First in class: Rookie battle shaping up to be best in years

Both Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson will be contending for the 2014 Rookie of the Year honors, but who has the advantage going into the season?

The 2014 season marks the deepest and most talented rookie class we have had in a very long time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. It’s pretty exciting to have this type of potential for a rookie battle. You would probably have to go back to 2002 when Ryan Newman beat Jimmie Johnson that year for the rookie title.

Last year was the first time in a long time we’ve had a rookie battle where both drivers ran the full season. We’ve even seen it in past years where a rookie driver with a start-and-park team won the rookie battle for a particular race. That’s all changed for 2014.

The rookie field this year is pretty deep, and obviously headed by Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. Pretty much similar to what I said earlier this week about the expanded Chase field, the cream will definitely rise to the top in this rookie battle.

I do see this being a two-horse race between Austin and Kyle. Not only do they have the talent, but even more so, they have vast resources at their fingertips to be successful. Naturally, it will be up to them behind the wheel to get the job done.

We are now a week away from being in Daytona for the start of the 2014 Speed Weeks. If you asked me today to pick who I believe come November will be the Rookie of the Year, well, I probably would have to go with Austin Dillon. He’s got more experience with the heavier cars. He’s run some 400- and 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup races, so Austin has the edge in my book from an experience standpoint.

Obviously, there is a lot of time between now and Homestead and a lot of things can happen. If he should be able to pull it off, Austin will have done something no other driver has ever done in our sport. He will be the first driver to win Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Camping World, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup series. That would be pretty spectacular.