NASCAR Sprint Cup: Rookie of the Year Award Is Dead
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Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Ryan Newman are among current drivers who can call themselves NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Of those three, two are multiple-time Sprint Cup champions and Daytona 500 winners.
This year, the Rookie of the Year award will go to a driver who has been largely non-competitive, supported by a male enhancement product.
Kevin Conway, currently driving the No.7 ExtenZe Toyota for Robby Gordon Motorsports, has no top-10 finishes this season; in fact, his best finish was 14th at a crash-plagued Daytona race in July.
The 32-year-old started the season driving a Ford for Front Row Motorsports, switching numbers on an almost weekly basis to avoid missing races. Even so, he has missed three races this season and still occasionally gives up his seat to Gordon if prior sponsorship was arranged.
Conway will receive the award in November on the basis that he is the only rookie to attempt a full schedule this season.
It has been noted time and time again by other writers in print and online that a lack of young drivers is slowly beginning to age both the Sprint Cup Series and its fans.
Considered "Young Guns" by Gillette, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Kasey Kahne are all 30 years of age or older.
Four-time champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are 35 and 39 years of age, respectively. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will turn 36 years old next week.
The youth movement is NASCAR is also dead. After the Busch brothers, the only young driver of note to develop over the past few years is 20-year-old Joey Logano.
The Rookie of the Year pool has decreased significantly in the past ten years alone.
In 2000, Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth headed a six-driver class which also included road racer Scott Pruett. The following year, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch led a five-driver class.
In 2002, Newman and Johnson, along with two others, formed arguably the best rookie class in NASCAR history, with Johnson leading the Sprint Cup standings late in the season.
Last season, Logano and Scott Speed were the only two drivers to vie for Rookie of the Year.
Even scarier is the fact that there are no drivers slated to contend for Rookie status next season. The only Nationwide Series driver even rumored to be moving to the Cup side was Justin Allgaier, but the fact that he was given permission from Penske Racing to talk to other teams regarding a ride is an ominous sign.
For how long, exactly, can NASCAR allow this to happen?
Have any comments on the lack of rookies? Comment in the section below.
Ryan Papaserge is a junior Journalism/Mass Communication student at St. Bonaventure University and a writing intern at Bleacher Report.
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