Rookie drivers have an edge now

This NASCAR Sprint Cup season features two top rookie of the year candidates, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

I think being a rookie today in NASCAR is probably a little different than what we’re really accustomed to seeing because most of our competitors have a pretty good background in racing in other series, whether it’s been in the Nationwide Series or other forms of racing like open wheel or dirt cars.

I think the intimidation factor is not quite as great.

I think also it has a lot to do with how good your equipment is. Patrick has joined the established and championship-winning Stewart-Haas Racing organization with crew chief Tony Gibson.

Stenhouse, a two-time Nationwide champion, takes over the championship-winning No. 17 of Matt Kenseth.

I do remember back in the early years, watching rookie racers get in and try to race. A lot of times they found themselves with underfunded teams and it made it very hard for them to learn.

I think in today’s environment, it’s a great time to be a rookie in our sport. I think there’s enough great engineers and enough great drivers willing to help you to really accelerate your learning curve and to put some fun in the game, try to make you understand the only pressure you’re really experiencing is the pressure you are outing on yourself.

If you do it correctly, in the long run you will come out a winner.

I don’t mean necessarily because you go to Victory Lane. When I say you can win in this sport, you can establish a career over the long haul. That’s what everybody is really looking for — to make a living and race at a level where there’s nowhere better in the world to be involved in.