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.
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NBCSN’s Marty Snider has more from Stewart’s press conference today in North Carolina.
Sep 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Instead of racing to protect his position in the Chase, Jeff Gordon went into attack mode Sunday at Dover – and it paid off with a win. Check out his Victory Lane interview with NASCAR AMERICA’s Kelli Stavast here.
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All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as the Contender Round begins on Kansas’ 1.5-mile oval.
Sep 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Coming up: Highlights from the first cut race of the Chase; reports on Kevin Harvick’s tire failure and Hendrick Motorsports; Tony Stewart speaks about trying to carry on after his involvement in a fatal sprint car accident.
Sep 29, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
Josef Newgarden ends P13 in 2014, after a year where an overall top-10 finish was possible.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT
A nice display of sportsmanship after a tough day at the Monster Mile.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
It was a tough year for James Hinchcliffe, who ended P12 in the IndyCar points.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT
Hamilton hopes to join the list of famous names that have won at Suzuka, while Rosberg turns the page on his disappointing Singapore Grand Prix.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Ryan Briscoe’s return to IndyCar was quiet, clean and productive.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud leaves the past behind, and readies for Team Penske opportunity.
Sep 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Lack of bonus points notwithstanding, Logano’s pleased about where he and his No. 22 Team Penske crew stand going into the next round of the Chase.
Sep 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
The latest young drivers to earn Team USA Scholarship are named.
Sep 29, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Also: Tony Stewart opens up; IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud jumps to Team Penske; and the stage is set for a wild season finale in Red Bull Global Rallycross.
Sep 29, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
P14 for Tony Stewart at Dover felt like one of his better runs of the season, he explained Monday.
Sep 29, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
Tony Stewart addresses the questions, and faces the media, in Charlotte.
Sep 29, 2014, 10:48 AM EDT
Pagenaud to Penske means IndyCar’s “big three” now have 12 cars between them – four apiece.
Sep 29, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT
Simon Pagenaud makes it official: he’s driving for Team Penske in 2015.
Sep 29, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Gabby Chaves (pictured) and Rodolfo Gonzalez set for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar tests.
Video from NASCAR America
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- Simon Pagenaud confirmed at Team Penske in fourth IndyCar 3
- Jeff Gordon advances to next round of Chase with first Dover victory since 2001 5
- Open letter from Kevin Ward Jr.’s aunt questions Tony Stewart, evidence of marijuana in nephew’s system 47
- Kyle Busch outduels Joey Logano for Nationwide win in Dover 2