For the first time in a long time, the Sprint Cup Series will see a bona fide Rookie of the Year candidate in 2013 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. steps into the No. 17 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing. There, he'll replace Matt Kenseth, who has run that car full-time since 2000, taking one championship and two Daytona 500 victories along the way.
Jack Roush is entrusting Stenhouse with quite a bit come next season. That's an important step forward for NASCAR, which has seen many of the same drivers at the top for years now, as it attempts to build a strong crop of new, young drivers. There's no doubt that the sport needs some fresh blood if it wants to reclaim the heights it once reached.
Luckily, there's an incredibly talented class of young drivers currently biding time in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. While they wait for their first Cup opportunities, they're putting together some pretty impressive resumes in the lower levels, frequently contending for race wins and even championships.
So when will the future of Sprint Cup arrive? In some cases, probably sooner than you think: