Danica Patrick vs Ricky Stenhouse Jr.:
The rookie of the year fights have been pretty lackluster in recent years with few big names coming to Sprint Cup and rarely more than one real contender. This year there are two drivers with a legitimate chance to win rookie honors giving us one more storyline to follow during the 2013 season.
Why This Season Resembles 2000:
This year we again have a back to back Nationwide Series Champion and a media sensation (although this year they are not the same person.) We also have another classic Ford versus Chevy battle including a driver taking over the wheel of the #17 Ford for Jack Roush.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is not a name that many people outside the racing world would recognize. Ricky has been winning races and shooting up through the racing ranks at an impressive speed.
Nationwide Series Records:
Last year she ran the full schedule for JR Motorsports. She scored a pole in the season opener in Daytona for her only career pole start and scored four top ten finishes on the season with her best effort coming in Texas when she finished eighth.
Ricky Stenhouse ran a partial Nationwide season in 2009 before picking up a full-time ride for the next three seasons. His Nationwide Series record is impressive with a total of eight wins and 62 top ten finishes in his 106 career Nationwide starts. That's roughly 60% of the time that he finished in the top ten.
Last, but certainly not least, along the way he also claimed the 2010 and 2011 Nationwide Series championship trophys.
Sprint Cup Series Records:
Stenhouse's best Sprint Cup finish to date came in his first career start in 2011. He piloted the Wood Brothers' #21 to an eleventh place finish in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600. Last year he ran four more Sprint Cup events posting a twelfth place finish in Dover.
Why is Danica Still Eligible?:
However, when NASCAR changed the rules in 2011 to force drivers to declare which series they were competing for points in they also changed the rookie eligibility rules. Since Danica was racing for points in the Nationwide Series she is still eligible for rookie honors in the Sprint Cup series.
Danica Patrick will be bringing her Nationwide team up to Stewart Haas Racing to form a third SHR team. Stewart's team runs Chevrolet chassis with Hendrick engines. This is a solid combination and her teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman have proven that this team is capable of winning.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be moving into the Roush Fenway Racing #17 that Matt Kenseth used to win rookie of the year in 2000, a championship in 2003 and the 2012 Daytona 500. Jack Roush believes that Stenhouse could be the next big thing and will be giving him equipment capable of winning races.