NASCAR: Are Changes Needed When It Comes To Rookies?



The word alone is always on every drivers mind in The Sprint Cup Series. A win could guarantee you a ride for the next season, it could create more sponsorship opportunities for you and your team, or in the case of a rookie driver, it could even be the launching pad for the rest of your career.

Unfortunately for younger drivers in the last four years, none of them have been able to win a race in their rookie run or beyond. In fact, the last time a driver did win a race in his rookie season, was when Trevor Bayne won The Daytona 500 in 2011.

Trevor Bayne, Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Since Bayne’s win at Daytona, he has failed to win another race in the series. He even had to take time off after contracting Lyme disease from an unfortunate spider bite incident. His ride was then taken over by teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr while he recovered in the hospital for five straight weeks. He then returned to the 21 Wood Brothers car for a limited schedule.

Despite Bayne’s troubles early on in his career, he did secure a Sprint Cup ride with Roush Racing and is currently 30th in points, with no Top Ten’s or Top Five’s. Bayne still has a chance to make The Chase if he can win a race and manage to stay in The Top-35 in points, but with his past performances in mind this season, that doesn’t seem a likely possibility for the former Daytona 500 Champion.

Another driver with a lot of promise coming into his rookie season in The Sprint Cup Series was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The man had already won two straight Championships in The Xfinity Series, and even captured eight checkered flags in those two seasons as well. With those stats behind the young driver, many thought his future in the sport would be bright and full of success.

Things didn’t really happen that way however, as he only managed to capture one Top-Five and three Top-Ten’s during his rookie run in The Cup Series. Stenhouse did receive his best career finish that year, a third place run at Talladega Super Speedway, but the rest of his season was lackluster at best.

More from NASCAR

2014 was a bit better for Stenhouse, who captured a second place finish at Bristol and five Top-ten’s as well. Stenhouse also had strong finishes at Chicago and Talladega, but those great runs were outweighed by his many abysmal finishes throughout 2013.

Fast forward to 2015, Stenhouse has only one Top-Five finish and currently sits 28th in the point standings. Stenhouse did have a strong fourth place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, but hasn’t managed a Top-15 finish since. Maybe things will improve for Stenhouse later in the season at tracks like Daytona and Talladega, but for now, he seems to be struggling just to keep his head above water in The Cup Series.

Finally, we have the curious careers of Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. Both drivers received a lot of hype coming into the 2014, but neither driver could really seem to capitalize on it. Larson came close, finishing second at Fontana and then fifth at Texas Motor Speedway, but he just didn’t seem to be in the right place at the right time to pull out the win he so desperately wanted.

That leaves us with Austin Dillon. The young Richard Childress driver turned heads when he sat on the pole for his first Daytona 500. Despite that amazing stat to the young drivers resume, he has come nowhere close to the win column since his debut in The Sprint Cup Series. In fact, Dillon only managed one Top five and four Top Ten’s in 2014.

Austin Dillon (3) Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at both drivers in 2015, Larson has suffered a bit of sophomore slump , with only one Top five, Top-ten finishes this season, while Dillon has only Top-ten finish at Bristol, where he finished tenth. Both drivers are still in the hunt for a chance at the postseason, but it would most likely require a few good finishes and win, something both drivers have failed to do as of late.

NASCAR and its fans deserve more than this. They deserve to see a young rookie rise to the top of series and battle the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon. They deserve to see a rookie’s career unfold right before their very eyes. Unfortunately for fans of the believed motorsports series, they have been deprived of such a unique privilege, but why?

What is keeping these other drivers from being competitive in the top series of the sport? Is it a specific rule? Do other teams not have the same amount of resources and money as the ones that are currently sitting on top of the sport? Are young drivers even being given opportunities to rise to the occasion?

Maybe it’s the no testing rule that NASCAR instituted in 2009 and then revamped in 2015. Maybe that rule alone is stopping teams and even their rookie drivers from finding a competitive edge that they can bring to the racetrack. Also, it is important to keep in mind that these rookie drivers are brought up to the cup level with little to no experience in the new cars. That might be a starting point, if NASCAR wants to look towards the future of their sport.

Another idea that may help teams and rookies flourish in the highest level of racing, is to only allow two car teams in Cup Series. Yes, this would create a huge shakeup in the sport, and may cost the higher up teams a little bit of revenue, but it could also cut down on too many drivers sharing car set ups and give the series a more level playing field.

Let’s be honest here. Whether it’s the two rule changes listed above, or something drastically different entirely, something needs to change in the sport of NASCAR. Not seeing a rookie winner in over four years In the Sprint Cup Series is a troubling fact, but the question is, how does NASCAR plan to change that? Or do they even care as long as the top teams are making money and giving fans the finishes they want?

NASCAR has catered to the top of food chain for two long, and it needs to stop here and now. We need revolution in The Cup Series. We need rules in place that will level the vast playing field and give these younger drivers a chance to make a name for themselves in The Sprint Cup Series.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this then. What driver, other than Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, has rose to become a household name over the past three years in The Sprint Cup Series?

Next: Danica Patrick's F1 Fate Is Officially Sealed