Pinpointing talented young guns that could eventually turn into Sprint Cup superstars, NASCAR revealed its 2013-14 “NASCAR Next” driver roster today at Iowa Speedway.
Three countries, 10 U.S. states, one NASCAR touring series title, and 32 overall touring series wins are represented amongst the 13 competitors. In order to be considered for “NASCAR Next” status, drivers must be between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, be actively competing in a NASCAR touring or weekly series, have plans to eventually move up to the category’s premier series, and, of course, have the skills to do so.
“This program has made great strides in a short time,” said NASCAR vice president of industry services Jill Gregory in a statement. “The evolution of NASCAR Next builds on that success with the influx of young, talented drivers continuing throughout all of NASCAR’s racing series. This program provides a platform to help foster their growth within our sport, and introduce these young and talented drivers to NASCAR fans who will likely be hearing more about them in years to come.”
So, who’s got “Next” in NASCAR? Here they are:
Jeb Burton (pictured), 20, Halifax, Va. – Three poles, four Top-10 finishes so far in rookie CWTS campaign. Son of 2002 Daytona 500 champ Ward Burton and nephew of Sprint Cup stalwart Jeff Burton.
Chase Elliott, 17, Dawsonville, Ga. – Two Top-5 results in three CWTS starts this year. Son of former Cup champ Bill Elliott.
Gray Gaulding, 15, Colonial Heights, Va. – Currently in the K&N Pro Series East, where he’s set records for youngest pole winner and race leader this past April at Richmond.
Ryan Gifford, 24, Winchester, Tenn. – First African-American driver to win K&N Pro Series East pole (Martinsville, 2010). Product of NASCAR’s ‘Drive for Diversity’ project.
Cameron Hayley, 16, Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Races in K&N Pro Series West. Won the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona this past February.
Ben Kennedy, 21, Daytona Beach, Fla. – Has won twice already in K&N Pro Series East. Slated to make CWTS debut at Bristol in August.
Dylan Kwasniewski, 18, Las Vegas, Nev. – Currently in K&N Pro Series East. Won the K&N Pro Series West championship last season and its Rookie of the Year title in 2011.
Brett Moffitt, 20, Grimes, Iowa – Has collected 31 Top-5 results in 52 career K&N Pro Series East starts. Serves as a test driver for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Ryan Preece, 22, Berlin, Conn. – Races in the Whelen Modified Tour, where he’s notched five wins and 12 poles in his career.
Ben Rhodes, 16, Louisville, Ky. – Has collected podium results this year in the Whelen All-American Series on two big stages: The UNOH Battle of the Beach at Daytona and the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond.
Kenzie Ruston, 21, El Reno, Okla. – Three Top-5 results in five career K&N Pro Series East starts as a rookie. Has highest finish by female driver in series history (Greenville-Pickens, third, April 2013).
Michael Self, 22, Park City, Utah – Four wins in 13 starts in the K&N Pro Series West. Flipped to late model stock cars when he was 18 years old after a two-year run in open-wheel machines.
Daniel Suarez, 21, Monterrey, Mexico – Full-time competitor in K&N Pro Series East and also currently in Top 5 of standings in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series.