Skip to content

Deep Sprint Cup rookie class should lead to excitement

Jan 21, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT

Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger - Qualifying Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Ryan Blaney, James Buescher top Thursday’s Nationwide Series practice sessions at Richmond

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:06 PM EDT

    Ryan Blaney AP

    Ryan Blaney and James Buescher topped Thursday’s two practice sessions for Friday’s ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.

  2. As NHRA closes in on 100 wins by female racers, it all started with one of the greatest, Shirley Muldowney

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT

    Shirley Muldowney. (Photo courtesy: NHRA) Shirley Muldowney. (Photo courtesy: NHRA)

    The NHRA is just two wins away from recording 100 victories by female drivers in the sport’s all-time annals, which could happen in this weekend’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway. And while all eyes this weekend will be on drivers such as Alexis DeJoria and Courtney Force (Funny Car), Brittany and Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) as potential candidates to set that significant milestone, it’s also time to reflect back on who started it all, the legendary Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney.

  3. Check out highlights of first day of Mecum Kansas City auction

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT

    012214_Mecum

    If you like vintage cars, collectors cars, muscle cars — pretty much anything that looks great and is on four wheels — you owe it to yourself to check out some of the fantastic rides that were up for sale Wednesday during the first day of the Mecum Kansas City auction.

  4. IndyCar: James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden are happy Space Campers (VIDEO)

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Credit: INDYCAR on Instagram Credit: INDYCAR on Instagram

    The two IndyCar pilots have a blast at U.S. Space Camp before getting down to business this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra).

  5. Brad Keselowski: Changes overdue to Sprint Cup schedule; offers his ideas

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT

    Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard Getty Images

    Brad Keselowski had a dream season in 2012, winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Now Keselowski wants a dream schedule on the Cup circuit – and some of his ideas make sense.

  6. Patrick Carpentier returns to race Quebec’s famed Circuit Trois-Rivieres for first time in nearly 20 years

    Apr 24, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

    Patrick Carpentier

    It has taken him nearly 20 years, but Patrick Carpentier is going back home to race. A veteran of several race series in his career including CART (5 wins), GP3R (2 wins), IndyCar and NASCAR, the Quebec, Canada native will return to the Circuit Trois-Rivieres street course for his first-ever FIA World Championship Rallycross race August 7-8.

  7. Ryan Blaney is directionally challenged in latest episode of Penske Files

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Kentucky 300 Getty Images

    Don’t ask Ryan Blaney for directions, period. That’s the message in the latest edition of the Penske Files, in which a Team Penske member asks Blaney for directions to the nearest Discount Tire outlet (Discount Tire is one of Blaney’s primary sponsors in the Nationwide Series this season).

  8. Richard Petty to return at Richmond, first race since wife Lynda’s death

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Richard Petty AP

    According to driver Aric Almirola, team owner Richard Petty is expected to attend Saturday’s NASCAR Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. It will be the first time that Petty has been at a racetrack since the death of his beloved wife Lynda on March 25.

  9. NASCAR VP: 2015 Sprint Cup engine package to be revealed before All-Star Race

    Apr 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    GoBowling.com 400 Getty Images

    Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing operations, says that the process of finalizing the ’15 engine package is underway.

  10. Too much, too fast, too soon: The sad saga of Swan Racing

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Brandon Davis, majority owner of what is now the essentially defunct Swan Racing. (Photo courtesy Swan Racing) Brandon Davis, majority owner of what is now the essentially defunct Swan Racing. (Photo courtesy Swan Racing)

    Brandon Davis did all he could to keep Swan Racing afloat. But even a multi-millionaire oil and gas industrialist can only bleed so much money before deciding to throw a red flag on the operation. When anticipated funding and sponsorship failed to materialized, the two-team operation sank so fast that Davis had no other choice but to essentially go out of business.

  11. McLaren set to carry out aggressive series of upgrades

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    Team racing director Eric Boullier says that upgrades to the MP4-29 have been planned out to the British Grand Prix in July.

  12. RLL seeks to conquer Barber’s flowing nature, and improve qualifying

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    Rahal Getty Images

    Improved qualifying will likely yield greater results for RLL Racing at Barber this weekend.

  13. KV pair looks for results in Barber

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    BourdaisBarber1 Getty Images

    Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Saavedra seek their best weekends of the year at the Barber Motorsports Park event.

  14. Indy 500 car count update: Four more driver/car combos needed for 33

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

    Dale Coyne’s team, plus a handful of others will need to assemble programs shortly to bring the Indianapolis 500 car count number up to 33, and perhaps beyond.

  15. Andretti Autosport seeks big rebound weekend at Barber

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    RHR-Barber Getty Images

    After Long Beach debacle, Andretti Autosport looks to right the ship, get second straight Barber win this weekend.

  16. Unfinished business for Newgarden at Barber

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    NewgyLB Getty Images

    Looking for a second straight fast, solid weekend, Josef Newgarden and the SFHR team seek an improvement on P9 in 2013 at Barber.

  17. IndyCar: Will high grip and high tempers equal high drama at Barber?

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Barber-Preview Getty Images

    Round 3 of the Verizon IndyCar Series could be a humdinger at Barber with high drama, high tempers possible after Long Beach.

  18. NASCAR Minute: Marcos Ambrose happy with 2014 start (VIDEO)

    Apr 23, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 - Practice Getty Images

    RPM’s Marcos Ambrose on his start to the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

  19. NHRA drag racing superstar John Force goes on vacation — at a dragstrip, of course

    Apr 23, 2014, 6:53 PM EDT

    AP Photo/John Force Racing, Elon Werner AP Photo/John Force Racing, Elon Werner

    John Force is your classic workaholic.

    Even when he’s on vacation and supposed to be resting and relaxing and taking things slow, the record-setting 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ never stops working. Force was on vacation with his family last weekend in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, a prelude to his upcoming 65th birthday on May 4.

  20. Swan Racing restructures, splits up two-car Sprint Cup operation

    Apr 23, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Food City 250 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Swan Racing has restructured its two-car Sprint Cup team, the organization announced Wednesday afternoon. Minority owner Anthony Marlowe has merged his ownership stake in the No. 26 Toyota driven by Sprint Cup rookie Cole Whitt with BK Racing, which now expands to a three-car operation. Meanwhile, the No. 30 team has been sold to John Cohen, owner of XxxTreme Motorsports.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

Ambrose happy with start of season
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. P. Kligerman (1358)
  2. C. Whitt (1260)
  3. B. Jones (1049)
  4. J. Boston (961)
  5. T. Hessert (925)
  1. B. Myers (921)
  2. A. Seuss (842)
  3. B. Loftin (824)
  4. J. Myers (817)
  5. C. Edwards (751)

Featured video

Lewis Hamilton thanks his 'angels'