Silver Spoon or Legacy?

In the fast-paced world of NASCAR, talent and tenacity are the cornerstones of success. Yet, a persistent narrative circulates among a faction of fans, dismissing certain drivers as “Silver Spoons” and attributing their achievements solely to their famous lineage.

Chase Elliott is the son of the legendary Bill Elliott. A random sampling of Chase’s accomplishments includes championships in the Xfinity Series and Cup Series. He’s also won the Blizzard Series, the National Super Late Model Championship, races in the SXR Series, the Snowball Derby, and much, much more.

Austin Dillon is the grandson of RCR team owner Richard Childress. His accolades have included championships in the Truck Series and Xfinity Series, plus he has a coveted Daytona 500 win under his belt.

Harrison Burton is the son of retired racer and now NBC commentator Jeff Burton. Prior to his debut in Cup, his racing experience included Quarter Midgets, Super Late Models, and racing in the K&N Pro Series, ARCA, and the Trucks and Xfinity Series.

And then there’s Austin Cindric, son of Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing. Austin’s prior racing experience is so varied and lengthy that it’s impossible to list it all here. However, just a few of those accomplishments have included an Xfinity Series Championship, a Daytona 500 win, a bronze medal in the X Games, being the youngest development driver for Ford, racing in IMSA, Global RallyCross, ice racing, and much more.

Yet, despite all this, all four are too familiar with the term ‘Silver Spoon’. These drivers began their racing journeys at tender young ages, earning accolades across numerous series before ascending to NASCAR’s Cup Series and proving that their places were hard-earned, not handed to them on a silver platter.

But jaded motorsports fans are quick to label and dismiss, all too conveniently forgetting that NASCAR was built on the bedrock of family. Four generations of Pettys have raced in NASCAR⁠—Lee, Richard, Kyle, and Adam—in that order as the legacy ran from father to son. Ned and Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Jr., Dave and Ryan Blaney, and Joe and John Hunter Nemechek are also highly celebrated father-and-son racers. And let’s not forget the famous brothers that have raced, including Bobby and Donnie Allison, Darrell and Michael Waltrip, Bobby and Terry Labonte, Rusty and Kenny Wallace, and Kurt and Kyle Busch.

Yes, there’s no denying that family ties run deep in the sport’s history. Yet, the ‘Silver Spoon’ narrative selectively targets only a few, overlooking the legacy of family that has always been a part of NASCAR’s fabric. And it becomes worse when the driver is having an off-season, despite that slumps in any sport are commonplace. Even 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson went winless in his final year, as did the legendary Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. For that matter, current champion Ryan Blaney went winless for points-paying races throughout 2022. Off years are all part of the sport, but fans are merciless when it happens. And if the driver happens to be the son of a former racer, they’re automatically labeled as a Silver Spoon.

Kevin Harvick’s son Keelan, Kyle Busch’s son Brexton, and Joey Logano’s son Hudson have all begun their foray into their own racing journeys, following in the tire tracks of their fathers. Will they too be subjected to the Silver Spoon criticism? Or will fans eventually acknowledge that legacy and lineage are integral to NASCAR, just as they are in any family business?

From medicine to law and from teaching to acting, countless professionals follow in their parent’s footsteps, not due to privilege but because of exposure and a genuine passion for what they have watched and admired as they grew up. They still endure rigorous training and demonstrate unwavering commitment to reaching the pinnacle of their professions. The same is true for these NASCAR drivers, who have navigated long and arduous roads, demonstrating resilience, skill, and a profound love for racing.

So, why the selective skepticism? Why the dismissal of their dedication and prowess? It’s time for fans to reexamine their biases and celebrate the rich tapestry of family legacy that defines NASCAR. The next time the “Silver Spoon” description surfaces, let’s remember the Pettys, the Earnhardts, the Waltrips and Allisons, and countless other families who have made NASCAR what it is today. After all, family and legacy aren’t just a part of NASCAR; they are its heartbeat.

By Laurie White
Driver photos by Jett White, taken during various driver intros