Leave it to hockey to inspire a NASCAR column.
During an other wise boring game between Winnipeg and Columbus, who would show up at Nationwide Arena other than Nationwide Series Champion Austin Dillon. When coupled with this breakdown of 2014 Sprint Cup rookie drivers, let’s do a quick breakdown, Bert Convy style:
Win: Kyle Larson
Larson comes in with virtually no expectations, an owner who expects growing pains and a supportive sponsor. Seeing how this is Larson’s third full season of stock car racing, he will need all the leash he can get. Staying on the track will be a win.
Lose: Every other rookie not named Kyle Larson or Austin Dillon
The Sporting News points out just two drivers made the Chase their rookie year. Carl Edwards had Jack Roush financing behind him. Denny Hamlin had Joe Gibbs. Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and Parker Klingerman don’t have that support. If Kurt Busch barely made the Chase with a lower tier of funding, it looks like a tough road ahead for the Class of 2014.
Draw: Austin Dillon
The good news is Dillon has all the support in the world and two NASCAR series titles to his brief resume. If anyone had the pedigree to succeed quickly, it’s Dillon.
The bad news is everyone sees what Dillon could be and knows he will drive in the most famous number in racing. Rookies do best when they burst onto a scene. Everyone already seems to be waiting for Dillon to join the party.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won two Nationwide Series titles in a row and finished 19th last year. If Dillon exceeds that and doesn’t make the Chase, I would call it a successful season. Will NASCAR fans think the same way?
Being a rookie is the thrill of a lifetime, an achievement a lifetime in the making. It’s also a really hard ride, as Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and others are about to discover.