NASCAR Draft Kit: 2015 Top Rookies

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2015 Top Rookies

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

The 2015 rookie class is one of the slimmest in some time. With the monster rookie class of 2014 now in the rearview mirror, there are few empty seats available for new drivers. So the vacuum of last season has led to a thin crop of rookies for the upcoming campaign. In addition to our one full-time rookie we have some young drivers that will be making some part-time forays into the world of Sprint Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport. The transition from the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s performance in 2013 is a good example of how even a future star of the sport takes some time to adjust to NASCAR's top racing series. We'll take a look at the lone ROTY candidate and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the Sprint Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

1. Trevor Bayne
Car:
6
Owner: Roush Fenway Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro Series East151269
Xfinity Series151272472
Sprint Cup Series581013

It's hard to believe that Bayne with his 58 starts of Cup Series experience qualifies for Rookie of the Year, but that is
The 2015 rookie class is one of the slimmest in some time. With the monster rookie class of 2014 now in the rearview mirror, there are few empty seats available for new drivers. So the vacuum of last season has led to a thin crop of rookies for the upcoming campaign. In addition to our one full-time rookie we have some young drivers that will be making some part-time forays into the world of Sprint Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport. The transition from the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s performance in 2013 is a good example of how even a future star of the sport takes some time to adjust to NASCAR's top racing series. We'll take a look at the lone ROTY candidate and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the Sprint Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

1. Trevor Bayne
Car:
6
Owner: Roush Fenway Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro Series East151269
Xfinity Series151272472
Sprint Cup Series581013

It's hard to believe that Bayne with his 58 starts of Cup Series experience qualifies for Rookie of the Year, but that is indeed the case. This is the first season he's run a full slate of events and thus pegged his points championship status as Sprint Cup for the first time. Consequently, this will be his first season of racing for boss Jack Roush, as his part-time exploits were with associate team Wood Brothers Racing. Expectations are high for Bayne as they should be. The 2011 Daytona 500 winner has a season-and-a-half of starts under his belt, spread out over 5 seasons. The transition to the top level of NASCAR full-time could still be problematic despite Bayne's wealth of experience. Two-time Nationwide Series champion and teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has found this same move difficult despite his wealth of talent. We expect Bayne to be in-and-around the Top-25 each week, but the inconsistency and ups-and-downs will be plenty for the No. 6 Ford team.

2. Ryan Blaney
Car:
21
Owner: Wood Brothers Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro Series East70024
ARCA Series50345
Camping World Truck Series53342235
Xfinity Series30211223
Sprint Cup Series20000

The 20-year-old legacy driver will fill the seat of the departed Trevor Bayne at Wood Brothers Racing. Like Bayne, Blaney will only compete in a part-time schedule of about 12-14 events. Due to that fact, he won't be eligible for Rookie of the Year, but he'll still have a lot of impact. There is also the possibility that Blaney will get a couple events in the Penske Racing No. 12 Ford, which is a very limited part-time ride. This talented youngster has racked up wins in both the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series in the past two seasons, and he's generally shown a great aptitude for being a quick study behind the wheel. While Wood Brothers Racing technology is a bit behind and their team is small, Blaney should get the most bang for the buck out of this single-car team in 2015. He could even be a bit of an upgrade over the departed Bayne and that level of performance. Blaney is a budding star of NASCAR and it won't be long before this part-time gig turns into a full-time opportunity in NASCAR's top division.

3. Chase Elliott
Car:
TBD
Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro Series East2611915
ARCA Series1211611
Camping World Truck Series91157
Xfinity Series33321626

The son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott will make some forays into the Sprint Cup Series in 2015. The 2014 champion of the newly branded Xfinity Series set the NASCAR world on fire with his dominant rookie season in that racing series. He claimed three wins and 26 Top-10 finishes and ran away with the title. Elliott will return full-time to the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports in the upcoming season to defend that title, but he'll also make some starts for boss Rick Hendrick in NASCAR's top division. While no plans have been announced at this time, and the potential schedule is still up in the air, Hendrick can field Elliott in a fifth, part-time team for up to as many as seven starts. Despite Elliott's age of 19-years-old, Hendrick will invest in the development of this talented driver. His impact on the series will be small due to the limited action, but you can guarantee Elliott will catch the eye of many with is undeniable skill and instincts behind the wheel of a stock car.

4. Brian Scott
Car:
33
Owner: Circle Sport Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
ARCA Series110144
Camping World Truck Series62201123
Xfinity Series175051459
Sprint Cup Series70100

Scott got a taste of Sprint Cup action last year with this small team in six starts in the No. 33 Chevrolet. Outside of a surprising pole position at Talladega in the spring, it was a rather uneventful performance with only one Top-25 finish in the bunch. He is expected to return to this team in the upcoming season for a similar schedule, splitting the car with multiple drivers. Scott has 59 career Top-10 finishes in the Xfinity Series and he finished a strong fourth in the final standings of that series last season. There's little doubt about this driver's talent. With the limited impact that this part-time schedule offers, there's not much to expect from Scott in 2015. He's only building on a potential future full-time effort in NASCAR's top division. However, we'd like to expect a little bump in performance with this being his second season of action at this level.

5. Brett Moffitt
Car:
66
Owner: Jay Robinson Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro Series East619103344
Camping World Truck Series20000
Xfinity Series10001
Sprint Cup Series70000

Moffitt made his Sprint Cup debut in 2014 with the No. 66 team of Jay Robinson Racing. He made seven starts with his most impressive finish being his first at Dover early in the season. The 23-year-old peddled the team's Toyota to a surprising 22nd-place finish at the tough Monster Mile. Everything after that was much harder to come by. In the end, Moffitt had a 35.4 average finish for the season and two DNF's. The nine-time winner in the K&N Pro Series East had been a championship contender in that series for the prior five seasons. The level of talent is undeniable. Moffitt just needs the right opportunity to grow and a competitive team to help him do it. He's likely looking at another part-time campaign with this same team in 2015, so his impact will be minimal for the time being, but the future is still very bright.

6. Ty Dillon
Car:
33
Owner: Circle Sport Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

RACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro Series East111026
ARCA Series22981619
Camping World Truck Series49341833
Xfinity Series4513828
Sprint Cup Series20000

The 22-year-old is already a 14-time winner in NASCAR competition. Dillon is a one-time champion (ARCA 2011) and a runner-up to the champion in the Camping World Truck Series (2013). The Richard Childress Racing prodigy has a very bright future in his Grandfather's organization. To help Dillon groom for this, Circle Sport Racing began giving him some part-time Cup action in the team's No. 33 Chevrolet late in 2014. His 25th- and 27th-place finishes in those efforts with this small team were noteworthy. Dillon has the skills to be a race winner and championship contender someday. While he'll focus on the Xfinity Series championship in 2015, he should make at least two or more starts with the Circle Sport team. Dillon will have minor impact because of the light schedule, but he's definitely a face to remember for the future.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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