|L to R: Larson (Sprint Cup), Elliott (Nationwide) and Kennedy (Camping World Truck) |
captured Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR's three national series.
All are NASCAR Next alumni. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
For the first time since the NASCAR Next initiative was created in 2011, three of its alumni captured the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Awards in NASCAR’s national series. Kyle Larson took home the honor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Chase Elliott added the accolade to his resume in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Ben Kennedy earned the recognition competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“The 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year class is a testament to the massive effort put towards developing our next generation of stars through the NASCAR Next initiative,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president of Industry Services. “We congratulate all three honorees and look forward to watching them accomplish great things in the future.”
The winner of last season’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, Larson, 22, is only the sixth driver to also claim the honor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He defeated runner-up Austin Dillon by 89 points behind eight top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. A graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity (D4D) program, Larson placed second in three races and won a Coors Light Pole Award. He pilots the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Elliott – 18 years, 11 months and 18 days – became the youngest and first rookie champion in NASCAR national series history when he captured the NASCAR Nationwide Series title. The No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet driver won three races and ended his season on a streak of 14 top-10 finishes. A native of Dawsonville, Georgia, Elliott will return to the series next season to defend his title. He finished 47 points ahead of second-place Ty Dillon in the final NNS Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award standings.
Kennedy, 22, was the highest rookie finisher in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series-best eight races. Kennedy tied Tyler Reddick atop the rookie standings, winning the tiebreaker thanks to a final championship points position of ninth. Kennedy drove his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado to a career-best third-place finish at Martinsville in March.
“Sunoco has been a proud supporter of NASCAR’s rising stars through the Sunoco Rookie of the Year program for the past decade,” said Cynthia Archer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Sunoco. “This year’s award winners represent the youthful exuberance and competitive drive that define this award and we couldn’t be more excited to see what the future holds as their careers advance.”