2013 will be the first true battle for Rookie of the Year in a long time. With two high profile drivers moving from the Nationwide Series to the Sprint Cup Series full time, the battle for Rookie of the Year status might be just as exciting as the battle for the Championship trophy.
Two-time Nationwide Series Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr is one of the two drivers battling it out for the coveted Rookie of the Year honor. Stenhouse, driving for Roush Fenway Racing, will be in the number 17 Ford, taking over the ride from Matt Kenseth. Stenhouse only ran six Sprint Cup events in 2012 with his best finish being 12th at Dover International Speedway.
The 25 year old from Olive Branch, MS spent the last 13 weeks on the top of the Nationwide Series leaderboard in 2012 accumulating 6 wins, 19 top-five and 25 top-ten finishes. Stenhouse is definitely not afraid to get in there and race with the big boys. Look for him to be a contender at many of the tracks on the schedule. Stenhouse is a talented driver and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him win in his rookie season.
The other rookie this year is none other than Danica Patrick. After seven full seasons in the IndyCar Series and two partial schedules in NASCAR, Patrick decided to switch to a full NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule in 2012. With a best finish of 8th last season, her results were less than expected. Granted, in the opening race, where she sat on pole, her teammate wrecked her. Also, in Montreal, after leading 20 laps, she hit a shoe that had been thrown onto the track.
30 year old Patrick may be one of the most famous faces in racing, but she definitely has talent. Driving the number 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing this season, Patrick ran 10 Sprint Cup races in 2012 with her best finish being 17th in Phoenix. With Tony Gibson and his crew by her side as they enter 2013, look for Patrick to come out of the gate strong, especially on fast tracks and road courses. I don’t see her winning races this season, but I do see her consistently finishing in the Top-20 and maybe even a Top-10 or two. Patrick may be the lone female on the track, but she races like one of the boys.
Between Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Danica Patrick, this Rookie of the Year battle is going to be fun to watch. Stenhouse and Patrick are good friends away from the track which makes this battle just a little more interesting. So will the two-time Nationwide Series Champion come out on top once again or will the GoDaddy Girl come in and take the win? We will just have to wait and see.