Last Of The Old Guard

As Jeff Gordon prepares for his 22nd full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series he has to wonder what happened this offseason. With the retirements of Mark Martin and Ken Schrader and the unknown plans for Jeff Burton (Update: Burton will drive part-time for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014) and Bobby Labonte, this leaves Gordon as the driver who debuted the longest time ago.

Gordon made his Sprint Cup Series debut at age 21 in the final race of the 1992 season. The only other full-time driver who has a close debut year is Joe Nemechek, he made his first start a year later in 1993. The problem with grouping those two together is Nemechek has not run for the title in quite some time.

Digging deeper, with the 35 drivers whom we know will be running full-time next season, only five made their debuts in the 1990s. Along with Gordon and Nemechek you have Matt Kenseth (1998), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (1999), and Tony Stewart (1999).

Below is the breakdown of drives and their debuts. While we all knew a changing of the guard was coming, the fact that so many of these drivers have come along in the last ten years really emphasis that times are changing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Driver Debut
Jeff Gordon 1992
Joe Nemechek 1993
Matt Kenseth 1998
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1999
Tony Stewart 1999
Kurt Busch 2000
Ryan Newman 2000
Jimmie Johnson 2001
Kevin Harvick 2001
Greg Biffle 2002
Jamie McMurray 2002
Brian Vickers 2003
Casey Mears 2003
Paul Menard 2003
Carl Edwards 2004
J.J. Yeley 2004
Kasey Kahne 2004
Kyle Busch 2004
Martin Truex, Jr. 2004
Clint Bowyer 2005
Denny Hamlin 2005
David Gilliland 2006
David Ragan 2006
AJ Allmendinger 2007
Aric Almirola 2007
Brad Keselowski 2008
Joey Logano 2008
Marcos Ambrose 2008
Michael McDowell 2008
Trevor Bayne 2010
Austin Dillon 2011
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 2011
Danica Patrick 2012
Kyle Larson 2013
Michael Annett 2014