CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some of the top young drivers in NASCAR were in uptown Wednesday afternoon.
The NASCAR Next program unveiled its 20-17-18 class, spotlighting the best and brightest in the sport.
The program, in its seventh year, is pretty good at identifying NASCAR’s emerging talent. Alumni include current cup series stars Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.
Two of the drivers in this year’s class are from close to Charlotte. Harrison Burton, son of former cup driver Jeff Burton, is from Huntersville. Todd Gilliland, son of former cup driver David Gilliland, is from Sherills Ford. Both drivers are just 16 years old.
“Yeah there’s a blueprint, but all of us have taken different steps to where we are now,” Gilliland said. “I’m sure we’ll take different steps to, hopefully, the cup series.”
These young drivers are on track to be NASCAR’s stars of the future, but they recognize there’s still a long way to go.
“There’s only 40 guys in the world that get to do what I want to do for my career, so it’s a tough thing to do, but hopefully we’re good enough for it,” Burton said.
Two of the 40, Larson and Elliott, are inside the top ten in the cup standings, and both are under the age of 25.
“It’s super motivating,” Burton said. “You know that the hard work that they put in, and the steps that we’re going through right now is paying off for them. You see those guys go out there and race at a high level, and that came through the program. That’s the goal.”
The NASCAR Next drivers will be at the Coca-Cola 600 next weekend. It’s a race they envision themselves winning one day.
“Yeah that’s my goal, for sure,” Gilliland said. “I just have to keep learning, keep moving up, and build those relationships that will take you to the next level.”