Frontstretch Staff · Sunday February 5, 2006
After an anxious three months of anticipation, the offseason is finally coming to an end! The end of this week marks the engines firing at Daytona and the official beginning of the 2006 Nextel Cup season.
Before the engines fire on pit road, though, we thought it more than appropriate to offer our insight on a variety of 2006 topics to get you fully prepared for the season to come. Check out this space all week to get our writers’ predictions on both the best and worst to come as we head into NASCAR’s biggest season yet!
Here’s today’s topic: From this year’s class of seven drivers, who do you see winding up as the 2006 Nextel Cup Rookie-of-the-Year?
Remember, the rookies are: #07 – Clint Bowyer (Richard Childress Chevrolet) #1 – Martin Truex, Jr. (D.E.I. Chevrolet) #11 – Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Chevrolet) #18 – J.J. Yeley (Joe Gibbs Chevrolet) #40 – David Stremme (Ganassi Dodge) #41 – Reed Sorenson (Ganassi Dodge) #49 – Brent Sherman (BAM Dodge)
Nikki Krone, FS Editor: RCR has had its problems in past years and needs to pick it up, but I believe Childress will put his eggs in Clint Bowyer’s basket, and he will be the 2006 NEXTEL Cup Rookie-of-the-Year. In just his first full Busch Series season in 2005, Bowyer gave Martin Truex, Jr. and Chance 2/DEI a good run
for its money, and he’ll do it once again.
Tom Bowles, Assistant Editor: Check out my rookie review column for more info, but I don’t think there’s any doubt Truex, Jr. is the overwhelming favorite. Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin have the best chance at giving him a run for his money, but in the end, even subpar D.E.I. equipment won’t keep a star of the future from making his mark on the Nextel Cup Series, perhaps even with a race win to go along with the rookie trophy.
Kim DeHaven, Assistant Editor: Denny Hamlin will be the ROTY in 2006. He turned that team around at the end of 2005, and I think he and the Fed Ex team can carry the momentum into the new season.
Ren Jonsin, Webmaster: I think it’s going to be a tight race between Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr., with Hamlin giving the speech in New York. Hamlin’s on a stronger team that has produced three Championships and a Rookie of the Year since 1999, while the only thing that D.E.I. has is a famous name.
Dennis Michelsen, Senior Writer: This is without a doubt the deepest pool of rookie racers we have ever seen! Except for Brent Sherman. all the teams are well-funded. I will give the edge to Denny Hamlin over Martin Truex, Jr., with Reed Sorenson a close third. Denny Hamlin simply has the best team behind him right now.
Toni Heffelfinger, Senior Writer: I see Martin Truex, Jr. no matter how you stack it. All of the rookie teams are about even, but it’s Truex that has demonstrated the skill to take a car that is not at its best, and still get a solid finish out of it. He has the consistency needed to take ROTY in the same way that he utilized it to win two Busch championships.
Jeff Meyer, Senior Writer: Denny Hamlin. If Hamlin can keep some of the momentum he had at the end of ‘05, I even think you could see both Hamlin and teammate Tony Stewart in the Chase. Look for Denny to be the "˜Carl Edwards’ of 06 (sans the back flip of course).
Amy Henderson, Senior Writer: Martin Truex, Jr. None of the Rookie of the Year candidates are running for top-tier teams in 2006; even the 11 and 18 cars at Joe Gibbs Racing are not at the competitive level of the 20 car of teammate Tony Stewart. Therefore, based on money and experience, the consistent Truex has the edge with his ability to finish races in the best possible position. He provides a step up driverwise for the 15-turned-1 team, so look for him to take rookie honors as a result.
Becca Gladden, Writer: Denny Hamlin. In 2005, Hamlin had superior results as Joe Gibbs’ late-season replacement in the #11 car. He had three top-10 finishes in seven races with one pole (Phoenix), and he led 25 laps. This will be a very competitive rookie class, but Hamlin’s undeniable driving talent will serve him well.
Mike Neff, Writer: My pick is going to be Denny Hamlin. I think it is going to be a close race, and there are a couple of factors that could result in a couple of other drivers winning it. I think Hamlin is with the team that has their stuff together on the most tracks, which gives him the best chance at the prize. Martin Truex, Jr., though, has a chance IF DEI is competitive on intermediate tracks. Clint Bowyer will also be in the running IF RCR is successful with their off-season changes.
Cami Starr, Writer: Denny Hamlin. I think it’s a close call between Hamlin and Truex, Jr., but I’m giving the nod to Hamlin because of the recent success of JGR and the recent "decline" at D.E.I.
As difficult as picking the 2006 Rookie-of-the-Year can be with this year’s strong rookie class, picking the year’s surprise driver can prove to be even harder. Check out who the staff feels will be this year’s crop of “breakout drivers” as Part II of our season preview series debuts tomorrow.
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