When the American economy collapsed a few years ago, NASCAR was the hardest hit of all professional sports.
The sponsors that were willing to stick around favored established drivers over development programs with young drivers. Combine that with a class of Busch Series busts in the mid-2000s, and the market for a good ride was bust for most young drivers.
NASCAR finally acted at the start of last season, limiting drivers' participation in more than one of its three national touring series. Nationwide Series teams began scheduling new talent instead of Sprint Cup drivers for the entire season.
And when Trevor Bayne won last year's Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon took championships in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, it signaled the return of a youth movement in NASCAR in full force.
You may have heard of some of these drivers. In fact, you may have heard of most of them. But none of them have yet reached their potential in the sport, and all are poised to make even more of a name for themselves in 2012.
Keep an eye on these kids once Speedweeks roll around: