner Rick Hendrick and will drive in the Xfinity Series in 2017 for JR Motorsports. Christopher Bell, who ran for the truck title at Homestead, turns 22 later this month.
There are more behind them as the sport looks to get younger in the coming seasons.