Rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney proving youth still rising in NASCAR

Mar 13, 2016; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott during the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 13, 2016; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Chase Elliott during the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last several years, rookies have not exactly made a splash in NASCAR. Several young drivers have come in with a wealth of hype, but actually making a dent in the Chase or even the regular season points standings has been a rarity.

Outside of Joey Logano, who turns 26 in May, no driver at 25 years old or younger has won a Sprint Cup race since Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 as a part-time driver for Wood Brothers Racing. No rookie driver since 2010 has won a race or made the Chase in their entire career.

Kyle Larson has shown flashes, but has never reached Victory Lane. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon are currently in the Chase, but have to sustain their early success over the next 21 races.

Suffice to say, NASCAR could use a youth injection to stay relevant. Luckily, both Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney are proving help is on the way.

Image courtesy of @MQL_Racing.

Image courtesy of @MQL_Racing.

No, Elliott and Blaney haven’t won races yet this season and will likely need to do so to make the Chase. However, they have been far more competitive early in their first season than previous drivers with a combined five top-10 finishes.

Elliott has less experience at the Sprint Cup level, with Martinsville serving as his first race last year with Hendrick Motorsports. He showed growth throughout 2015, but has already amassed more success in five races with the No. 24 team than he did in five part-time races he previous year. Heading to tracks like Texas and Richmond where he won at the Xfinity level, expect Elliott to already fight for his first victory.

Meanwhile, Blaney has also shown vast improvement as a regular driver. After constantly battling just to make races in 2015, the Wood Brothers have made every race despite not having a charter in 2016. The No. 21 car hasn’t won since Bayne’s aforementioned triumph at Daytona in 2011, but Blaney has the team in position to compete for its first ever Chase bid.

Sure, it’s hard to tell right now where these drivers will be in the next five years, but it’s safe to say both will win at the Sprint Cup level during that span. After several years of mediocrity since 2009 when Brad Keselowski and Logano — now teammates with Team Penske — battled it out for Rookie of the Year, this year is already shaping up to be an all-timer.

Similar to that 2009 battle, NASCAR fans can also expect greatness out of both Blaney and Elliott in the future. NASCAR’s youth movement is still very much in effect.

 

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