Each season, a new Rookie class emerges with yellow strips and little experience racing with the big boys. This year, eight new faces will appear in the Sprint Cup Series ready to learn. Let’s take a look at the 2014 Rookie Class.
Austin Dillon: Collecting championships in both the Camping World Truck Series (2011) and the Nationwide Series (2013), Austin Dillon is used to making headlines. The grandson of racing icon Richard Childress, Dillon has had to work his way up through the NASCAR ranks and will be one of the big-name Rookies in 2014. He kicked off his 2014 campaign by announcing that he would be bringing back the famed No.3 to the Sprint Cup Series, something that hasn’t happened since Dale Earnhardt’s death at the 2001 Daytona 500. He proved to be fast in the No.3 by topping the charts during preseason thunder at Daytona in early January. Can he follow that up with a fast car during Speedweeks? We will have to see but one thing is for certain, Dillon will be on Rookie making headlines multiple times this season.
Justin Allgaier: It one of NASCAR famed “Worst Kept Secrets,” it was announced just recently that Justin Allgaier would be moving up to the Sprint Cup Series with Phoenix Racing, driving the No.51 Brandt Chevrolet. Allgaier spent five seasons in the Nationwide Series and collected three wins. His best finish in the standings was third in 2011. Moving to the Sprint Cup Series with a reliable team like Phoenix Racing was a good move on Allgaier’s part and with a little more experience, he could take this team far.
Kyle Larson: With just one season in NASCAR’s lower series, 20-year old Kyle Larson will take the wheel of the No.42 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. Although he has just a little experience racing in NASCAR’s highest levels, Larson could do very well in the Sprint Cup Series. Being young and willing to learn, Larson has proved that he can drive just about anything you put him in. The one big question lingering over him are those wondering if he moved up too soon. 2014 will be a learning experience for this young driver but give him a few years and he may just be the next generations Jimmie Johnson.
Alex Bowman: Another 20-year old with a Sprint Cup Series ride in 2014 is Alex Bowman. Finishing eleventh in his first full season in the Nationwide Series, Bowman has yet to make a Cup start. Getting behind the wheel of the re-numbered No.23 for BK Racing with sponsorship from Dr. Pepper, Bowman could use this opportunity to build his racing resume and gain some insightful knowledge of NASCAR’s highest series. Although I think he could have benefited from one more season in the Nationwide Series, this offer was too good to pass up.
Ryan Truex: BK Racing is going for the fresh faces by adding Ryan Truex to their driver line-up along with Bowman for 2014. Younger brother to Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Truex has never completed a full season in one of NASCAR’s major touring series. With two K&N Pro Series East Championships under his belt in 2009 and 2010, this 21-year old has a lot of talent but talent only goes so far. With little experience with these machines, Truex could struggle greatly in 2014 but building that oh-so-important notebook will be the ultimate payoff for this young driver.
Cole Whitt: After losing his full-time Nationwide ride at JRM at the end of 2012; Cole Whitt is back and moving up. 2014 will see the 22-year old behind the wheel of the No. 26 Swan Racing machine in the Sprint Cup Series. Making seven Cup starts last season, Whitt got a taste of the new Gen-6 car and some of the circuits toughest tracks. With his best finish of 25th at Phoenix in 2011, Whitt has a lot of room for improvement but at only 22 years old, time is on his side. Whitt finished seventh in Nationwide Series standings in 2012 and although he hasn’t collected a win in one of NASCAR’s major touring series, his talent behind the wheel speaks for itself.
Parker Kligerman: Another young driver in the Sprint Cup Series, 22-year old Parker Kligerman is getting his chance at a full-time Sprint Cup Series ride. Piloting the No.30 for Swan Racing, Kligerman showed promise in his two starts for the team in 2013 with a. 18th place finish at Texas and 25th place finish at Homestead. Finishing ninth in Nationwide Series standings for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Kligerman had three top-5 and thirteen top-10 finishes in 2013. Having Kligerman and Whitt piloting both Swan Racing vehicles in 2014 could prove to be a great success in the future for this small team.
Michael Annett: Tommy Baldwin and Michael Annett reunite as Annett signs on to pilot the No.7 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet in 2014. Replacing Dave Blaney, 27-year old Annett spent five full seasons in the Nationwide Series with his best finish of 5th in the standings (2012). Missing a handful of races in 2013 due to injury, Annett bounced back to end the season with eleven straight top-20 finishes. Although he has yet to make a start in the Sprint Cup Series, Annett can be a real asset to this small team in the middle of the big dogs.
The 2014 Rookie of the Year class will be the biggest NASCAR has seen since 1994 and with that amount of new talent in the field, it could lead to some great headlines throughout the season. Austin Dillon may be the favorite as the ROTY winner going into the season but any one of the eight drivers could be holding up that trophy at the end of the season. The next generation of drivers is coming up through the ranks and we could be seeing one of these young drivers holding up a Championship trophy in just a few short years.
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