Whitt, 20, started his career on BMX bikes, winning races on the national level at age 6. Two years later, he switched to go-karts, where he earned eight IKF Grand National titles, two WKA Grand National titles, eight regional championships and California state championships. In 2006, he shifted to a full-size 410 sprint car and won the Hoosier Sprint Car rookie-of-the-year award. Two years later, he moved to the United States Auto Club National series in both Midget and Sprint cars, winning the national Midget championship. In 2009, he competed in a variety of series and finished second in USAC National Sprints, won two USAC Silver Crown events and totaled 17 victories. In 2010, he moved into the stock car ranks, driving for Red Bull in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. In his debut stock car season, he earned three runner-up finishes and took fourth in the series standings.
Photo: Rusty Jarrett
NASCAR fans are familiar with a host of successful drivers, including Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, but what about the next generation? Across the country a series of young drivers are beginning to dominate at their local tracks and are moving into a national arena.
Rea White takes a look at 10 of the top drivers age 22 and under that have yet to run a full schedule in any of NASCAR's three premier touring series. We're betting it's just a matter of time before they do, though.
Dillon is the youngest of the racing contingent in his family, following brother Austin, dad Mike and grandfather Richard Childress. Dillon, 19, competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he earned his first win in 2010. He also finished third in his lone appearance in the K&N West and competed in three ARCA races, winning two of them. In 2006, he won a pair of Bandolero and Legends races. In 2007, he earned nine wins and 10 runner-up finishes to take the Atlanta Semi-Pro Legends title. In 2008, he earned nine wins in 16 dirt Late Model starts, moving to asphalt Late Model racing in 2009 and earning 10 top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
Elliott, who recently turned 16, is following in the footsteps of his famous father, Bill Eliott. Chase races out of a shop in Dawsonville, Ga., and is already showing the championship promise of his dad. Chase began racing at age 8 and has already snared eight champions titles. He also works on his car and as a spotter for his teammates, garnering a more complete understanding of the sport. He has a resume filled with awards. His most recent success came in 2010, when he earned double-digit victories overall and finished eighth in the USA Racing Series despite not running the full schedule. Recently, Hendrick Motorsports signed Elliott to a multi-year driver agreement.
Gresham, 18, has been steadily winning as he climbed through the racing ranks. In 2010, he gained notice by earning his first win in the K&N Pro Series East driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. He won his second career series race in his next outing. He also competed in the ARCA series, winning at Mansfield Motorsports Park in Ohio in his third career start. Gresham's first racing victory came in a Legends car in 2006, when he was still 12. He went on to win the Semi Pro Legends National championship that season. In 2007, he competed in Late Models, winning his first main event, and went on to finish fifth in the Georgia Asphalt Series standings. The winning continued in 2009, when he won a pair of American Speed Association Southeast Tour events and made his K&N East debut with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Harraka, 22, has been a mainstay in racing circles for years despite his relative youth. He began competing in 1997 and, since then, has won a total of 172 races in all types of cars, a World Karting Association Triple Crown, 13 national championships and six world championships in go-karts. He gained mainstream attention, though, when he began competing in Legend cars in 2005. He then entered NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Combine and partnered with Bill McAnally in 2007, finishing second in the Late Model class at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., and earning rookie of the year. In 2008, he won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title with 11 victories. In 2009, he moved to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and earned a pair of wins to finish fourth in the standings and net another rookie honor. Last season, he finished third in the K&N West standings. In addition to his racing, he is a junior at Duke University.
McReynolds, 20, made his debut in the Bandolero series at what is now Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999. In 2001, he finished sixth in the Bandolero Nationals — and began his trek through the racing ranks. The son of former NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds, Brandon has won championships and features in the years since, working his way through the Allison Legacy Series to the Nationwide Series, where he made his debut last season. He was the 2006 Legacy series rookie of the year and finished third in the series standings a year later. He competed in UARA in 2008, finishing seventh in series points, then moved to third overall in 2009. In 2010, he won two UARA races, competed in four ARCA events and made his Nationwide debut.
The 19-year-old will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Michael Waltrip Racing this season. His racing career took off in 2006, when he won four WKA Karting championships and the IKF Karting title. In 2007, he finished in the top five in 80 percent of the races in which he competed, winning 26 Modified races. In 2008, Moffitt moved to asphalt racing and earned five wins to finish second in the ASA Late Model North series standings. He also won the rookie-of-the-year title. In 2009, he moved into NASCAR, where he debuted in the Camping World East Series. In 12 starts, he earned two wins and 10 top-10 finishes and was third in the series standings. Then, in 2010, he moved to the K&N Pro Series East, where, in 10 starts, he won twice and earned seven top-10 finishes, six of them top fives. He finished second in the season standings.
Ruffin, 17, has literally spent half his life racing. He debuted in Quarter Midgets when he was 8 and has been moving up ever since. He raced in several series before competing in Legends, where he won three feature events in 14 starts when he was 13. He then moved into Late Models and, in 2007, won in his second series start. In 2008, he became the youngest competitor in the World Series of Asphalt in New Smyrna, Fla., where he won three feature races that week and went on to become the Speedweeks champion. In 2010, he competed in the USAR Pro Cup series, where he netted a fifth-place points position and rookie honors.
Truex, 19, is the two-time defending champion in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He won twice last season and three times in 2009, en route to the titles. Truex, the younger brother of Sprint Cup racer Martin Truex Jr., also competed in seven Nationwide Series races with a top finish of 12th. Truex began his racing career in Bandoleros in New Jersey. He moved to Legends and won a track championship at Wall Stadium in New Jersey in 2007. He then raced a family-owned Late Model at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.
Darrell Wallace Jr.
Wallace, 18, has been making a name for himself since he began racing. In 2005, he competed in the Bandolero division, winning 35 of his 48 races. He earned top-five finishes in 40 of those and became the first driver in the history of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Winter Heat to win all six races en route to the championship. In 2006, he moved into Legends cars, compiling 11 victories and 34 top-10 finishes, 27 of them top fives, in 38 starts. In 2007 and 2008, he moved up to Late Models. He earned his first victory in his second season, becoming the youngest winner at Franklin County Speedway in Virginia. In 2009, he earned three wins and 11 top fives in 23 Late Model races. Then in 2010, he moved into the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he continued his winning ways with a pair of victories and a third-place finish in the standings.