Less and Less...
Image Credit: Kevin Conway's FaceBook page
By Dominic Aragon
TheRacingExperts.com Lead Reporter
With the economic downturn, fewer rookies of the year candidates running for R.O.T.Y. and Raybestos Brakes dropping sponsorship from the program, this upcoming year for the Sprint Cup Series could be the toughest one yet for rookies.
So far, only one candidate, Brian Keselowski has declared candidacy for the award, with possible driver Trevor Bayne possibly running part time. Last week, Keselowski’s team, K-Automotive Motorsports attained more Dodges from Penske Racing for their Cup program. Despite attempting a few races in 2010 with three different drivers, the team could not seem to get a hold of qualifying, and has yet to make aSprint Cup field.
In 2010, the Rookie of the Year field had only two drivers; Terry Cook and Kevin Conway. With Cook only making three races, Kevin Conway cruised to the Rookie of the Year title, making 28 of the 36 races with ExtenZe sponsorship. Even though he got the valuable Sprint Cup experience, Conway ’s results produced one top-20 finish, only three lead lap finishes, and an average finishing position of 33rd.
The last Rookie of the Year to win a race was Joey Logano at the 2009 Loudon rain-shortened race. The last time a Rookie of the Year Candidate finished inside the top-10 was Joey Logano (3rd, Talladega 11-09). With the economy in shambles, car owners are less likely to put rookies in a fully funded car based on their skill. Nowadays, either you bring a sponsor, or if you are willing to start and park for a low budget operation, that’s the way newcomers will make it in NASCAR. A great example of this is Landon Cassill. Cassill, who raced for three different teams in 2010, ran at the finish in one of the 16 events he raced in.
If rookie drivers want to be successful at the Sprint Cup level, it seems that it would be best to run as many Nationwide races as possible. Keselowski has run in the Nationwide Series full-time the past few seasons, but equipment matters big time for success. The best way to get Sprint Cup experience in his shoes would be to acquire owner points from Penske, to be locked into the first five races of 2011.