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. Jimmie Johnson remembers early Brickyard struggles

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT

    Geico 400 - Practice Getty Images

    The four-time Brickyard 400 champion says he had to go against his “natural tendencies” as a driver in order to become as successful as he has been at Indy.

  2. Hungarian GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    All of the latest news and analysis from the paddock at the Hungaroring.

  3. Vettel: Red Bull may be closer to Mercedes this weekend

    Jul 25, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Red Bull leading the race for the podium in Hungary, but Ricciardo still has some concerns.

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 pm ET — Hornish on nuances of Indy, JJ and Bowyer, Indiana racing history

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Friday’s edition of NASCAR America, Leigh Diffey will again be joined in-studio by 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2014 Nationwide Series Iowa winner Sam Hornish Jr.

  5. Hamilton and Rosberg both struggling in Hungary

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    P1 and P2 in both practice sessions, but not 100% where they want to be.

  6. Ryan Newman says he’d add Wednesday night races to Sprint Cup calendar

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Defending Brickyard 400 winner would push for mid-week races if he were in charge of creating the Sprint Cup schedule.

  7. Matt Kenseth fastest in Friday’s Sprint Cup practice at Indy

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    (Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images) Getty Images

    INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Kenseth took the first step towards his first win of 2014 – and his first career win in the Brickyard 400 – recording the fastest speed in Friday’s sole Sprint Cup practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  8. Cause of Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure still unknown

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Germany F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Brembo and Mercedes release a joint statement concerning the incident during qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

  9. Button reverts back to Pink for Papa helmet in Hungary

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    Pink for Papa helmet returns in Hungary for what would have been John Button’s 71st birthday.

  10. Ty Dillon leads final practice at Indy for Nationwide

    Jul 25, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    Lilly Diabetes 250 - Practice Getty Images

    Nationwide Series rookie continues to show strong pace ahead of Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250.

  11. Jeff Gordon high on confidence going into Brickyard 400

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 - Practice Getty Images

    Four-time Brickyard champ: “From an overall strength of the team and speed of the cars, this is by far the best chance we’ve had of winning in a long time.”

  12. F1 silly season kicks into gear in Hungary

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Sebastian Vettel AP

    Alonso to McLaren? Vettel to Mercedes? Hamilton to who-knows-where? Silly season is beginning to churn out some cracking stories already in F1.

  13. Azerbaijan to host Grand Prix of Europe from 2016

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Baku

    Baku set to host a street race from 2016.

  14. David Ragan leads 1st Nationwide practice at Indy

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Subway Firecracker 250 - Practice Getty Images

    The Sprint Cup regular topped out with a lap of 181.043 mph on his 12th and final lap of the session.

  15. Hamilton unconcerned by rumors linking Vettel to Mercedes

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    Mercedes driver confirms that talks about a new deal have not yet begun, but suggests that it is merely a formality.

  16. Hamilton tops second practice in Hungary ahead of Rosberg

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    The Briton continues to dominate at the Hungaroring with his teammate in tow.

  17. F1 Paddock Pass: Hungarian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    HungaryPresser AP

    News and interviews from around the F1 paddock ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix – it’s the latest edition of the NBC Sports Original Digital Series “Paddock Pass.”

  18. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the Hungarian Grand Prix

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Can Hamilton double up in FP2 at the Hungaroring?

  19. Mexican drivers delighted with return of home grand prix

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez delighted by the news, calling it a “dream come true”.

  20. Rossi hoping to run in most practices including Austin (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 6:30 AM EDT

    © Marussia F1 Team © Marussia F1 Team

    First run-out for Marussia will come at Spa; set for Austin in November.