These days, it’s not uncommon to see an 18-year-old racing in the NASCAR Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series. That is the minimum age limit for the those divisions, along with the elite Sprint Cup Series, and teams and sponsors often want to throw the kid into the fire just as soon as possible. Usually, that driver has already spent plenty of time driving stock cars on lower-tier circuits, usually dominating in cars much-better funded than those they’re competing against. They progress to the top of the racing ladder by age 20, can’t get the job done, and usually fade into obscurity as just another racing bust. Is that fair? Not exactly, but it is the way things work in contemporary stock car racing.

Like those youngsters, Chesapeake, Virginia’s Ricky Rudd made his first NASCAR start at the age of 18.