Rookie Roundup: A Look at NASCAR’s Young Guns

Bubba Wallace appears set for his rookie campaign in NASCAR.

Bubba Wallace appears set for his rookie campaign in NASCAR.

Rookie of the Year (ROTY) Candidate: Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

Wallace, a Mobile, AL native, began his NASCAR career in 2010 in the K&N Pro Series East with Rev Racing as part of the Drive 4 Diversity program. He made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut in 2014 for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) as part of their driver development program.  In six starts with the organization through 2014, Wallce logged a best finish of seventh.

While racing with JGR, Wallace competed full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from 2013-’14. As a matter of fact, Wallace earned a win at Martinsville in 2013, becoming the first African-American NASCAR driver since Hall of Fame member Wendell Scott to win a race in NASCAR’s top three national series.

In 2014, he won four more races in the Truck Series, triumphant at Gateway, Eldora, Homestead and Martinsville.

In just four races, Wallace earned the praises of his current team in Richard Petty Motorsports.

In just four races, Wallace earned the praises of his current team in Richard Petty Motorsports.

Just three years later, Wallace leaped to the Cup series on an interim basis for Richard Petty Motorsports’s main racer Aric Almirola. Consequently, in four races last season in the No. 43 ride, Wallace highest finish of 11th at Kentucky.

Wallace made 85 starts in the XFINITY Series, scoring six top-5 finishes and 35 top-10 results.

In 2018, he will take over the No. 43 Chevy Camaro as a “satellite” teammate to the Richard Childress Racing organization.


ROTY Candidate: William Byron

Undoubtedly, Byron, the 20-year-old Charlotte, NC native, might be the youngest in the Cup series.  However, he comes in with a ton of talent. In fact, Byron’s career in the top NASCAR touring series began in 2015 in the K&N Pro Series East where he tallied four wins, five top-fives and 11 top-10’s in the 14-race schedule. With strong, consistent performances, Byron won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship trophy that season.

A year later, Byron moved up to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in a full-time effort for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Dominant all season long, he collected seven wins, 11 top-fives and 16 top-10’s in the 23 race schedule. He was named Rookie of the Year for the series that season, setting a record for most wins in a season by a rookie driver. On the other hand, engine woes at Phoenix derailed him from a championship, as he finished fifth in the final standings.

Familiar colors for a rookie racer in an iconic ride.

Familiar colors for a rookie racer in an iconic ride.

Last season, Byron competed full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JR Motorsports. He brought home four wins, 12 top-fives and 22 top 10’s in the 33-race schedule. Ultimately, the young driver brought home the 2017 XFINITY Series Championship trophy and the SUNOCO Rookie of the Year honors.

Byron will pilot the No.24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports for the 2018 season. In the mean time, Daytona will be his first start in NASCAR top series.

Sunoco ROTY Scoring
  • Rookies will score points identical to the season-long points standings. Points are collected in the three stages and any potential victories attained in the year.
  • In order to qualify for ROTY, a driver must attempt to qualify in at least eight of the first 20 events.
  • Following the final race of the season, the highest-ranking Rookie in the standings wins top honors for the year.
ROOKIE “Yellow Stripe”

Rookie drivers will bear a yellow stripe on the rear bumper of their cars. Sometimes, a driver who is not a ROTY candidate will run a yellow stripe if they have not run on that track before. If NASCAR decides that the driver does not have enough experience at that track, yellow stripes will adorn their car.

Katie Copple

They say the best things are left unsaid. I say, the best things need to be put down on paper...or the internet in this case. I discovered NASCAR and the world of motorsports in college and it changed my life... and my career path. Now, when people ask me to describe myself, I tell them that I am a 20-something that has an obsession with racecars.

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