If you listen to gear head prognosticators, this year’s rookie of the year contest won’t even be close. Daniel Suarez enters as the overwhelming favorite — and for good reason.
The rookie on Joe Gibbs Racing team is poised to repeat his early career successes from last year, when he became the first foreign-born racer to win a NASCAR national series (Xfinity Series). But Erik Jones and Ty Dillon also look to claim some ROY ballots.
Here is a breakdown of NASCAR’s top three rookies, which make up a solid class of young, bright talent:
Behind the wheel of the No. 19 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, Suarez competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In his two full years in the XFINITY Series, Suarez built a reputation as a consistent performer with sparks of pure racing excellence.
Heading into this season with one of the sport’s best pit crews, Suarez looks to build upon his past success to lead all rookies this year. He previously drove in the NASCAR Toyota Series in Mexico for Telcel Racing, and the K&N Pro Series East for Rev Racing as a member of the Drive for Diversity program.
Jones looks to make it three straight years in NASCAR’s top three series winning ROY honors. The 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion currently competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 77 Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing.
Jones ran all three national series in November 2016 in Texas and Phoenix. In the Sprint Series, he finished 12th after blowing a tire late at Texas Motor Speedway. He later drove to a 19th place finish at Phoenix.
Dillon replaces veteran Casey Mears in the GEICO Chevrolet for 2017 as part of Germain Racing, and will experience his first full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Dillon raced three years in the XFINITY Series under his grandfather Richard Childress at Richard Childress Racing and struggled to find sponsorship to transition into the Cup series last year. Now with a secure spot on the circuit, he looks to make a name for himself as an emerging rookie.