Andrew Molleur was parked after NASCAR investigated his actual age competing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut. According to multiple reports, paperwork that was submitted to NASCAR said he was 15. Upon further investigation, NASCAR learned he was only 13-years-old and is now suspended indefinitely.
Carson Hocevar, who races at Berlin Raceway in Michigan, also can’t compete at any NASCAR sanctioned events until he turns 14. In this case, according to the track and family they were very transparent about his age citing they have written proof that NASCAR approved him. But NASCAR recently ruled a different decision.
"There was an unfortunate miscommunication in conversations between NASCAR and Berlin Raceway that recently came to light and has now been corrected. NASCAR regrets the misunderstanding, but also recognizes that this is an important matter for all involved. NASCAR is taking additional steps to insure that there is no ambiguity regarding age limits with any NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks moving forward,” NASCAR said in a statement relating to Hocevar.
In both cases, each driver has shown they are talented behind the wheel, with each winning a feature race this season.
But, it comes down to a simple rule that NASCAR has had in place for as long as I remember. In order to get a NASCAR license, a driver must be at least 14-years-old. That was the rule when I was working at Rockford Speedway, a longtime NASCAR sanctioned track in 2005-07. I recall Michael Bilderback wanting to race in their NASCAR Weekly Late Model division, but he had to wait until he was 14.
So, why is there a push to get these kids in a full-bodied car as soon as it’s available? The answer is pretty simple, many look at it as part of the driver’s development to get up to the upper levels of racing, especially when NASCAR and ARCA is allowing drivers under 18 (usually ages 16-18) to compete at tracks less than a mile in length.
Let’s be honest, the percentage of young drivers to be the next Erik Jones is very low. Not every driver moving up will be in the Cup Series before they are 21-years-old.
There are some parents, I feel, who see their kids as a golden ticket and will try to push their child when they are not mentally or physically ready to move to the next level. This is in every sport, not just auto racing.
For some parents, in my opinion, they see youth sports more as future business than fun for the kids.
We all have been to the youth sporting events and have seen parents yell and scream at their kids because they made an error on the field or behind the wheel. Sometimes, it gets to a point to where the kid doesn’t want to play anymore.
Rarely, do I see a parent ask their kid, win or lose, did you have fun out there today?
Yes, we need to have the spirit of competition and the will to win. The will to win comes by rewarding trophies to those who won, not everyone.
In auto racing, the will to win can start at an early age by racing legends, bandoleros, go-karts, micro sprints, quarter midgets, etc. There are great facilities that provide these unique opportunities for the kids.
These opportunities also provide an environment for the entire family to be involved along with rules that provide the best safety for the kids.
But sometimes the envy to get their child in a faster, bigger car skews the common sense decision making by the parents.
Some will not properly fit their kids in the right safety equipment. A couple of years ago, I was watching a bandolero race when a kid rolled over and his helmet flew off. I have never been scared in my life at a racetrack when I saw that. I had to wonder, where was the responsibility to make sure that the helmet was strapped on correctly and wasn’t too big or loose for that to happen? Fortunately, he was in a full contained seat and was alright.
So why does NASCAR or any insurance that covers a track say 14-years-old? Because insurance companies study the risk exposure at that age, is it safe for them to insure someone to compete at that age at a certain track without a high volume of loss. By loss, I am not meaning by death but by claim payout from injuries.
It’s the same philosophy behind why your teenage driver is at a higher risk and has higher insurance rates when they get their driver’s license.
Many insurance companies will insure younger drivers competing in cars that are more fitted for them to compete in a safe environment like quarter midgets, bandoleros, Legends, micro sprints, etc.
But it comes down to patience and common sense. Parents shouldn’t push the rules, but respect the boundaries behind it and tracks/series shouldn’t give in to those boundaries because the kid is good and brings fans to the track.
Many drivers have started racing at 14 and have gotten into Truck and ARCA rides at 16. Trying to push it at 13, what difference does it make? If they have the talent, it will show right away not in two or three years.
Sadly, some do get those opportunities at the higher level at 16 based on how much money they put down versus talent. So, by allegedly providing incorrect paperwork to get a leg up on the competition won’t help in the long run.
Was this a situation where one person’s doing hurts the rest of the class? It was more than likely the case for the other driver.
At the end of the day, 14 means 14 like 21 means 21.