With arguably the most talented rookie class the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has ever seen, it’s fitting that the battle for the ‘Rookie of the Year’ comes down to the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Truck Series has been known for its ‘nail-biting’ drivers championship finishes over the years, but the rookie battles for this series sometimes get lost in all the championship commotion.
But, this season with 2010 rookie of the year, Austin Dillon, needing at least a sixteenth place finish to clinch the series championship, the rookie battle has began to make its way to the forefront.
After a less than stellar start to the season, Richard Childress Racing rookie Joey Coulter finds himself atop of the rookie of the year chase.Feeding off the valuable information and leadership from teammate and truck owner, Dillon and Richard Childress respectively Coulter, who has made massive improvements over the course of the season, has scored top ten finishes in half of the races run so far(24).
Cole Whitt, much like Coulter, didn’t start the 2011 season off on the ‘right’ foot. Failing to qualify for the season opener in Daytona, Whitt didn’t let the setback effect him and his Turn One Racing team. Scoring three top ten finishes that also included a Keystone Pole victory in his very first visit to Darlington Raceway, Whitt quickly placed himself up in the talks of being a possible spoiler for the season long championship.
After the performance and luck began to tail off during mid season, Whitt found his possible championship hopes go down the drain. Whitt now finds himself looking to claim a ‘consolation’ prize with the rookie of the year title.
Former Formula 1 driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., made his trip to the world of NASCAR full-time for 2011 with Kevin Harvick Incorporated. Much like Coulter, Piquet Jr.’s season started off slow, seemingly unable to put together a full race.
As the season went along, the No. 8 team began to hit their stride. Finishing a career best second at Nashville, Piquet Jr. showed that he really has a ‘knack’ for the 1.5 mile speedways of the NASCAR world. Always finding improvements on his second trips to the NASCAR ovals, Piquet has become on of the ‘hot commodities’ for the future of NASCAR racing.
Leading the overall rookie points, Coulter has Piquet Jr. and Whitt breathing down his neck coming into the season finale. With only five points separating the top two drivers, they head into the Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend with very little experience at the track.
Whitt, who race in the 2010 season finale, is the only driver among the contending rookies to ever start a race at HMS. While both Coulter and Piquet have run strong on the 1.5 mile ovals, as the saying goes ‘no track is the same, regardless how it looks’, it will be about who figures out the track the best to see who comes out on top.
Whatever the outcome may be, there is no doubt that this talented group of young rookies have very bright futures ahead of them in their racing ventures.