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New Crop of Rookies Set to Replace Aging Drivers

December 22nd, 2013 at 11:27 PM
By Clayton Caldwell

NASCAR is a sport that represents age very well. It is very conceivable that a driver can run into their late 40's even their early 50's and still do an admiral job and show some strength in the Sprint Cup Series. It's one of the great things about NASCAR. 

Look at a guy like Mark Martin. Martin ran his first race in 1981 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Martin was a 22 year old kid at the time and while his career had its struggles early on he would catch on with car owner Jack Roush prior to the 1988 season and Martin would become a superstar in NASCAR, becoming one of the most consistent and nicest drivers in the sports history. Martin's career would span all the way through the 2013 season. While 2013 did not turn out the way Martin wanted he was still very solid for someone racing NASCAR's top series at the age of 54. 

Age 54. Tell me another sport in the world where a player at the age of 54 could do just as good of a job as someone who is in their early to mid 20's. Martin did that in 2013. While many fans are going to miss Martin many are excited about the crop of young drivers that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will showcase in 2014. While there may be as many as six to seven rookie drivers in the Sprint Cup Series in 2014, that also means that there are six to seven veteran drivers who find themselves on the outside looking in for the 2014 season. 

'Dave Blaney' photo (c) 2011, Parker Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/One of those drivers is Hartford, Ohio's Dave Blaney. Blaney has made 466 career Sprint Cup Series starts and never tasted victory lane. Blaney's closet chance at victory came in the 2001 season when Blaney was running for Bill Davis Racing. Blaney had the lead with just over 100 laps to go until a tire fell off of his #93 Amoco Dodge and the accident ruined Blaney's chance at a victory. While his career continued with several decent teams along the way Blaney never had the big chance most drivers get in their careers. He also started his Sprint Cup career pretty late in the going for a racecar driver. Blaney's rookie season was in the year 2000 when he was 37 years old. Now Blaney is out of a ride after helping Tommy Baldwin Racing get their feet set as a two car operation in the Sprint Cup Series the past two seasons. 

Blaney is being replaced at TBR by youngster Michael Annett. Annett has driven the last five seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driving for Germain Racing, Rusty Wallace Racing, and Richard Petty Motorsports. The 27 year old driver will get his first crack at the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 and will look to be a mainstay in the Sprint Cup Series. 

Also out of a full-time ride is veteran Jeff Burton. Burton has made 691 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series and has 21 wins to his credit. Burton will be 47 years old on June 29, 2014 and has signed a part time contract to run for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014. Burton will retire following the 2014 season and move to the broadcast booth with NBC Sports Network when the network takes over NASCAR coverage in 2015. 

Burton was running for Richard Childress Racing in 2013 and the two parted ways to help make room for rookie driver Austin Dillon in 2014. Dillon is already a two time NASCAR champion in his career, winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011 and the NASCAR Nationwide Series title in 2013. Dillon will drive the #3 for the organization in 2014, bringing back one of the most iconic numbers in the sports history. 

Fellow Nationwide Series competitor Justin Allgaier appears to be headed to the Sprint Cup Series as well. Allgaier had run the previous five seasons in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and has three victories to his credit. Allgaier is rumored to be headed to the #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet after running four races for the team in 2013. Joining Allgaier at Phoenix Racing is veteran Bobby Labonte who will run a part time schedule with the team. Labonte is the 2000 Series champion and will be 50 years old come May 2014. Labonte was bumped from his full time ride at JTG/Daugherty Racing by AJ Allmendinger. 

Swan Racing will also have two rookie drivers driving for them in 2014. One is Parker Kligerman. Kligerman, the 22 year old Westport, Connecticut native, drove the entire 2013 season for Kyle Busch Motorsports and finished ninth in the standings. Kligerman ran two races for the team in 2013. Cole Whitt will also run for Swan Racing in a second entry. Whitt is a 22 year old driver from Alpine, California and he has made 14 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Swan Racing had 36 year old veteran driver David Stremme run 25 races for them in 2013. Stremme has made 190 career starts and appears to be on the outside looking for a ride in 2014. 

'David Stremme' photo (c) 2012, Mike Kalasnik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

One of the most exciting young drivers of the last few seasons is Kyle Larson. Larson has an impressive resume running in everything from stock cars to sprint cars, to USAC midgets and more. Larson ran the 2013 season for Turner Scott Motorsports and after turning some heads in the Nationwide series Larson will move to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 driving the #42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing replacing Juan Pablo Montoya who will move back to IndyCar. Montoya has spent the last seven seasons running in NASCAR and will make the move back to open wheels after limited success in stock cars. Larson is considered a favorite by many to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title. 

Also rumored to come to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 is Alex Bowman. Bowman spent the 2013 season running for RAB Racing. Bowman ran pretty well in his first full season in the Nationwide Series and now has been rumored to move to BK Racing in the Sprint Cup Series, replacing either David Reutimann or Travis Kvapil in the team's Toyotas. 

There is no doubt that the new crop of drivers have arrived in the Sprint Cup Series. Some veterans are seeing their careers dwindle down. It's an interesting time in the Sprint Cup Series and we shall see how some of the Rookies will do in 2014 and see if this chop will be able to carry the flag in the Sprint Cup Series for a long time to come. 

Tags: Bobby Labonte, Cole Whitt, Dave Blaney, David Stremme, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Justin Allgaier, Kyle Larson, Mark Martin, Michael Annett, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Parker Kligerman

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