With the 2018 NASCAR season fast-approaching, much of the talk has been about what the sport has to prove.

Will TV ratings rebound? Will attendance improve? Will the money crunch lead to a budget cap?

And sure, those issues are very real. But let’s not forget about the reasons we watch NASCAR in the first place: the drivers.

The sport is in the midst of a retirement crisis. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are just a few of the high-profile drivers to walk away in recent seasons. As a result, a slew of drivers have come to the forefront that either are young, unproven, or a combination of both.

With that said, let’s look at the 12 NASCAR drivers who need to produce in the 2018 season.

Click for NASCAR drivers with most to prove >>

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images