The Rookie Class of 2014

By: Andrew Carbone

Since the 2007 season class of rookies there has been something missing in the Sprint Cup Series, a strong contention with multiple rookies being broken in and competing for top dog of the young guns in the series. This past off season with many rides opening up it has made the perfect storm for a boat load of rookies to jump into the Sprint Cup Series. Eight rookies have been brought into the series (Austin Dillon, Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt, Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Truex). This should make for some new excitement with the excess yellow bumpers mixing it up and making a name for themselves. This article outlines what we here at The Racing Experts expect to see out of these guys in the 2014 season.

My Projected Rookie Standings

1. Austin Dillon

2. Kyle Larson

3. Parker Kligerman

4. Justin Allgaier

5. Cole Whitt

6. Michael Annett  

7. Alex Bowman

8. Ryan Truex

Austin Dillon Projection

I am picking Austin to make the chase, grab a win and most importantly grab the title for 2014 Rookie of the Year. Austin has made the most progress in the lower levels of NASCAR. Winning two Nationwide Series races, a NWS championship and ROY honors in 2012. Also winning a truck series title, along with five truck wins. Austin has the benefit of the best equipment as well in this rookie class, with the strong RCR program backing him. Pair that with his raw talent and I think you have one of the next greats on your hands. I see Austin being strong at the restrictor plate tracks and intermediate 1.5 mile tracks.

1 Win

7 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 12th

ROY Battle: 1st

Kyle Larson Projection

Kyle Larson has the best raw talent in this rookie class, hands down. For only being in stock cars for 3 years and shooting up through the ranks in NASCAR so quickly he has been compared to Jeff Gordon in the 90’s. Kyle won a truck series race last year at Rockingham and also having 9 top-10s in the Nationwide Series for Tuner Scott Racing. The only reason I put him second on the list is his inexperience. Really only having one full time Nationwide Series year under his belt has got to be tough and the jump from Sprint Cup can be lengthy like we saw with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. last season. Kyle will do the best with his Chip Ganassi equipment and give the #42 car some great runs. I see Kyle sneaking into the chase and having a solid rookie campaign.

0 Wins

8 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 15th

ROY Battle: 2nd

Parker Kligerman Projection

Parker Kligerman is one of my favorites in this field. He a breathe of fresh air in this sport with his fiery attitude and pure want to win races. Parker is in the #30 for Swan Racing this season, which is an up and coming team i see making big strides in 2014.  Swan Racing has a financially well off owner, Brandon Davis who is willing to invest in his team along with various partnerships helping buy better equipment for this team. They are quickly becoming a good mid-level team in the garage, surpassing Front Row Motorsports and BK Racing. Parker is a ballsy racer, he is not afraid to put everything on the line to grab a win or run well every weekend, he averaged a 21st place finish in two races last year in this ride, so if he keeps that up he should have a strong rookie campaign. Parker will hit a few road bumps learning the feel for the higher performance Sprint Cup Series cars but his track record is fairly strong, grabbing a Truck Series win at Talladega in 2012 and 13 top 10’s last year in KBM’s #77 Nationwide series team. Parker will turn some heads but ultimately come short of Dillon and Larson, who have a tad more talent and better equipment.

0 Wins

3 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 22nd

ROY Battle: 3nd

Justin Allgaier Prediction

Easily the most experienced rookie in this class is Justin Allgaier who has been racing in the Nationwide Series with Penske Racing and Turner Scott Motorsports since 2008. Justin impressed many people with 3 wins in four full time seasons, also showing consistency with 84 top-10’s and 29 top-5’s. Justin has a ton of pure talent, but I feel like he has hit his ceiling with the expectations of the last few seasons. I don't see Justin becoming the next Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart, but a consistent top-15 runner in Cup? That seems like the place for Justin. I think Justin will enjoy a long stay in the Cup series with his sponsorship partner Brandt, winning multiple races and becoming a regular name in the Cup series garage. Justin ran well in four races last year for Phoenix Racing, showing that on the intermediate tracks he could be a consistent runner. A couple of crashes plagued his average finish (30.4) but he did show potential for speed. One of the reason I have him 4th is the team he is with. I think HScott Racing will grow into a big time Cup program just like the sister operation Turner-Scott who are currently dominating Trucks and Nationwide. HScott needs to grow a bit and find a little more speed before I put them as a ‘competing for wins’ team week in and week out. Justin will enjoy a solid rookie campaign and build on it for the 2015 season.

0 Wins

1 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 24th

ROY Battle: 4nd

Cole Whitt Projection

The second of the Swan Racing rookie duo is Cole Whitt. Cole is a heavily underrated driver who really has not been in solid equipment for a long period of time to really showcase his skills. Cole is in the #26 for Swan Racing this season, which like stated earlier is an up and coming team i see making big strides in 2014.  Swan Racing has a financially well off owner, Brandon Davis who is willing to invest in his team along with various partnerships helping buy better equipment for this team. They are quickly becoming a good mid-level team in the garage, surpassing Front Row Motorsports and BK Racing. Cole has Nationwide experience with JR Motorsports grabbing 4 top-5’s, and more impressively, Cole grabbed 4 top 10’s last year in the under funded Tri-Star Motorsports #10 car last year. Cole did so well in that underfunded equipment that I can see Cole being a very steady driver his year and years to come, floating around the 20th-27th range at most tracks.

0 Wins

1 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 27th

ROY Battle: 5th

Michael Annett Projection

Tommy Baldwin Racing chose Michael Annett to pilot the Pilot/ Flying J #7 Chevy in 2014. Michael, a long time Nationwide series driver has spent time with three different teams over five seasons. His most impressive being 2012 with Richard Petty Motorsports where he grabbed 17 top 10’s and 6 top 5’s. He looked to be making a lot of progress and competing for wins every weekend down at the Nationwide Series. At the season opener at Daytona in 2013 Annett was involved in a hard crash, sidling him for 8 races at the beginning of the season. This was a real setback for Michael as he was making so much progress in that #43 ride, and he finished with a sub-par 1 top-5, 4 top-10’s. I would have liked to see Michael spend one more season down in the Nationwide Series to get back to 2012 form because I think the jump to Sprint Cup will be a hard learning curve for Michael. Paired with the mid range TBR equipment it makes for the perfect, hard racing to stay in the top-30 every weekend type of season. I see Annett scoring well in a few races, grabbing multiple top-20’s and helping TBR be more consistent in 2014.

0 Wins

0 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 29th

ROY Battle: 6th

Alex Bowman Projection

BK Racing totally revamped their entire driver lineup for the 2014 season after having a very disappointing 2013 campaign. Alex Bowman was slated to driver the #23 Dr.Pepper/ Burger King/ Borla Exhaust Toyota in 2014. Alex, who was a rookie in 2013 in the Nationwide Series for the RAB #99 team showed a lot of speed on Saturday afternoons, grabbing 2 poles, 2 top-5’s and 6 top-10’s. AS much raw talent as Alex has I see this as being a possible disaster situation for his career. BK Racing has very suspect equipment after blowing multiple engines last year and just plain old being slow week in and week out. Alex can't use much of that raw potential if the cars he is driving only car run in the 30th to 35th range week in and week out. I would have liked to see Alex spend more time down at the Nationwide Series or even Trucks, grab some wins and be even more seasoned for the big time. Being only 21 Alex is very inexperienced with only one full time year under his belt. If Alex doesn't run well around 25th every week he could be labeled as a bust, only because of his equipment and not his talent which would be a shame.

0 Wins

1 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 33rd

ROY Battle: 7th

Ryan Truex Projection

In the other BK Racing Toyota, Ryan Truex is competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title. He is slated to drive the #83 Dr.Pepper/ Burger King/ Borla Exhaust Toyota in 2014. Now if you thought the Alex Bowman situation was a hairy one, Ryan Truex has it even worse. Like stated above, BK Racing has poor equipment, and quite frankly doesn't have very much potential with their current equipment. Ryan has it tough because he has not been in a full time ride once in his NASCAR career, just spirits of Nationwide and Truck part time deals. Ryan almost won a race at Dover in the Nationwide 2012 season, but other than that only has 7 top-10’s in NASCAR’s three big national series. Ryan would benefit more from a full year of Nationwide to get more experience to get ready to be a full time Cup Series driver. I think like his older brother Martin, Ryan has quite a bit of talent, it just needs to be seasoned a bit more. Pair that with BK Racing’s underfunded equipment and you have a 30th-35th car all year. Like Bowman, this could hurt Ryan’s chances of landing a big ride in the future. But who knows, the two could help lift BK Racing from the rubble of the Sprint Cup Series. This team is even further behind the 8 ball missing the Daytona 500 this past weekend. In contrast; This ride is better than no ride for Ryan!

0 Wins

0 Top-10s

Championship Finish: 36th

ROY Battle: 8th