The NASCAR season is complete and three young drivers have added trophies to their respective collections. Chase Briscoe (Cup Series), Ty Gibbs (Xfinity Series), and Chandler Smith (Truck Series) have all won Rookie of the Year.
Gibbs locked up the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award after the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on November 6. He didn’t start all 33 races, but he made the most of his limited opportunities. The part-time driver won four of the 18 races that he started and posted a total of 10 top-10 finishes and nine top-fives. He finished ahead of Josh Berry, Ryan Vargas, Jordan Anderson, and Sam Mayer.
Along with winning the Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year, Gibbs also turned in a wildly successful season in the ARCA Menards Series. He won 10 of the 20 races, posted a total of 19 top-five finishes, and led a series-best 2,617 laps. All Gibbs had to do to clinch his title was take the green flag at Kansas Speedway on October 23.
Smith Locked Up His Award in an Impressive Fashion
While Gibbs secured his Rookie of the Year award with several decisive wins, Smith had to use all 22 races to secure his trophy. He achieved this goal with a wild win in the championship race on Friday, November 5.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver battled all season long with Niece Motorsports driver Carson Hocevar for the Rookie of the Year honors. Both men made it to the playoffs, so they continued fighting for points in both the Round of 10 and the Round of Eight.
Smith built up an advantage by winning his first career race — the September 16 trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. Though he then had poor finishes at the start of the Round of Eight — 35th at Las Vegas and 19th at Talladega — to give Hocevar another opportunity.
While neither Hocevar nor Smith secured a spot in the championship four, they continued battling for the prestigious award. The driver of the No. 18 ultimately capped off his season with an exciting win at Phoenix Raceway. He ended the year with two wins and the Rookie of the Year award while creating big expectations for the 2022 season.
Briscoe Quietly Won Rookie of the Year
Unlike Gibbs and Smith, Briscoe had a fairly quiet rookie season. He joined Stewart-Haas Racing for the Cup Series season after posting nine wins in the Xfinity Series, but he did not reach Victory Lane during his first season in the No. 14 Ford Mustang. Instead, he won his award by performing more consistently than fellow rookie Anthony Alfredo.
Briscoe dealt with some early struggles, as did his teammates, but he made positive strides during his rookie season. He headed to Phoenix Raceway with three top-10 finishes and an average finish of 19.2. For comparison, Alfredo posted one top-10 at Talladega Superspeedway and an average finish of 27.3, albeit in worse equipment.
Briscoe’s season did not end how he hoped. Debris on the track during the season finale on November 7 cut his left rear tire and sent him into the wall, destroying the rear of the No. 14 Ford. Briscoe was running 12th at the time of the incident, but he finished 35th. This dropped his average finish for the season to 19.6. Though he still finished well ahead of Alfredo in the standings and secured Rookie of the Year.