Fans weigh in: Erik Jones likely to be first rookie to win
We asked and you, the race fans, once again responded.
Somewhat lost in all the hoopla regarding Carl Edwards’ announcement that he is stepping away from NASCAR is the ripple effect it had on the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series rookie landscape.
With Daniel Suarez, a rookie, now stepping in to fill Edwards’ shoes in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, it just got a whole lot more interesting.
Prior to the Edwards-Suarez seat swap, it already had been generally assumed that Erik Jones would likely run away with the top rookie honors in this upcoming season. He was the clear-cut favorite to be the first ’17 rookie to win a race, too — with his only other competition supposedly coming from Ty Dillon.
So we asked you: Which of the 2017 Cup rookies is most likely to win first?
Despite the late arrival of Suarez on the scene, 54 percent of those who voted still said Jones, making him the runaway choice of the fans to be that first 2017 rookie winner.
It makes sense.
Jones will drive the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota this season, as Furniture Row expands from one team to two and continues to build on a strong technical alliance with JGR. So Jones — who became the youngest NASCAR touring series champion in history when he won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title at the age of 19 years, five months and 21 days — is going to be in top-notch equipment with an outstanding teammate in Martin Truex Jr.
Suarez entering the picture gives Jones more competition for sure, but only 37 percent of those who voted think he will get to Victory Lane before the other two ’17 rookies.
The defending XFINITY Series champion obviously has talent and has been teammates with Jones. In fact, Jones was one of the drivers Suarez edged out to become the first Latin American driver to win a NASCAR touring series title last year.
Although Suarez has not yet driven in a single Cup race — the 2017 Daytona 500 live on FOX on Feb. 26 will be his first — he’s obviously going to inherit a strong team in the one that Edwards is leaving behind. Plus he will reap the benefits of being Joe Gibbs Racing teammates with the likes of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Dillon, meanwhile, will be playing the role of underdog in the rookie competition this upcoming season. Only nine percent of those voting in the poll thought he would beat Jones and Suarez to Victory Lane in the Cup Series.
No offense to Dillon, who is a talented young driver, too. But as the driver of the No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet in a single-car operation, Dillon is not going to have the luxury of being in the same type of top equipment with teammate support as Jones and Suarez on a week-to-week basis.