NASCAR: 2021 Rookie of the Year Contenders

ALT - CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 19: NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe poses for a photo during the 2021 NASCAR Production Days at FOX Sports Studios on January 19, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

With the Daytona 500 coming up soon on the racing calendar, 2021 season plans are firming up for race teams. The NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year slate is becoming more apparent. It annually is one of the favorites of NASCAR betting.

It appears the NASCAR Cup Series may have the smallest contingent in years going for the ROTY. Only two drivers appear to be locked in as of late January, meaning Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo will battle it out for the honor. It’s a trophy many stellar drivers have captured in the past (see the list below). 

Here’s a look at the contenders for ROTY: 

NASCAR Cup Series ROTY Contenders

Chase Briscoe, No. 14, Stewart-Haas Racing

THE STATS: Nine wins in 2020 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and fourth-place season finish.

THE SUMMARY: In late October, Briscoe was named the driver of the No. 14 when veteran driver Clint Bowyer announced he was going to become a television commentator full-time. Briscoe was the 2019 Xfinity Series ROTY (Rookie of the Year). His primary sponsor will be HighPoint, which is a leading customer service and technology solutions company. When odds are released, Briscoe should be the favorite in the NASCAR odds to win this award. 

QUOTABLE: “Chase has worked incredibly hard to make his mark in NASCAR and has earned this promotion to the NASCAR Cup Series. Thanks to HighPoint and Ford, we were able to make it happen,” co-owner and former star racer Tony Stewart told reporters at the announcement. “Without Ford seeing him early on and recognizing his talent and HighPoint backing his efforts in Xfinity and now Cup, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bring him into our system.”

Anthony Alfredo, No. 38, Front Row Motorsports Ford

THE STATS: Posted nine top 10s in 19 attempts last year in a partial run in the Xfinity Series. As a 19-year old in 2018, he finished fifth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, with nine top 10s in 14 races.

THE SUMMARY: Alfredo is slated to race the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford and will have several sponsors on board this year. He was announced earlier in January as the replacement for John Hunter Nemechek — who moved to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

QUOTABLE: “We met Anthony and spent time with him when last season ended,” FRM owner Bob Jenkins told reporters when Alfredo was introduced. “We wanted another young driver and someone that fit well into our team. We feel that Anthony is a great match, and we look forward to this season together.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series ROTY Contenders

THE SUMMARY: Ryan Vargas (No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevy) and Jordan Anderson (No. 31 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevy — sponsored by Bommarito Automotive Group) are the most firm in their teams’ commitment to run a full season and compete for the Xfinity ROTY honor. 

Vargas is a 20-year old who has run 12 total races spanning the past two seasons in Xfinity, with one top-ten finish. Anderson is much more of a veteran. He will turn 30 in April and has been a Truck Series mainstay for the past six seasons, running 124 races. He hasn’t run a race in Xfinity since 2017. 

Jade Buford, an open-wheel driver most of his career, may also compete for the ROTY.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ROTY Contenders

ALT - DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 08: Hailie Deegan, driver of the #4 Monster Energy Ford, prepares for the ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway on February 08, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

THE SUMMARY: Easily the most interesting candidate for this trophy is 19-year old sensation, Hailie Deegan. Last year she finished 16th in her lone truck race at Kansas and had 17 top-10 finishes in 20 races in the ARCA Menards Series. She also has won races in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and posted 23 top 10-finishes in 28 total races between the ages of 16 and 17. Keep an eye out for Deegan. She will drive the No. 1 truck for David Gilliland Racing.

Her competition likely will consist of Kris Wright in the No. 02 truck, Carson Hocevar in the No. 42, Chase Purdy in the No. 23, and Chandler Smith in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18. Smith’s resume is most impressive, as he won nine races over three seasons in ARCA, with 22 top fives.

Past NASCAR Cup ROTY Winners

 NOTE(*) – Denotes driver went on to win a season championship at least once.

YEARWINNERS LAST 25 YRS
2020Cole Custer
2019Daniel Hemric
2018William Byron
2017Erik Jones
2016Chase Elliott (*)
2015Brett Moffitt
2014Kyle Larson
2013Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2012Stephen Leicht
2011Andy Lally
2010Kevin Conway
2009Joey Logano (*)
2008Regan Smith
2007Juan Pablo Montoya
2006Denny Hamlin
2005Kyle Busch (*)
2004Kasey Kahne
2003Jamie McMurray
2002Ryan Newman
2001Kevin Harvick (*)
2000Matt Kenseth (*)
1999Tony Stewart (*)
1998Kenny Irwin Jr.
1997Mike Skinner
1996Johnny Benson Jr.
OTHER NOTABLES
1993Jeff Gordon (*)
1987Davey Allison
1986Alan Kulwicki (*)
1985Ken Schrader
1984Rusty Wallace (*)
1983Sterling Marlin
1982Geoff Bodine
1979Dale Earnhardt (*)
1967Donnie Allison
1960David Pearson (*)
1959Richard Petty (*)

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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered college football for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter. 

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