NASCAR Draft Kit: 2019 Top Rookies

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2019 Top Rookies

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

The 2019 rookie class will be a bit bigger than last season's group. However, the level of talent is still considerable when we examine their racing resumes. We have some very seasoned, young Xfinity Series drivers who will be making the transition this season, and they're not entirely unfamiliar with Monster Energy Cup Series cars. In addition to our full-time rookies we have some young drivers that will be making some part-time forays into the world of Monster Energy Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport. The transition from the Xfinity Series or Gander Outdoors Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers. However, as last season showed, drivers like William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr. will have their highlights to go along with their struggles. We'll take a look at the ROTY candidates and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the Monster Energy Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Daniel Hemric
Car:
8
Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
ARCA 10000
K&N Pro East 30113
Gander Outdoors Truck 50001530
Xfinity 66052339
Monster Energy Cup 20000

The 28-year-old driver has spent the last three seasons sharpening his skills in

The 2019 rookie class will be a bit bigger than last season's group. However, the level of talent is still considerable when we examine their racing resumes. We have some very seasoned, young Xfinity Series drivers who will be making the transition this season, and they're not entirely unfamiliar with Monster Energy Cup Series cars. In addition to our full-time rookies we have some young drivers that will be making some part-time forays into the world of Monster Energy Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport. The transition from the Xfinity Series or Gander Outdoors Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers. However, as last season showed, drivers like William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr. will have their highlights to go along with their struggles. We'll take a look at the ROTY candidates and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the Monster Energy Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Daniel Hemric
Car:
8
Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
ARCA 10000
K&N Pro East 30113
Gander Outdoors Truck 50001530
Xfinity 66052339
Monster Energy Cup 20000

The 28-year-old driver has spent the last three seasons sharpening his skills in the lower divisions of NASCAR. Hemric earned 15 Top-5 and 30 Top-10 finishes across two seasons of racing in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and claimed Top-10 points finishes in those campaigns. He also impressed in the Xfinity Series in 2017-18. Hemric piloted RCR's No. 21 Chevrolet in those two campaigns and piled up 23 Top-5 and 39 Top-10 finishes, which led to Top-5 points finishes in those seasons. The seasoned rookie will now take over Childress' No. 31 team and it will be rebranded the No. 8 this season. He'll team with crew chief Luke Lambert and set out to win Rookie of the Year honors with a lot of team support and deep experience. Hemric should have a bit of an edge on the other drivers of this rookie class in terms of age, maturity and experience. We expect all to add up to a good start at NASCAR's top level, and the 2019 ROTY award.

Ryan Preece
Car:
47
Owner: JTG Daugherty Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
NASCAR Whelen Modifieds156221677103
K&N Pro East 40003
Xfinity 55211115
Monster Energy Cup 50000

Preece makes a bit of a surprising jump from part-time racing in NASCAR's Xfinity Series and Modifieds and into the No. 47 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Like Daniel Hemric, Preece has been around quite a while now, so he's older than your typical rookie. At 28-years-old he seems like an elder compared to rookie drivers of recent seasons. Preece really made a name for himself tearing up the NASCAR Whelen Modified division for the better part of 12 seasons. He stacked up 22 victories and over 100 Top-100 finishes during his time in that series. He also nabbed the championship in 2013 and finished runner-up in the points on four different occasions. Preece has primarily been a part-time participant in the Xfinity Series the last five years, racing for multiple team owners. However, his most recent campaign was 15 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing last season. His one victory and 15 Top 10's in that part-time slate made him a hot commodity on the free agent driver market. Preece will face some greater challenges than Hemric in his quest for the ROTY, but he should press Hemric very competitively for that hotly-contested honor.

Matt Tifft
Car:
36
Owner: Front Row Motorsports
Manufacturer: Ford

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
ARCA 25001115
K&N Pro East 200006
K&N Pro West 60014
Gander Outdoors Truck 250019
Xfinity 7702938

Compared to the two higher ranked rookies in our field for 2019, Tifft is more your prototypical Monster Energy Cup Series rookie. He's a tender 22-years old and is coming off a more limited experience in the lower divisions of NASCAR than Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece. Tifft turned in his best campaign in the Xfinity Series last season with six Top-5 and 19 Top-10 finishes en route to a sixth-place finish in the driver standings of 2018. His racing resume has shown a steady growth the last four seasons, but doesn't really pop one's eyes out with major accomplishments. Tifft will take over a new team this season as Front Row Motorsports is launching the No. 36 Ford on her maiden voyage. It's good to see FRM growing in NASCAR's top division, but this will certainly be a trying season for this young driver and new race team. Tifft will fortunately have the veteran experience of teammates David Ragan and Michael McDowell to rely on. That should help ease the growing pains, but Tifft will still have to learn a lot about driving these Cup cars in 2019. He has absolutely no race experience in NASCAR's top chassis.

Tanner Berryhill
Car:
97
Owner: Obaika Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
ARCA 10000
K&N Pro East 70000
Xfinity 400000
Monster Energy Cup 2 0000

Obaika Racing is making the ambitious jump from part-time Cup Series competition to full-time in 2019. This organization has just three prior Cup Series starts to fall back on for experience, so this will be a big jump for the team. Fortunately, the team does have 78 starts across the last three seasons of Xfinity Series action to draw experience from for this year. Berryhill started two of the three Cup events for this team last season and earned 31st- and 38th-place finishes in two of the final races of 2018 at Phoenix and Homestead. That will be all the foothold Berryhill will get prior to kicking off his first full-time season at Daytona in February. The team will run Toyota Camrys and rely heavily on veteran crew chief Dan Stillman for guidance. It's going to be a long, tough season of racing and a baptism by fire for both Berryhill at Obaika Racing.

Cody Ware
Car:
52
Owner: Rick Ware Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
Gander Outdoors Truck 70000
Xfinity 170000
Monster Energy Cup 90000

Rick Ware Racing has secured a second charter and will run the full season in 2019 with the No. 52 team, piloted by Ware. This ambitious expansion of what was once a single, part-time team will see growing pains aplenty this season. Ware has nine starts with this team over the past two seasons in what has mostly been just a start-and-park effort. Now they'll look to competitively race thanks to the new charter, and expanded sponsorship of the race team. Ware's career highlight was his 28th-place finish at Phoenix last fall, so there's going to be plenty of firsts this season. The new nature of this team and the lack of experience the 23-year-old driver brings to the table are valid concerns. RWR is looking to get a foothold with two teams in NASCAR's top division so you can look at this team's potential as a growth experience only.

Harrison Rhodes
Car:
51
Owner: Rick Ware Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

SERIESRACESWINSPOLESTOP 5TOP 10
K&N Pro East 80012
Xfinity 840002
Monster Energy Cup 60000

While it has not been announced at the time of this writing, it's anticipated that Rhodes will play a significant part in Rick Ware Racing's expansion to two full-time teams. He made a handful of starts last season in one of the team's Chevrolets. However, it was to mixed results. Rhodes is still learning the ropes since he has a limited experience of racing in NASCAR's top divisions. We believe Rhodes could get the majority of starts in this race team, if not the entire season as RWR looks to further establish itself in NASCAR's top level. This driver is young and green and in need of experience, and we believe Rhodes will get that valuable seat time in 2019. He'll have virtually no fantasy racing value, but be merely a driver to watch 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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