NASCAR has done a lot – and rightfully so – to showcase the youth movement that is currently underway. As Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and (possibly) Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle move onto the next chapter of their lives, talented youngsters like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and William Byron have arrived on the scene.
The roster of young drivers is indeed impressive as another wave could be set to arrive in the wake of Elliott, Larson, Jones and Byron.
Check out five drivers – only two of which have Cup team affiliations – who may be appearing more in the headlines as they win races and compete for championships.
John Hunter Nemechek
When people hear the name Nemechek, they still think of former Cup star, Joe Nemechek. But that is changing as son John Hunter Nemechek continues to make his name in the Camping World Truck Series. Racing since the age of five, John Hunter has a resume that includes the 2012 Allison Legacy Series Championship, a victory in the 2014 Snowball Derby and experience in a variety of series including ASA, UNOH and NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East.
Nemechek began competing in the Camping World Truck Series in 2014 and, a year later, captured his first of three wins in the Truck Series at Chicagoland, coming 16 years to the day after father Joe won his first Cup race.
Voted the Truck Series Most Popular Driver in 2015, he found himself mired in controversy a year later. After a win at Atlanta, Nemechek won his second race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Nemechek bumped Cole Custer for the lead, and the two battled door-to-door and off-track to cross the finish line, resulting in a post-race brawl.
Nemechek made the Truck Series’ inaugural Chase but was eliminated in the Round of 8. At the age of 19, Nemechek has already collected 28 top 10 finishes to go with three wins in the Truck series.
No less than Dale Earnhardt, Jr has commented on Spencer Gallagher’s entertaining interviews, and the 27-year-old XFINITY Series rookie who drives for GMS Racing has the on-track skills to back it up. After coming up through the ranks of Bandoleros, Legends and Late Models, Gallagher has also competed in the K&N Pro Series West and East and ARCA series.
The 2014 ARCA 98.9 at Kansas Speedway was the last race of the season, but it served as Gallagher’s first win. Meanwhile, sharing a truck ride with Max Gresham at GMS Racing, Gallagher finished third at Talladega.
After full seasons in the Camping World Truck Series in 2015 and 2016, Gallagher also ran select XFINITY Series races. He scored five straight top 10 finishes and a second-place finish at Talladega but failed to make the inaugural Truck Chase.
While he will still run in the Truck Series part-time, Gallagher has graduated to the XFINITY Series, driving the No. 23 for GMS Racing. Currently best known for a scuffle with John Wes Townley during last year’s Camping World Truck Series race at Gateway (a rematch from a 2014 battle at Iowa), Gallagher is ready to grab the spotlight away from his competitors on and off the track.
Rarely has any driver done so much with so little than Ryan Sieg. Driving No. 39 for a family-owned team with limited sponsorship, Sieg continues to compete in the XFINITY and Truck Series.
He began his NASCAR career in 2009 in trucks, running nine races for his family’s team following a one-off with Gunbroker Racing. He finished in the top 20 in six of those races, including a ninth-place finish at Gateway.
A year later, he competed in all 25 races in the Truck Series, finishing in the top 10 at Kentucky and Dover and finishing 15th in the points. All this despite no major sponsorship.
In 2013, while still running a full schedule in trucks, Sieg made his XFINITY debut, substituting for the suspended Jeremy Clements. A year later, he began to focus on NASCAR’s second-tier division, scoring two top 10 finishes at Daytona: a ninth and a third.
In 2015, he finished eleventh in the points, the highest ranked driver not affiliated with a Cup team. Consistently running in the top 20, Sieg’s best result was an eighth-place result at Kansas.
In 2016, he made the XFINITY Series Chase. Eliminated in the Round of 12, he finished ninth in the point standings.
Brennan Poole almost won the XFINITY race at Talladega in 2016. As Joey Logano wrecked behind him, Poole crossed the finish line first but was told Elliott Sadler had been leading when the caution flag flew. Despite the disappointing outcome, the race helped put Poole on the map.
Poole, a 2002 National Champion in quarter-midgets and 2011 UARA Late Model Champion, made a major splash with a win in his ARCA debut in 2011 at Salem Speedway. He ran a full schedule in 2012 for Venturini with two wins and a third-place finish in points. After running two years on a part-time schedule, Poole left ARCA for NASCAR, having secured six wins in 35 career starts.
Moving to NASCAR’s XFINITY Series in 2015, Poole shared driving duties on HScott Motorsports No. 42 with Ganassi Racing’s Larson. Including a ninth-place finish in his debut at Las Vegas, Poole scored two top 10s and ten top 15s in 17 starts.
His results were good enough to score a full-time ride with Ganassi in 2016. To date, the win has eluded him, but he has scored 19 top 10s.
Chase Briscoe is following up his 2016 ARCA Championship with a ride in Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Ford in the Camping World Truck Series.
Briscoe competed in quarter-midgets and 410 sprint cars growing up and competed in the K&N Pro Series West in 2013. After contacting his friend Christopher Bell in 2015 about a contract with Roush Fenway Racing, Briscoe completed some ARCA tests for Cunningham Motorsports at Mobile International Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway in Tennessee.
Briscoe ran a pair of ARCA races later that year, finishing tenth at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis and fifth at Salem Speedway. In 2016, he all but dominated the ARCA series with six wins including four consecutive, en route to winning the championship.
In his Truck Series debut, Briscoe finished third at Daytona.
These are just five drivers out of the many competing in the XFINITY and Truck Series. Aglance at the other development to series, you could say the future is bright for NASCAR, but there may be even more youngsters to come.
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