NASCAR couldn't have written it any better even if they scripted it themselves. The 2009 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year battle will be between two drivers that arrive with much fan attention. And will be decided between two drivers so different to each other that they only thing they have in common is they love to race.
But while it's great for the sport to have a competitive Rookie battle that will finally get attention not just the last few weeks of the season, it is also a little depressing that there will only be two drivers instead of a handful, battling it out.
Except, we may not need that.
This year's Rookie class will feature a man who pampers himself and an 18-year-old kid. It will be Scott Speed, driver No.82 Red Bull Toyota from Red Bull Racing vs. Joey Logano, driver of the No.20 Home Depot Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Scott Speed was hired by team Red Bull to replace AJ Allmendinger in the No.84 Red Bull Toyota, which becomes the No.82 this season. Speed arrives in NASCAR from the open wheel ranks where he drove for Red Bull Racing in Formula One.
In 2007, Speed came back to the United States where he signed a developmental deal with Eddie Sharp Racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. He earned his first of four wins at Kansas in 2008. He also won at Kentucky, Berlin and Nashville Super Speedway.
The biggest surprise of 2008 and biggest accomplishment for Scott Speed was on May 30th at the Dover International Speedway when he brought his Red Bull Toyota Truck to victory lane. It was only his sixth career start, "I'm having an awesome time trying to learn this sport," he said.
By late 2008 Red Bull Racing in the Sprint Cup Series announced that Speed would drive full time in 2009 replacing AJ Allmendinger. He got an early start when he was put in the car with five races left in the season.
NASCAR rules state that in order for a driver to be eligible for Rookie of the Year, you can run no more than seven races in a season before your first full season. Speed ran only five which makes him eligible for 2009.
His counterpart and rival will be 18-year-old Joey Logano who gets the keys to what was Tony Stewart's kingdom for the last 10 years.
Logano has won in everything that he's sat in since he started racing and he was the 2007 Busch East Series champion. Just days before his 18th birthday, which would make him eligible to race in the Nationwide Series, Logano ran his first ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Rockingham.
Now allowed to enter a Nationwide Series race, he began driving the No.20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. He earned two poles and became the Series youngest winner by visiting victory lane at Kentucky in only his third career start. With Logano's continued success it was an easy decision for JGR in choosing Tony Stewart's replacement for 2009.
And just like Speed, Logano was able to run some Sprint Cup races at the end of the 2008 season. But neither driver did anything spectacular.
It comes down to Rookie vs. Rookie, Toyota vs. Toyota, Red Bull Racing vs. Joe Gibbs Racing. Your 2009 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidates: The Speed Demon vs. Sliced Bread.