Most who came up through the ranks -- That is bs NASCAR wants people to believe, those days are long gone, while the old timer often ran more that one race a week on shorthard to drive dirt tracks, traveled hundreds of miles a week pulling a car on an open trailer and fixing it between races. The only thing that comes close is those that came from a sprint car background where that still happens -- and ran more races before they became nascar drivers then the old timers did in there whole carreer. What they aren't anymore is good old boys running shine cars. There RACERS. Just look at that race. It takes a set to go out there and do that. Not only that but after 500 miles at 200 mph the race ends with the winner winning by the width of a front bumper and not 20 feet between the top 5 cars. Even Ryans that crossed the line upside down! NO SPORT takes more balls to participate in. Only one that comes close is cage fighting.
NO sprint car racing is still the most dangerous and difficult , excepting Isle of Man bike racers, where drivers still die .
There was recently an article on a online racing site that stated -- NASCAR would have happened without moonshine boys, as Bill France never was involved with moon shine but he was -- a racer --who decided that the disorganized schedule of local races being run should be structured in in some degree so he started to do that, but they milked Junior Johnson who did run moonshine for every penny he was worth.
NASCAR was just a regional series competing with others till the eighties, when Winston made a big difference. From there is snow balled.
The fact he built Daytona, and put a road race course in it and scheduled a road race to rival LeMans, drawing race fans who had little interest in stock cars put him , his track and his Daytona races in the headlines.
Current drives are in much better physical condition, most anyway, but they are rich boys with daddies with big bucks, and sponsors with bigger bucks.
They did not come up on dirt tracks and riggamugig racers like so many of those, who racing even into the eighties did.
Some working a full time job, while racing local tracks on weekends.
But they DO now have cool suits, air conditioning, run-flat tires, etc., etc. that make what they do far, far, far easier that anything into the eighties.
They are rich boys , with rich boys incomes, and often rich daddies who are members in NASCAR or have connections.
The cars are not hard to drive; driving in traffic without screwing up is where the talent comes in.
At age 73 Paul Newman took to one of Hendricks cars for six laps at Daytona 1999 and ran a 49.15, Hendricks team drivers were lapping at 49.05
When Tom Cruise did his racing movie he did do some actual SCCA road racing and when given a top line NASCAR stock car to drive laps on an empty Charlotte lapped at 166 in a car he had never driven before in a year when top qualifying speed was 173 the track owner Humpy Wheeler was amazed.
Natural talent comes into play but the cars now are easier to drive than they were twenty to thirty years ago.
It is the asinine forced chassis and bodies that makes them so accident prone; do to day at 190 mph what you would have gotten away with in the past and the car will go ass over head , quickly.
Racers have often said that at speed you do not feel you are going fast, it actually seems slow, the difference is the rate the horizon approaches but you soon adjust to that.
The cars next to you are at your speed, or close, so passing is no different from passing a car on a highway.
The rules NASCAR has forced on builders, and simple dork moves are the reason for the wrecks.
If the drivers had to pay to fix their own cars as many drivers the sixties into the seventies did, the crash fests would be fewer.
Oh yes, NASCAR still allows relief drivers, so if a car wins, who ever started the car gets the win, even if he drives one lap.