It’s no secret that the 2016 rookie class was one of the most talked about subjects prior to the start of the season. With hype comes expectation and many times with expectation comes failure to deliver. However, that hasn’t been the case so far for two rookies this season.
We all knew that Chase Elliott would have speed, after all, he’s racing for one of the top teams in NASCAR, but would that speed translate into good finishes? The answer is an astounding yes.
In fact, he’s already posted six top 20 finishes, two of those being top fives. If it hadn’t been for a late rate race caution at California, he might have even captured his first checkered flag. From what it seems, Elliott isn’t phased by the pressure of taking over such an iconic ride. Expect to see the 24 back in victory lane this season.
Then, there’s Ryan Blaney. Blaney and the Wood Brother’s both went full time in the Sprint Cup Series this season. Blaney has posted a respectable two top 10 finishes in eight races, his best coming at Las Vegas placing sixth. Each race Blaney has shown that he has the speed and poise to contend not only for rookie of the year but for wins at NASCAR’s top level.
The other rookies in the field haven’t been posting the impressive numbers, nor have they shown they have what it takes to contend each week with Elliott or Blaney. Brian Scott and Chris Buescher have each posted only one top 20 finish apiece while Jeffrey Earnhardt’s best finish is only 32nd, matching his car number.
Bottom line, this rookie battle is clearly only between two guys, Elliott and Blaney. Much like the rookie battles between Newman and Johnson, Kenseth and Junior, Harvick and Kurt Busch, Gordon and Labonte; it’s going to be an entertaining battle to the end. Don’t be surprised to see both of these drivers in The Chase this season.