Tha Sports Junkies 101

2017 NASCAR MENCS And NXS Rookie Preview


2016 brought us a stacked Rookie of the Year class in both NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series. This upcoming season will be no different with several big and upcoming names moving on up through the ranks. Here’s a preview of those drivers and predicted expectations for the new year.


Erik Jones: The leading candidate announced so far has excelled and even exceeded expectations everywhere he’s gone. After winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title in 2016, Erik moved up to XFINITY full time last season and not only won 4 races, but the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year crown. Now, he makes the big move to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Furniture Row Racing in the new 77 car in a one year deal. The Byron, Michigan native is looking to sweep a 3 national series Rookie of the Year titles once and for all in 2017.

Expectations: This Pure Michigan racing gem has won and even dominated at the first two levels he’s moved up. But, it won’t be that easy in CUP despite having not only the backing of Furniture Row Racing, but affiliate Joe Gibbs Racing. He will still win AT LEAST one race this upcoming season and easily make the Chase with several top 5 and 10 finishes along the way. 

Ty Dillon: The younger brother of CUP driver Austin Dillon and grandson of team owner Richard Childress has patiently grinded away in the lower tiers for the last few years. He nearly won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title in 2013 before making the move up to XFINITY the next season. He finished with a trio of top 5 points finishes (5th in 2014, 3rd in 2015, 5th in 2016) with solid consistency and a win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2014. Now, he will finally make the move up to CUP with the RCR affiliated Germain Racing full time in 2017 with sponsor backing from GEICO.

Expectations: Consistency will be key for Ty Dillon as he finds his way through a 36 race CUP schedule for the first time. The equipment is capable of finishing inside the top 20 every week, but can Ty? I think he’ll have several top 10 brushes and perhaps and outside shot at the Chase, but nothing “flash in the pan” like his first seasons in Trucks/XFINITY. The team can contend well at Daytona and Talladega when the car can finish in one piece, and that’s where i think any chance Ty has of winning as a rookie.

Daniel Suarez: The defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion gets an early call-up after the unexpected retirement of Carl Edwards. Suarez had a breakout year last season, collecting his first career wins in the XFINITY and Truck Series before winning the 2nd tier series title at Homestead. He becomes only the second NASCAR Drive For Diversity alumni to earn a full time Cup ride, after Kyle Larson did in 2014.

Expectations: Considering the 11th hour like call up by Joe Gibbs Racing and no prior Cup experience, expect Suarez to have a slow start to his rookie year. Once he figures himself out and the 1st tier equipment, he’ll be a routine contender. A win is possible, but expect him to make the Chase based on points if he does get in.


William Byron: Despite winning 7 races in his rookie year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the end of last season was bad enough to shut him out of a title and he had to settle for Rookie of the Year honors. But, he’ll move on from that quickly with a new series and team for 2017 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Byron will run the full season in the #9 car fielded by JR Motorsports and sponsorship from Liberty University. He will look to build off a debut year in a NASCAR National Series with more success in 2017

Expectations: William Byron proved last year he has no problem adapting to a new scene very quickly, and expect the move up to XFINITY to be no different. He will be the top dog for the Rookie of the Year fight with the ability to run up front. Expect a unparalleled season for a NASCAR XFINITY Series rookie not seen since JR Motorsports alumni Chase Elliott in 2014. Byron will win at LEAST 3 races and contend for the series title heavily.

Cole Custer: After spending the last 3 seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which included shattering the record for NASCAR’s youngest winner at 16 years, 7 months and 28 days (2014 UNOH 175 at New Hampshire) and an additional win in 2015 series return at Gateway, the history kid now looks to the NASCAR XFINITY Series for 2017. With a new year and a new team to the series, Cole will look shatter expectation for not only a team’s first season, but a driver’s as well.

Expectations: There will be some growing pains at first for both driver Cole Custer and team Stewart Hass Racing in their first season together. But, when they get past that the team will have little problems contending for top 5’s and even wins. Expect Cole to win 1-2 races and make the Chase under the limelight of his fellow rookie rival William Byron, where it’s expected the 2 will battle for ROTY.

Daniel Hemric: It only seems like yesterday that the Kannapolis, North Carolina native was given his big break in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015 with NTS Motorsports. He would move to Brad Keselowski Racing and have a career season last year with 11 top 5 finishes and making the Chase in it’s first year. But, he seemingly shocked the NASCAR world when he inked a multi-year deal with Richard Childress Racing to pilot it’s no.21 XFINITY Series ride for 2017. This will be his first year to prove himself he’s more than a “flash in a pan” and aid his future NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stock.

Expectations: There’s no doubt Daniel Hemric grinded his way to this point, and he’s earned every bit of respect received. But, the big grind will be running in a series with no prior starts and virtually a “rebooted” team by RCR. With that being said though, defying expectations has been a thing and Daniel will look to do that in 2017. He’ll have several top 10 finishes and will contend for a win or two somewhere down the line. The ability to make the Chase however will be how he adapts to the scene right away.

Matt Tifft: After having a cancer scare in the middle of the season last year, Tifft now focuses his attention on running the full XFINITY Series schedule 100% healthy. He will take over the 20 car left behind by Cup rookie Erik Jones, and the expectations on him are high. In his health-abbreviated 2016 season, he had 3 top 10’s the the Truck and 5 in the XFINITY series.

Expectations: There’s no doubt Tifft will have to adjust running a full schedule for the first time in his NASCAR career, but that’s really the only concern. He has proven to be a quick learner and continues to exceed even though he has ran limited schedules. Tifft will win anywhere between 1-3 races and contend for the title at Homestead if all goes well.

Spencer Gallagher: After spending the last few years in the Truck Series and ARCA, Spencer makes the move up to XFINITY full time for 2017 under the GMS Racing banner. He was by many the most improved driver in the Camping World Truck Series last year, collecting 8 top 10 finishes with a career tying best finish of 2nd at Talladega in the fall.

Expectations: Gallagher has finally proved in the last year or two that potential is there. But, he must be consistent to succeed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Considering what happened in the middle of Truck Series season last year, there’s still work he needs to do to achieve that. Expect a mid-pack first season with a few top ten’s, but missing out on the Chase.