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Talon64's Motorsports Corner writes:
"Cup: Where Have All the Rookies Gone?"
Posted by Talon64 on November 3, 2009
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One of the things I always keep track of during the season is how the rookies are doing in Trucks, Nationwide and Cup. Trucks was interesting up until Johnny Sauter's top five streak that means a former full time Cup and Nationwide driver will win ROTY in the 3rd tier NASCAR series. Nationwide is still pretty close with Justin Allgaier and Brendan Gaughan (also a former full time Cup driver) separated by just 10 points in the ROTY standings. But don't try to look it up for figure out how big of a lead 10 points really is, I barely understand it enough as it is so just know that it'll be tough to beat for Gaughan. I could go on and on about how stupid it is that former full time Cup/Nationwide drivers can be eligible for ROTY in series that are practically established as 2nd and 3rd tier, but this would turn into a real tl;dr.

Cup has seen Joey Logano not only run away with ROTY but win a race (albeit thanks to strategy in a rain out but a win's a win!) in a year where he wasn't even supposed to be a full time Cup driver yet. Scott Speed looks like Allmendinger did in 2007 but with a RBR team in it's 3rd year that has Vickers in the Chase. And Max Papis has made most of the races in his partial schedule so good on him!

While the Trucks and Nationwide will have their rookie contenders for next year, Cup is in a strange situation where they might not even have any rookies at all for 2010. Even if there are they likely won't be anyone worth giving a damn about.

Most of the top teams already have their 2010 lineups secured while the drivers vying for the 07 and the 1, the only decent teams left, are all experienced. Justin Allgaier might've been the only possibility but Penske's signing of Keselowski pushes that move back by at least a year, and Yates Racing merging with Richard Petty Motorsports cost Erik Darnell a possible Cup ride. So far there haven't been any major announcements of new teams coming to Cup next year and they'd all be looking for veteran drivers who could get them into the top 35 in the owners points. There's certainly some drivers worth a shot like Allgaier and Darnell, or Brian Scott from Trucks, or Stephen Leicht from Nationwide, even Colin Braun who's going to be a rookie in Nationwide next year anyways (Roush has a history of putting Truck drivers straight to Cup that worked out for Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards but hasn't worked out for David Ragan yet). But none of them have opportunities because of the struggles we've seen rookies suffer at the hands of the COT, especially in 2008 when no rookie had a single top ten. The lack of opportunities and COT rookie struggles have also died down the open wheel craze so there probably aren't going to be anyone coming over from IRL or F1 this year, although there might be some small hope that sports car driver Andy Lally runs some Cup races with TRG in 2010 but that's just pure speculation I pulled out of my head.

The worst case scenario to come out of this might not be that there aren't any rookies, but what "rookies" we have will be driving S&P teams. Terry Cook is an example in Nationwide, he's a full time driver in the Truck Series but has driven half the races so far for MSRP Motorsports as a Nationwide rookie but is dead last.

But Terry Cook has proven to be great qualifier in making the races so what's to stop teams like the 36, 64 or even Front Row Motorsports in their 37 car from running him? There's money to be made from it, the ROTR in each race earns $1,500 and the season-ending ROTY award is worth $75,000. If a S&P team can luck out in having the only rookie in the field and make all the races then that earn a team $129,000 in a season! It's worth taking a risk with a "rookie", especially if it's an experienced Nationwide or Truck driver like, oh I don't know, Terry Cook!

Tony Stewart's decision to leave his contract with JGR early and push up Joey Logano's move to Cup to 2009 gave us a worthy 2009 ROTY but it will also likely cost us a worthy 2010 ROTY unless something changes with a non-S&P team's plans.


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