T.J.’s Notebook: the Urge to Step Away Starting Earlier for Many Drivers

Daryn Pittman (Sam Martin photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

Daryn Pittman’s announcement that he would come off the World of Outlaws tour for 2021 to pursue other business interests continues a trend of top drivers in various disciplines scaling back their racing endeavors or hanging up their helmet entirely.

There are a variety of reasons for this happening. Many of the people stepping away have done a really good job planning for their futures and have business interests outside of racing that are successful enough they can step away and enjoy more time devoted to that. Others may look at the physical toll the racing and traveling is doing to them.

One of the biggest factors I feel that is contributing to this is the amount of racing available for young people to do take part in. When I was a kid you could race karts, quarter midgets, or sit in the grandstands until you were old enough to race (unless you were Jeff Gordon or Sport Allen), which at that time for most people was around 16 years old.

Now we have such a variety of divisions for kids to race in by the time they get into a full-size car they have years of experience in these divisions. Not to mention that I see parents of these children hanging up their helmets earlier to focus on their children’s interest in the sport.

While the experience shows for the most talented of these young men and women, I feel it also burns them out faster.

Society has changed a lot in the past 30 years as well. It seems our time is stretched thinner than ever and in the same token racing becomes move involved and eats up a larger chunk of the calendar every year. The business of racing, if you do it properly, takes much more time than just showing up on race day and those commitments during the week seem to be increasing rather than decreasing.

Factor in having a family and increasing commitments to everything children are doing from school to extra circular activities along with racing is becoming more difficult to balance.

This is even evident in what I do for the website. Over the past year, especially during the COVID situation, I’ve been analyzing the material you want to read on the website so I can focus on giving you those items rather than focusing on something else that I may think is important but the readers don’t find an interest in.

I think this is a trend we’re going to see continuing for years to come. I think we will see fewer drivers in their late 40’s and 50’s on the racetrack, at least on a full-time basis, and more of a youth influx.


  • The three nights of racing during the Tuscarora 50 weekend was another showcase to prove why racing at Port Royal Speedway has become appointment viewing in person or on Floracing pay-per-view. Everyone involved from the track crew, series officials, and teams should be commended.

    In addition if you have not viewed all of the supplemental material from the Tuscarora weekend or from Eldora’s late model event on Floracing make sure to check it out. The bonus material leading up to the events is a sign of what we might see to come from the racing pay per view providers in what is becoming a very competitive market.

  • The Australian “ClayPerView” provider that Saturday’s opening event at Hi-Tec Oils Speedway in Toowoomba, Queensland would not be available on DIRTVsion.com due to it not being part of the Ultimate Sprintcar Championship. The race will be available only on ClayPerView for 29.99.

    Australian and New Zealand dates are now populated into the 2020 and 2021 Allstar Performance Open Wheel Calendar.

  • While a lot of the attention on the local sprint car scene in Ohio has been focused on Cap Henry, Paul Weaver has put together another stellar year in the 305 sprint cars winning the Attica Raceway Park and Attica/Fremont Challenge Series championships over the weekend by winning features at Attica and Fremont. Weaver is currently tied for eighth on the feature win list with 10 victories so far this year.
  • Central Pennsylvania’s sprint car scene remains busy this week with shows Wednesday at Lincoln Speedway, Thursday at BAPS Motor Speedway, Friday at Williams Grove Speedway, and Saturday’s Dirt Classic at Lincoln.
  • More changes are coming to the open wheel scene in Oklahoma for 2021 with the Oil Capital Racing Series and Sprint Series of Oklahoma merging to have champ sprints and 305’s with standard top wings. The combined series will take part in a race in October 23 and Longdale Speedway.
  • Kody Swanson did some pavement late model racing at Hickory Speedway on Sunday finishing fourth and second in the twin feature program.
  • Obscure race of the week took place at Black Hills Speedway for two nights where two sprint cars showed up to compete. It only takes two cars to make a race though. Mike Pennel won both main events.

This edition of the notebook will be kept brief so I can catch up on all the schedule changes that have taken place this fall. The layoff for the COVID-19 situation combined with varying rules depending on location has created a mad dash to cram as many races in as possible and more reschedules than we would typically see at the end of a season where everyone from fans to race teams start to experience some burnout.