Why the Declining Rookie Class in the Cup
Photo by Paul Strickland Jr. / TheRacingExperts.Com
Stephen Leicht has posted the best finish by a rookie this season (32nd).
By Zachary Lange
families across six continents and dozens of countries sit down and root for
their favorite team in some of the most exciting sporting events in creation.
From the Daytona 500 in February to The World Series in October, sports are
always changing, that’s what keeps them exciting. From having new rule changes
to introducing some sort of new replay system, all changes usually affect the
sport for the better.
Also, every year
sports all across the board have new players that fans will either cheer or
jeer depending on how well they perform.
However, one sport
that completely lacks a rookie class in the past few years is NASCAR.
This year in the
Sprint Cup Series, the highest rookie finish was a dismal 32nd at
New Hampshire by Steven Leicht, who is labeled a start and park driver in the
Cup garage. Last year in the highest series in NASCAR, only one driver maintained
eligibility for the award. That driver, Andy Lally, did not qualify for three
of his attempted races, and his best finish was a 19th, at a
restrictor plate in Talladega. Also, who could forget the exciting rookie race
of 2010? Kevin Conway ran virtually
unopposed to be crowned Rookie of the Year.
By exciting, I mean
almost non-existent as Conway only had three lead lap finishes out of 28 races.
In the lower
divisions of NASCAR, there is a huge pool of rookies that could potentially
make their name stick in the Sprint Cup series. Drivers like Austin Dillon and
Jason Bowles in the Nationwide Series have done very exceptional jobs in their
first full year in the Nationwide Series.
And in the Camping
World Truck Series, there is a plethora of fresh, new talent just waiting to be
tapped into by the biggest teams in the industry. Little brother of Austin, Ty
Dillon has scored a top ten in all but one event. Cale Gale has scored four top
ten’s and has been very competitive, and the Daytona Truck winner was rookie
24-year-old John King.
So, with all these
reputable, young drivers out there, why hasn’t a team taken a chance on them
Simple. Sadly, in a
shaky economic climate with hardly enough sponsors to go around, teams are
looking for a well-established veteran of the sport to market to potential
sponsors, because for the sponsors it isn’t as much of a monetary risk to
sponsor a Ryan Newman or Matt Kenseth, than a Ty Dillon or a Jason Bowles. Plus
the name rookie shows that they lack experience.
Overall, without competitive
rookies in the highest division of NASCAR, the sport can potentially miss one
of the biggest demographics they should target and that’s teenagers and adults
in their 20’s. Also, not being able to see young drivers try to fight for the
highly coveted Rookie of the Year trophy in there young careers does put a
damper on things.
If NASCAR wants tickets to sell with the majority of younger fans, they may give teams a little push to make the move to the young guns.