THE exit of several veteran stars in recent years has had a marked effect on the average age of the Repco Supercars Championship grid.
Jamie Whincup’s retirement from full-time racing is the most recent step in the latest generational change to sweep through the paddock, one that began at the end of 2017 with the retirements of both Todd Kelly and Jason Bright.
The intervening years have seen several more veterans depart full-time roles, headlined by Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander and Rick Kelly.
STATS INSIDER: Sydney ends record-threatening Shootout streaks
In their places have come a raft of younger talent, resulting in a swing that has brought the average age of the grid down from over 33 years of age at the close of the 2017 season to under 30 years of age in 2021.
However, despite the departure of Whincup, the 2022 grid possessed an average age of 30 years and 60 days when the season got underway at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The 39-year-old seven-time Supercars Champion’s retirement was partly offset by the return of 35-year-old Chris Pither, while the exit of Fabian Coulthard (39) was perfectly balanced by the return of Lee Holdsworth (also 39).
That means the 2022 grid doesn’t quite make the cut for this list of the five youngest Supercars Championship grids, all of which feature average ages of under 30.
To prevent multiple races from the same round clogging up the list, we’ve chosen the race with the youngest average to represent a round – a distinction that was important when determining a couple of spots in this Top Five.
No.5 – 2021 Repco Mount Panorama 500, Race 2
29 years, 139 days
Last year’s championship was just the third in history to begin with an average age below 30, but it’s not the opening race of 2021 that makes the cut for this list.
That honour goes to Race 2, which did not feature Tim Slade following his heartbreaking crash in the closing stages of Race 1.
The then 35-year-old’s absence from the Sunday race brought the average age down by 94 days.
No.4 – 2009 Clipsal 500 Adelaide, Race 1
29 years, 138 days
The 2009 season was the second championship season where the average driver age dipped under 30 and was the first in two decades that did not feature Mark Skaife.
The Supercars Hall of Famer was 41 years old when he made his final full-time start at Oran Park the previous December, but Skaife’s retirement wasn’t the only cause for a drop in the average driver age.
Paul Morris, then also age 41, also made the final full-time start of his career at the 2008 Oran Park finale before handing the #67 Holden over to a then 23-year-old Tim Slade for 2009.
No.3 – 2021 OTR SuperSprint Race 1
29 years, 137 days
On this occasion it was the addition of two younger drivers that drove the average age down, rather than the absence of any veterans.
The opening race of last year’s round at The Bend was the first in 2021 to feature wildcard entries from Thomas Randle (25) and Kurt Kostecki (22).
No. 2 – 2008 Eastern Creek, Race 1
29 years, 70 days
The 2008 season was the first in ATCC/Supercars history to feature a grid with an average driver age of less than 30 years, but Round 2 at Eastern Creek beats the season-opening Clipsal 500 Adelaide to a spot in this Top Five.
Team Kiwi Racing had swapped the 39-year-old Kayne Scott for a 21-year-old Chris Pither between the two rounds, trimming 236 days off the average age of the field.
The Eastern Creek round also holds the record for the youngest average driver age for a round in championship history, but it gets pipped to the top spot when it comes to races.
No.1 – 2008 Winton, Race 3
28 years, 325 days
So far, this is the only race in ATCC/Supercars history with an average driver age below 29 years of age.
While every ‘main game’ driver had aged by five months between Eastern Creek in March and Winton in August, it was the absence of two of the championship’s stars that caused a sudden dip in average age for Race 3 at the Victorian circuit.
Mark Skaife (41) and Jason Richards (32) had been involved in a four-car crash on the opening lap of Race 2 and their cars were too damaged to take part in the final race of the weekend.