Spring Semester Rookie Progress Reports: Part One—Camping World Trucks

Mason DunnCorrespondent IJune 1, 2009

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 11:  Tayler Malsam, driver of the One Eighty Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2009 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Well, it's June and the race season is about 1/3 of the way through for NASCAR's top three series.

Let's take a minute to look at each rookie and grade his performance for the 2009 season and his prospects for the future.

With each class I'll start at the top of the current rookie standings and work my way down, including the rookies that have run in at least half of the scheduled events.

Camping World Truck Series

1. Tayler Malsam (71) Malsam has been a fairly consistent driver seven races into the 2009 CWTS schedule with an average finish of 13th and a reasonable worst finish of 24th. Malsam has been able to avoid the DNF bug.

If Malsam can improve his qualifying efforts and continue to stay on the lead lap in every race he will only continue to climb up the overall points standings and be a serious threat for the rookie of the year award.

I can only give Malsam a B+ for his season due to a lack of top five finishes. He will be a great prospect in the future but he needs a few more years in the truck series before any team seriously considers him for a Nationwide or Sprint Cup ride.

Grade: B+

Stats: Starts-7, Top Fives-0, Top 10s-2, Top 20s-6, Avg. Start-15.8, Avg. Finish-13.1, Best-8th, Worst-24th, 99.7 percent laps completed, 12th in points (869)

2. Johnny Sauter(71) Sauter has had a good season with the exception of the season-opening race at Daytona where he wreck before halfway point. Sauter does have a top-five finish already this season.

While currently tied with Malsam under the current rookie point standings, he finds himself 16th in points with 807. His 249-point deficit to current points leader Ron Hornaday may seem unrecoverable but he does have 18 races left this season and with a little luck he could be right back in contention.

Sauter may be a rookie in the truck series but he has been driving for several seasons in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series. At 31, the prospects of him returning to the Cup series looks bleak but he could become a Hornaday-like fixture in the truck series.

Grade: B

Stats: Starts-7, Top Fives-1, Top 10s-2, Top 20s-5, Avg. Start-13, Avg. Finish-16.5, Best-5th, Worst-27th, 93.9 percent laps completed, 16th in points (807)

3. James Buescher(65) Buescher started the 2009 season with a bang by winning the ARCA season opener at Daytona and but he finished 25th in the truck series opener the following week.

Buescher has been steadily improving his truck performance in with a very impressive finish when he fought door-to-door with teammate Rick Crawford to the finish line at Charlotte. James, take it from me, keep fighting like that and you'll have a bright future; Crawford was only mad cause you almost made him look bad.

Only 19, if Buescher continues improving with Circle Bar Racing and aligns himself with a strong Cup team, he will definitely be a contender to win a Rookie of the Year award in the Cup series and possibly win some races.

Grade: C+

Stats: Starts-7, Top Fives-0, Top 10s-0, Top 20s-5, Avg. Start-15.1, Avg. Finish-15.8, Best-11th, Worst-25th, 91.1 percent laps completed, 15th in points (808)

4. J.R. Fitzpatrick(52) Fitzpatrick started his season with the group over at TRG Motorsports but after sponsorship dollars weren't coming through, for reasons unbeknown to me, he was replaced by David Gilliland in hopes Gilliland would bring in sponsors.

Luckily for Fitzpatrick, KHI saw the talent in him that his fans see and have brought him over. Unfortunately, like most KHI development drivers he will be sharing the ride with a few other drivers including fellow rookie Ricky Carmichael.

Should KHI see fit to give Fitzpatrick 12 more starts to bring him to 17, the amount used in the final rookie point standings, look for him to be a contender for Rookie of the Year. If KHI invests in this guy with a good amount of seat time in the truck and Nationwide series he will become a great Cup prospect in a few years.

Grade: B

Stats: Starts-5, Top Fives-1, Top 10s-1, Top 20s-2, Avg. Start-17.3, Avg. Finish-16, Best-4th, Worst-22nd, 98.9 percent laps completed, 21st in points (589)

5. Ricky Carmichael(45) Carmichael, another member of KHI's development program, has shown that although luck has not been on his side this season he's definitely improving and adjusting well in his transition from two wheels to four and from dirt to asphalt.

Unfortunately, Carmichael has not been in a truck since late April which will definitely hurt his development, but we will get to see him back behind the wheel of his No. 4 Monster Energy Chevy this weekend at Texas.

The smart thing for KHI to do at this point would be to start another truck team even if just part-time to get Carmichael and Fitzpatrick more seat time. If they do this, look for Carmichael to be ready to become either a fixture in the truck series or a member of KHI's Nationwide driver fleet.

Grade: C-

Stats: Starts-5, Top Fives-0, Top 10s-1, Top 20s-1, Avg. Start-11.1, Avg. Finish-21, Best-8th, Worst-29th, 82.8 percent laps completed, 23rd in points (503)

6. Brent Raymer(30) Raymer, currently driving for his own team, has done a decent job for a rookie on one of the lower-end budgets in the truck series. While he has not been able to finish in the top 20, he has kept the team going with only one DNFs was due to an accident.

If Raymer can pull in some sponsorship dollars to help fund his operation and garner more attention from higher level teams he has the potential to compete for top 15s, if not top 10s, by the end of this season or next year.

While this may sound crazy due to his age, it's possible the 23-year-old driver will get a legitimate shot at a Sprint Cup ride. He could become a long-term competitor in either the truck or Nationwide series with the right team behind him.

Grade: D

Stats: Starts-6, Top Fives-0, Top 10s-0, Top 20s-0, Avg. Start-27.5, Avg. Finish-29.5, Best-22nd, Worst-35th, 43.9 percent laps completed, 27th in points (452)

This year's class of rookies in the Camping World Truck Series definitely has potential in the Sprint Cup series and as potential fixtures in the truck and Nationwide series.

Thanks for reading, Part Two-Nationwide Series will come tomorrow with Part Three-Sprint Cup series coming either sometime tomorrow or Wednesday during my downtime before I head to Eldora for the Prelude to the Dream.