Jan 21, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT
It’s been a while since we’ve had intrigue about the yearly crop of NASCAR Sprint Cup rookies.
Yes, last year’s group of freshmen featured the highest-profiled newcomer in a long time with Danica Patrick. But because of her inexperience with stock cars, the Rookie of the Year title was still her boyfriend/two-time Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s to lose (he didn’t.)
Before then, you had Stephen Leicht (2012), Andy Lally (2011), and Kevin Conway (2010) as your ROTY in the previous three seasons. All three are now gone from the series.
But this year promises to be different. Sure, on paper, you expect Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson (pictured) to have another one-on-one battle for the ROTY like we got last year between Stenhouse and Patrick. Dillon and Larson have the talent and the resources to make sure the fight stays between them and them alone.
However, that’s not to say the other rookies are just a bunch of cast-offs.
We’ll start with the newest official ROTY contender, Phoenix Racing’s Justin Allgaier. He’s a former ARCA champion and has been consistently strong in Nationwide for both Team Penske and Turner Scott Motorsports. While he’s never won an NNS title, he’s never finished worse than sixth in that series championship during the last five seasons (he finished fifth last year for TSM).
Yes, he’s only earned three NNS wins in that time frame but he’s shown that he can not only get the car home in one piece but also toward the front – both important for any rookie driver who hopes to succeed.
BK Racing’s new tandem of Alex Bowman and Ryan Truex have had their share of success along the way to Cup as well.
Bowman claimed six wins in ARCA across the 2011 and 2012 campaigns before moving to Nationwide last year for RAB Racing. While unable to beat out Larson for Nationwide’s ROTY award, he didn’t flop either, finishing 11th in points and earning a couple of poles as well.
Truex already has a couple of NASCAR championships on his mantle after winning back-to-back K&N Pro East titles in 2009 and 2010. From there, he went into NASCAR’s national series, where he primarily worked as a Nationwide part-timer (35 starts from 2010-2012) before getting to make his first three Sprint Cup starts last year for Phoenix Racing.
Another rookie pairing will take center stage at Swan Racing in the form of Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt. Kligerman ran for two years in the Camping World Truck Series, finishing fifth in the 2012 championship before going to Kyle Busch‘s Nationwide operation last year. There, he collected 13 Top-10s in route to a ninth-place finish in the standings.
Whitt experienced major success in the USAC ranks (he was the 2008 national midget champion) before jumping to stock cars in 2010. A fourth-place finish in the K&N East Series led to a move into the Trucks in 2011 and then into Nationwide in 2012. Last season, he competed in seven Cup events for Swan Racing toward the tail end of the year – the most out of the group of drivers that stepped into the Swan car after David Stremme was released.
Finally, there’s Michael Annett, in at Tommy Baldwin Racing. Annett will be looking for a smoother 2014 after missing part of his Nationwide season in 2013 due to a chest injury sustained in a crash during the season opener at Daytona International Speedway (he returned to action in May at Charlotte).
Annett finished fifth in his last full season of Nationwide competition in 2012, in which he earned six Top-5s and 17 Top-10s. You figure he’d be thrilled with a return to that form as he embarks on his first Cup season.
You’re tempted to think the pecking order is relatively set based on their teams’ strengths: Dillon and Larson at the top, Allgaier behind them, and then the rest – Bowman, Truex, Kligerman, Whitt and Annett – bringing up the rear.
But altogether, it’s not a bad group of greenhorns we’ve got here. And that should make things a bit more exciting in the Cup series this year.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:19 PM EDT
In one moment, the former Sprint Cup champ goes from battling for the lead to battling to save his skidding Toyota.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
NASCAR says both issues will be dealt with early next week.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
Plus: Dale Jr. is pleased with the work from his JR Motorsports teammates and RCR has more than a few speeding issues.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
“Rowdy,” lapped traffic, and a failing alternator were all unable to keep Bad Brad from taking the win.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
The Nationwide Series driver is the first NASCAR racer to take part in a major anti-bullying program.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
After finishing seventh in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, Jeb Burton will be back behind the wheel for ThorSport Racing later this month at Martinsville.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Although a number of Sprint Cup drivers were quite vocal Friday about NASCAR’s new “knockout” qualifying system, particularly when their cars enter pit road and how to keep their motors cool, NASCAR will likely keep the format as is for the time being.
Mar 8, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
Neither Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski have ever won at Las Vegas.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT
Jamie McMurray was the fastest driver in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. McMurray’s best lap was his first of the final session, covering the progressively-banked 1.5-mile surface at 186.942 mph. A close second was Daytona 500 pole sitter Austin Dillon at 186.896 mph. Third through fifth were Clint…
Mar 8, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
The F1 supremo and the Russian president talk in Sochi, site of this fall’s Russian Grand Prix.
New online network prepares to launch, will feature lower-tier NASCAR series, sports cars, motorcycle racing
Mar 8, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
A new online-only network that will focus on some of NASCAR’s lower-tier series, as well as similar series in sports car and motorcycle racing, will make its debut this Wednesday, March 12.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
The 2012 Sprint Cup champion writes about perhaps the most critical opportunity of his career.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
Ty Dillon will pace the field in this afternoon’s 2014 Boyd Gaming 200 Nationwide Series race, having earned his first career NNS pole Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
First his truck made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Now, NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace hopes someday he’ll be reunited with the truck if he is fortunate enough to make the Hall of Fame as an inductee.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
The cars mark the 25th anniversary of the partnership between the department store giant and the legendary race team.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT
Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer were fastest in Saturday morning’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
Jimmie Johnson has seen a big change in Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season, particularly in confidence.
Mar 8, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The winds of change are blowing over Formula 1 in 2014 – but there’s far more to it than smaller engines and ugly noses.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
American prospect secures a test in Abu Dhabi next week for F1′s feeder series.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
No new teams for 2014, but plenty of driver changes, staff signings and engine supplier switches creates an interesting dynamic for the new F1 season.
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