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2011 NASCAR Rookies: Sprint Cup Rookie Profiles

Mark Taylor

Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A four-time FSWA award winner, Taylor was named the 2016 Racing Writer of the Year. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.

The 2011 rookie class will be virtually nonexistent. In fact, this year's field has, as of now, no eligible candidates for Rookie of the Year. This is due in part to the poor economy and shrinking corporate sponsorship in NASCAR. Still, we have some talented, young drivers who 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. Brad Keselowski's performance in 2010 is a good example of even how a future star of the Sprint Cup Series takes some time to adjust to the top division of the sport. Let's look at some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will likely make some 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 in the future.

1. Trevor Bayne
Roush Fenway Racing

RacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
K&N Pro Series East151269
Nationwide Series5004613
Sprint Cup10000

Team owner Jack Roush wasted no time snatching this talented youngster away from Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of 2010. Bayne was a development driver in MWR's Nationwide Series program and appears to be pegged for future stardom in the Sprint Cup Series. Bayne has been racing and winning championships in everything on wheel since the age of 5, so he's a natural when it comes to wheeling a stock car around an oval. Bayne made his Sprint Cup Series debut for Wood Brothers Racing at the end of 2010. In his single start in the No. 21 Ford he qualified 28th and finished a respectable 17th at Texas Motor Speedway. While Roush has no room for Bayne in the Sprint Cup Series currently, we wouldn't rule out some part-time starts for the prodigy with other small race teams. We feel that Jack Roush would encourage this since it only fosters Bayne's development and feel for the Sprint Cup Series car. Keep an eye on this talented youngster, as he could likely be Rookie of the Year contender in future seasons.

2. Justin Allgaier

RacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series86823145
Camping World Truck Series80000
Nationwide Series74131132

The 2004 ARCA Series championship is one of many trophies that crowds Allgaier's trophy case. The 24-year-old began his racing career at the age of 5 in quarter midgets and hasn't looked back since. Allgaier spent most of the last couple seasons racing in the Nationwide Series for car owner Roger Penske. With sixth- and fourth-place finishes in the standings each of the last two seasons, as well as the 2009 Rookie of the Year award, he has caught the eye of many in the NASCAR garage area. With the ailing economy, Allgaier lost his ride with Penske at the end of this last season. Turner Motorsports quickly moved to put him in the team's No. 31 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series for 2011. This move could be a stepping stone to continue Allgaier's stock car racing development. The talent is obvious, so as soon as a door swings open in the Sprint Cup Series you can bet Allgaier's opportunity will come soon enough.

3. Austin Dillon
Richard Childress Racing

RacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series40023
K&N Pro Series East1511712
K&N Pro Series West10000
Camping World Truck Series2727716
Nationwide Series70011

Blood lines run long and true in NASCAR like many sports. A good illustration of that is youngster Dillon. Son to former NASCAR driver Mike Dillon and grandson to car owner and former driver Richard Childress, Dillon is practically NASCAR royalty. Unlike some other “next generation” drivers, he's not just a name but he has the gift as well. Dillon just completed his first full season in the Camping World Truck Series and ran away with the Rookie of the Year award as well as two victories and a surprising fifth-place finish in the final driver standings. Dillon is just a tender 20-years-old but it's clear that he's on the fast track to NASCAR stardom. While Dillon will continue to focus on truck series hardware in 2011, we wouldn't be surprised to see his name appear on some Sprint Cup Series entry lists towards the end of the season. Dillon's got the ability, now he only needs seat time to become a hot commodity in NASCAR's upper division.

4. Landon Cassill

RacesWinsPolesTop 5Top 10
ARCA Series40001
K&N Pro Series East20011
Camping World Truck Series80013
Nationwide Series320106
Sprint Cup Series160000

The 2008 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year has reached a crossroads in his NASCAR career. Cassill may not have the pedigree that some of the other drivers in this list have, but he has some valuable seat time in the Sprint Cup Series cars. At the time of this writing he's still looking for a racing opportunity in 2011, but he should land his feet somewhere by the time late January rolls around. Cassill raced for three different Sprint Cup Series stables in 2010, but they were limited opportunities for experience since all three teams were of the start-and-park variety. Clearly Cassill has talent. He showed it in 2008 while racing for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series as a development driver for Hendrick Motorsports. He piloted the team's Chevrolet to five Top 10's in a very limited racing schedule and captured ROTY honors. Cassill could get some more action in NASCAR's top division in 2011, but it wouldn't likely be for a very well-equipped team.