Geoff’s Journal: The impressive 2016 rookie class
Brian Scott leads Clint Bowyer and others during the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International 
Raceway in March.

Photo by Brian DeGruchy/

By Geoff Bodine Driver Analyst May 27, 2016

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

This year in the Sprint Cup Series, we’ve been in for a treat seeing the rookie class that continues to impress. It seems as if they continue to perform stronger and stronger each week.

It’s not out of the question we could see a rookie driver win a race this season, and it could happen at any race. It’s going to come down to a battle between Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.

The Pressure of Being a Rookie
As far as with me, I was excited about being a rookie, and being in NASCAR’s premiere series. I was driving with a good team, but not a top-tier team. My chances of winning were slim.

But we almost pulled off victories and we ran well in 1982. When I ran for rookie-of-the-year, I was racing against some powerful operations and great drivers, just like this class is doing.

I didn’t have any pressure or feel any during my rookie campaign to do anything but race every week and learn.

When I originally ran for Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year in 1979, I only lasted three races. That class included Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte and Harry Gant.

I was a modified guy that won races and my competitors had seen me race at Martinsville and other places. I actually raced modifieds against Harry at one point.

I’ll never forget—I believe it was Daytona, when I was first announced as a rookie, I was pretty intimidated by my fellow rookie competitors. But likewise, they were intimidated by me; they told me they were worried about me because of all my modified wins. That was pretty cool to hear that.

It took three years, but I came back and won rookie-of-the-year in 1982.

Coca-Cola 600 Challenges
The rookie drivers, and all drivers, are in great physical shape. Additionally, the drivers now are more comfortable in the seat compared to when I was running full-time.

It’s hard to call these drivers “rookies” because they race like veteran drivers and have been around the sport a long time.

I think the rookies are looking forward to the race this weekend, and youth does have its advantages. They don’t know how difficult the 600 is, but they’re probably going into it with an open mind, compared to somebody that has run it a few times.

Photos by Jeremy Thompson/
It’s the first time they will run a race this long, and I know that I always looked forward to it. I knew how difficult it was, and always tried to be my best at the end of any race.

If you can be good at the end, you have a great chance at winning, and these rookies, particularly Elliott and Blaney, are showing it. They are strong. They are consistently inside the top-ten, top-five.

Advice For The Rookies
If any of the rookies in Sprint Cup or any series are reading this, just remember to enjoy yourself.

Don’t let the media, the fans, moment, or the race, wherever it might be, bother you. Just go out and have fun. Your fans are great and love you, so you need to love them back.

What I loved about NASCAR racing was it was different every week. It wasn’t the same venue; it was a different location every week. Enjoy that.

And learn. Learn from your competition, they’re the best. You have great teachers that can teach you how to be successful in this industry.

Just always remember you’re very blessed to be where you are. God gave you talent, He’s given you opportunities—use them, don’t misuse them. Don’t think you’re special.

Geoff Bodine

Remember that you’re very very fortunate that you’re doing something you love, and that you’re doing something you do well.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have any questions about the NASCAR industry that doesn’t have a thorough answer? Ask below, and we may have Geoff answer your question in a future installment of "Geoff’s Journal.")

Who will be the highest finishing rookie in the Coca-Cola 600?
Ryan Blaney
Chase Elliott
Jeffrey Earnhardt
Chris Buescher
Brian Scott
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