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.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:45 AM EDT
FP1 offers the first chance for drivers to get to grips with the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the 2014 cars. Watch live on Live Extra from 6am ET.
Sep 18, 2014, 9:21 PM EDT
While Boris Said was getting ready for this weekend’s IMSA Tudor Championship event at Circuit of the America’s in Austin, Texas, it’s noteworthy to mention that Thursday was his 52nd birthday.
Sep 18, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT
Michael Waltrip took a big step when he agreed to compete on Season 19 of “Dancing With the Stars.” Now, Waltrip has gone and put his foot in his mouth by trying to kick Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the behind, so to speak.
Sep 18, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Given how important – and potentially how wild – the ninth and next-to-last race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be, Phoenix International Raceway is calling in some extra muscle for drivers who may potentially get out of hand.
Sep 18, 2014, 7:04 PM EDT
Owning a NASCAR team is like being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, they both answer to “Big money, big money.”
Sep 18, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
New Hampshire is one of four New England states to host a NASCAR event and is huge to the racing community in the area. Having four tracks that far North allowed the sport to grow from its southern roots.
Sep 18, 2014, 6:17 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Parker Kligerman and Frank Stoddard are split when it comes to the Roush Fenway Racing team. Looking to the Chase, Frank predicts a top 10 finish for Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards, but Parker is less confident.
Sep 18, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Frank Stoddard and Parker Kligerman both agreed that Ryan Newman is the driver just below the cutoff line with the best chance of moving on in the Chase.
Sep 18, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT
NASCAR legend Mark Martin was slated to be a driving coach for Danica Patrick in 2014. Now, in an interview with NASCAR Illustrated, we learn what happened.
Sep 18, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
A flagman officiating a race at Bronson Speedway in Archer, Fla., was killed in a racing accident at the track this past Sunday.
Sep 18, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT
Today’s NASCAR America includes two teams in different directions as we prepare for the second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Things are looking up for Kevin Harvick’s team, while there’s concern that Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle may not get past the first round of eliminations.
Sep 18, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT
Mark Martin has received numerous honors in his racing career, but this one could be one of the most unique that will ever be bestowed upon him. Martin will return to his native Arkansas next March to serve as grand marshal for the “2015 World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
Sep 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
IndyCar confirms return to Brazil as first 2015 international race.
Sep 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Jeff Gordon will set a significant milestone in this Sunday’s second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sep 18, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
8Star Motorsports’ intentions of joining the Indy Lights grid for 2015 are close to becoming a reality.
Sep 18, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT
FIA could be forced to backtrack on plans for this weekend, though.
Sep 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
F1 is renowned for being exuberant and exotic. No event screams it more than the Singapore Grand Prix.
Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Everything is in place for the first Russian Grand Prix in 100 years to take place on October 12th.
Sep 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Twelve finalists named in USF2000 seat shootout.
Sep 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Massa believes that Williams should be aiming to beat Red Bull despite trailing by almost 100 points in the constructors’ championship.
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