Editor’s Note: Your regular, national power rankings with writers across the country will return next week. This time, in honor of the off week Michael Mehedin did a little something special on his own.
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series receiving a majority of the focus, many people forget the impressive full-time driver lineups in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. At times, these they do not receive the credit they deserve. And don’t forget, these two series hold the key to the future of Sunday cup series racing. With the low number of drivers available, it is important for team owners to properly develop their current drivers and ensure they are making transitions at the right time.
This week, with the Cup Series off, we take a look at the top 15 young guns in those series, drivers poised to make a major impact in the sport. As the season unfolds, it’ll be interesting to see how the up-and-comers below grow and develop their skills as they look to advance their racing careers.
Rank / Driver / Series / Team
1. Ryan Blaney / Camping World Trucks / Brad Keselowski Racing
He’s a Blaney, do you expect anything less? This kid is good, no doubt about it. Keselowski put a lot of faith in Blaney, dumping Parker Kligerman for him halfway through the 2012 season. Teams will be watching Blaney very closely this year for consistency as he learns each track.
2. Sam Hornish, Jr. / Nationwide / Penske Racing
Hornish was originally put in the Cup series too soon. Since returning to Nationwide full-time in 2012, he is a much smarter driver and a definite Championship contender for 2013.
3. Kyle Larson / Nationwide / Turner Scott Motorsports
This young driver seems to win in everything he drives. However, winning in the Nationwide Series might come a little harder than expected. Larson will be strong this season, don’t get me wrong, but he will need to work hard to win.
4. James Buescher / Camping World Truck / Turner Scott Motorsports
A versatile driver with wins in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, Buescher is defending his truck series championship, something that has never been done before. Buescher, though, could be the first to do so. Is he just waiting for Mr. Turner to start his Cup team?
5. Austin Dillon / Nationwide / Richard Childress Racing
Dillon took to the Camping World Truck Series quickly, winning the 2011 Championship. He moved up to the Nationwide Series full-time in 2012 and, had it not been for one or two bad finishes, might have won that title as well. Hopefully “Pop-pop” doesn’t put him in the No. 29 Cup ride too soon.
6. Parker Kligerman / Nationwide / Kyle Busch Motorsports
His season was turned upside down last year after being let go by BKR, but Kligerman quickly found a home at Red Horse Racing and still finished fifth in points. Now, he has his best opportunity to win yet, running full-time for Kyle Busch Racing.
7. Joey Coulter / Camping World Truck / Kyle Busch Motorsports
Coulter showed a lot of talent at Richard Childress Racing, in a truck with blank quarterpanels. This year, he joins a strong KBM team with sponsor-backing and a smart teammate.
8. Timothy Peters / Camping World Truck / Red Horse Racing
Peters finished fifth in points in 2011 and missed winning the 2012 Championship by six points. Imagine what he could do with the proper sponsorship dollars.
9. Ty Dillon / Camping World Truck / Richard Childress Racing
The younder Dillon had some pretty large shoes to fill after his big brother moved up to the Nationwide series in 2012. Ty did not show as much skill as his brother, but was extremely impressive in his rookie year. It’ll be interesting to see how he grows throughout this season and the moves Richard Childress will make with his two grandsons for 2014.
10. Brian Vickers / Nationwide / Joe Gibbs Racing
Since his diagnosis of blood clots and subsequent surgery in 2010, Vickers has been fighting his way back. His new ride with Joe Gibbs racing will remind everyone of his driving skills. This is his first step back to a full-time Cup ride.
11. Nelson Piquet, Jr. / Nationwide / Turner Scott Motorsports
The former Formula 1 racer drove for two of the top Camping World Truck Series teams (Kevin Harvick Incorporated and Turner Scott Motorsports) in 2011 and 2012, respectively, winning twice in 2012 with Turner and finishing in the top 10 in points in both 2011 and 2012.
12. Regan Smith / Nationwide / JR Motorsports
It was a bitter pill to swallow when Smith lost his Cup ride, but he landed on his feet, pairing with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the Nationwide Series. Then he went out and won in his first race for the team last fall. Smith is an instant championship contender for 2013.
13. Miguel Paludo / Camping World Truck / Turner Scott Motorsports
Paludo has gotten progressively better each year and should pick up a win or two this season. He’s an easy pick for a top 8 in points.
14. Jason White / Camping World Truck / Gunbroker.com Racing
White has shown sparks of raw talent, but consistency has not been on his side. With a little luck, he could easily finish in the top 5 in points.
15. Alex Bowman / Nationwide / RAB Racing
Bowman has had an impressive run so far this season with one top 5, two top 10’s and tenth in points. It’s early, though and time will tell if he can keep it up.