Tha Sports Junkies 101

2017 Rockstar Rookies Defy Expectations

Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez Zach Catanzareti Photo via Flickr


Recent years in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have had many rookie contenders. 2014 saw the rise of Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. Last year had Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. In 2017, the 2 top rookie drivers are Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez.

2 of the Championship 4 contenders in the Xfinity Series last year, Jones and Suarez both came into this season under entirely different circumstances. Jones, who currently drives the Furniture Row Racing 77 car, had his 2017 plans months in advance. Suarez took over driving duties of the Joe Gibbs Racing 19 car after Carl Edwards announced his retirement in January. Both drivers competed in the Xfinity Series last year for Joe Gibbs Racing. Suarez won the Xfinity Series championship last year, with 3 wins and 27 top 10s. Jones won the Camping World Truck Series championship in 2015.

As of now, both drivers are just outside of the Playoff picture. They sit 19th and 20th in points (Jones just 19 points ahead). In addition, both young stars are in a tight battle for Rookie of the Year honors, with Suarez holding a slim advantage.

As of this past weekend’s Pure Michigan 400, Jones has had 8 top 10s in 23 starts this year. Last week he tied his career best finish of 3rd. Suarez, meanwhile, has equaled Jones in top 10s, and won a Stage at Watkins Glen 2 weeks ago. Both drivers have led laps this year, Erik leading 50 and 31 for Daniel.

While the Playoff chances for both of these drivers appear to be must-win scenarios, expect them to remain solid contenders throughout the year. With Erik moving to the JGR 20 car next year, both of them will be teammates once again. 3 drivers have won their first career Cup race this season, expect the next first-time winner to be one of these two young stars.