NASCAR Draft Kit: 2021 Top Rookies

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2021 Top Rookies

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

The 2021 rookie class will be a lot smaller than last season's group.  The level of talent is no less impressive 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 NASCAR 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 NASCAR Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport.  The transition from the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers.  

However, as last season showed, drivers like Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek 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 NASCAR Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Rookie Drivers

Chase Briscoe
Car: No. 14
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series22661520
K&N Pro Series West30001
Truck Series25251116
Xfinity Series831123052

He may not have won the Xfinity Series championship this past season, but Briscoe posted arguably

The 2021 rookie class will be a lot smaller than last season's group.  The level of talent is no less impressive 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 NASCAR 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 NASCAR Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport.  The transition from the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers.  

However, as last season showed, drivers like Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek 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 NASCAR Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Rookie Drivers

Chase Briscoe
Car: No. 14
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series22661520
K&N Pro Series West30001
Truck Series25251116
Xfinity Series831123052

He may not have won the Xfinity Series championship this past season, but Briscoe posted arguably one of the best campaigns in this division of NASCAR in the last decade.  Briscoe peddled the No. 98 Ford to 9 victories, 16 Top-5 and 22 Top-10 finishes and left little doubt to his abilities after collecting just two-combined victories the two prior seasons.  The 26-year-old Indiana native has quite a colorful racing background.  Not only does he compete in the World of Outlaws on dirt but he also boasts the 2016 ARCA Series championship among his racing credentials.  With what is now approaching 150-career NASCAR starts, the young driver is ready to make the full-time jump to the Cup Series.  Stewart Haas Racing has tabbed Briscoe to replace the retiring Clint Bowyer in the team's No. 14 Ford Mustang.  He won't face much, if any competition for Rookie of the Year in this thin rookie field of 2021.  However, it by no means will belittle his coming accomplishments.  We expect Briscoe to race competitively and post somewhere in the range of 7-to-10 Top-10 finishes in his first season of Cup Series action.

Anthony Alfredo
Car: No. 38
Team: Front Row Motorsports
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series30012
K&N Pro Series East141149
Truck Series130002
Xfinity Series190029

As of late December rumors began to emerge about Alfredo being in contract talks with Front Row Motorsports.  At the time of this writing, those rumors have yet to be confirmed.  However, it looks very likely that the 21-year-old will be taking over the open seat of the Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford.  Unlike the other rookies in this class, Alfredo's ascent to the top division of NASCAR has been quick and a rocket-like trajectory.  With just 49-combined starts of experience in the lower divisions of the sport, he's pretty green compared to the rest.  Regardless, the young driver is going to get a shot at a full-time Cup Series ride with some potential.  John Hunter Nemechek was able to pilot this same team to three Top-10 finishes and a respectable 27th-place points finish in 2020.  Alfredo will be challenged to hit those same marks.  Crew chief Seth Barbour returns to call the shots for the No. 38 team and will look to quickly build chemistry with Alfredo.  He won't be able to seriously challenge Chase Briscoe for Rookie of the Year honors, but Alfredo will likely be racing against the marks Nemechek posted last season. 

Austin Cindric
Car: No. TBD
Team: Team Penske
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series81145
K&N Pro Series East22222
Truck Series2911816
Xfinity Series100874063

Cindric had hoped to ascend into the No. 21 Ford of Wood Brothers Racing this season, an affiliated team with Penske Racing.  However, Matt DiBenedetto lobbied hard and received one more season in that race team.  Instead, Cindric will get to just dip his feet in the Cup Series pool in 2021.  The young driver will make a limited number of starts in a car either affiliated with Penske or a fourth Penske team.  Cindric battled hard with Chase Briscoe last season in the Xfinity Series and walked away with the 2020 championship in that division of NASCAR.  His six victories, 19 Top-5 and 26 Top-10 finishes were an awesome accomplishment in a very competitive racing series.  Cindric is just 22-years-old and lacks the starts that Briscoe has under his belt.  A part-time schedule in 2021 is likely a very good thing for this youngster's racing development.  Cindric has won at every level he's raced, and he possesses incredible road racing skills as demonstrated by his two road course victories of this past season. 

Justin Haley
Car: No. 16
Team: Kaulig Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series1631712
K&N Pro Series West30111
K&N Pro Series East31221925
Truck Series51311232
Xfinity Series69301441
Cup Series51011

Haley is quickly becoming one of the fastest-rising youngsters in the Xfinity Series.  He's fresh off a three-win campaign and third-place finish in the driver standings of 2020.  Haley's starts have piled up and that experience is beginning to bear fruit.  He drives for Kaulig Racing and the big news is that this successful Xfinity Series team would like to expand into the Cup Series starting in 2021.  That means some part-time racing for the talented Haley.  At the time of this writing it looks likely that they'll field the No. 16 Chevrolet for the young driver in the road course and superspeedway events of the upcoming schedule.  That could mean as many as 9-to-10 starts for the youngster. Haley has great skill and is not unfamiliar with Cup cars (five starts and one very big victory) so he could be quite impressive in these events.  The 21-year-old prospect is a driver to watch very closely this season.

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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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