The stage is set for some intense points battles. NASCAR has unveiled the current lineup of Rookie of the Year candidates for the Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Craftsman Truck Series.
NASCAR announced the news on January 19 with a press release. According to the information provided, Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson will be the only drivers eligible for Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series. They will continue their battle from the Xfinity Series while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and Legacy Motor Club, respectively.
The Xfinity Series currently has two drivers eligible for Rookie of the Year. Sammy Smith will be eligible while driving full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing. Parker Retzlaff will also be eligible as he drives full-time for Jordan Anderson Racing.
The Craftsman Truck Series will have five drivers setting out to capture the award. Daniel Dye and Rajah Caruth will represent GMS Racing while Jake Garcia and Bret Holmes will represent McAnally-Hilgemann Racing. Nick Sanchez will round out the list as he drives for Rev Racing.
NASCAR Answered an Important Question
One of the biggest questions heading toward the 2023 Cup Series season focused on Gragson and Gibbs. Fans wanted to know if they would be eligible for Rookie of the Year after they made numerous starts.
Gibbs was active for 15 events as he drove for 23XI Racing. Gragson took on 18 races while driving for Kaulig Racing, Beard Motorsports, and Hendrick Motorsports. However, neither planned on making this many starts.
Gibbs actually started 2022 with no planned Cup Series races. He only went into action after Kurt Busch suffered a concussion at Pocono Raceway. He closed out the season as the injury replacement for 23XI Racing.
Gragson, for comparison, had some events on his schedule. He joined Kaulig Racing for a part-time run featuring 14 races and Beard Motorsports for another four. However, the situation changed after Alex Bowman suffered a concussion at Texas Motor Speedway.
Gragson made five starts for Hendrick Motorsports while Justin Allgaier took over for one of the Beard Motorsports starts. AJ Allmendinger jumped in and closed out Gragson’s portion of the Kaulig Racing schedule.
1 Name Was Missing From the Candidate List
There were several names on the Rookie of the Year candidates list. However, one was missing from the Xfinity Series. There was no mention of Kaulig Racing driver Chandler Smith, who will take over the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro.
There is a reason for this absence. Each team has to apply for Rookie of the Year eligibility on a driver-by-driver basis. With no mention of Smith’s name, it would appear that Kaulig Racing has not yet officially applied. Once this process is complete, NASCAR will issue an update announcing whether Smith can contend for the prestigious award.
Smith should be a lock to be eligible for Rookie of the Year once the application is complete. After all, his Xfinity Series experience is limited to three starts with Sam Hunt Racing in 2022. For comparison, Sammy Smith is eligible for Rookie of the Year after making nine starts for Joe Gibbs racing in 2022.