In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the interest in the battle for Rookie of the Year honors has seemed to wane somewhat in recent years. There was, perhaps, more public interest in the 2013 race, because lovebirds Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick duked it out for top series newcomer, and then there is the fact that there seems to be a spotlight on anything Patrick does. But in other seasons recently, not much attention has been paid to the rookie race.
Some of that probably has to do with the fact that there have been several light rookie fields, as of late. For example, Andy Lally claimed Rookie of the Year honors in 2011, pretty much by default, as he was the only rookie. One could almost say the same for the previous 2010 season when Kevin Conway was crowned top rookie. On paper, Conway had a competitor in Terry Cook, but Cook dropped out with much of the season remaining.
Top rookie races used to be stacked. Remember in 2000 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth were among a class of six rookies? Then there was the top rookie battle in 2002 that included Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman, among a few others. And to refresh your memory, it was Newman, not Johnson, who was crowned Rookie of the Year that season. But that’s not the point here.
For the last decade-and-a-half or so, most rookie classes have been small (maybe even having only one pupil) or filled with also rans with also ran teams. There just hasn’t been much excitement surrounding that top rookie battle.
Looks like all of that’s going to change in 2014, though, and I can’t wait. Not only does there appear to be a full class, it looks to be a loaded class, at that. Eight drivers are ready to race for Rookie of the Year. And a lot of these guys have impressive credentials. Here’s the list: Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson, Ryan Truex and Cole Whitt (see photo gallery at bottom of page). There’s even one team with two rookies on its roster, as Bowman and Truex will be teammates at BK Racing. And a few of these drivers are running for top-level teams — Dillon at Richard Childress Racing and Larson at Ganassi Racing, just to name a couple.
Granted some of these drivers will provide stiffer competition for their classmates than others, but it looks like the battle for Rookie of the Year will, for one of the first times in awhile, be one to actually pay attention to in 2014.
But before you do, check out the photo gallery of 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookies (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).