News & Media

Next wave of superstars just over the horizon

December 14, 2012, Official Release,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Youth thrives from entry level to national series during 2012 season

NASCAR has a talent-laden farm system loaded with the stock car racing's future stars.

From the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series through the sanctioning body's touring divisions and on the Whelen All-American tracks, there's a single common denominator: Youth, lightning-fast youth.

The pipeline leading to the ultimate destination -- the Sprint Cup Series -- figures to overflow for years to come. And from the looks of 2012, current Cup competitors had best be ready to defend their turf and their jobs.

Dillon brothers lead the charge, again

Austin Dillon made history in 2011, becoming the Truck Series' youngest champion at age 22. That goal accomplished, his owner and grandfather, Richard Childress, gave Dillon a greater challenge, a full-time opportunity in the Nationwide Series, where he thrived in his No. 3 Chevrolet. Dillon won twice at Kentucky Speedway, never left the top four in the points standings and claimed Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

There's another Dillon on the horizon, Ty, and the 20-year-old is coming up fast in his older sibling's mirror. Like Austin, Ty won Truck Series rookie honors in his first full season. He also scored a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, led the championship standings with his No. 3 Chevrolet and was on the threshold of a title as late as the waning laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Buescher triumphs, Piquet's stock-car fortunes rise

A first NASCAR national series victory -- not with his No. 31 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet but in the Nationwide Series opener at Daytona -- propelled James Buescher on a championship course. The 22-year-old Texan won in the four times in the Truck Series, twice in Kentucky and at Kansas and Chicagoland.

Piquet, the one-time Formula 1 driver from Brazil, became a NASCAR star during a breakout year. Like Turner teammate Buescher, Piquet won in two series -- trucks and Nationwide, his latter victory scored at the Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Piquet, 27, won at Michigan and Las Vegas en route to a seventh-place championship performance. He also led the series with four Keystone Light poles.

Patrick proves ready for primetime

Danica Patrick became NASCAR's highest-finishing female competitor in 2011 with a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas. She set another record for her gender as a full-time Nationwide competitor in the No. 7 Chevrolet during the past season. She is the first female to produce a top-10 finish (10th) in a national series. Patrick's 17th-place performance at Phoenix, her last of 10 premier-series starts, readied her for a Cup rookie campaign in 2013.

Record number of Truck Series first-time winners

There were nine of them in 2012, all under the age of 30, beginning with John King's upset victory in the season-opening race at Daytona. King, 23, was participating in his eighth series event. As noted, Buescher, Dillon and Piquet also were first-time winners. They were joined by 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Joey Coulter, 22, at Pocono; Cale Gale, 27, at Homestead; Parker Kligerman, 22, at Talladega; and Justin Lofton, 26, at Charlotte. Number nine, Ryan Blaney, became the youngest series winner at 18 years, 8 months when he captured the series' second visit of the season to Iowa Speedway.

Among the season's top-five championship finishers, only runner-up Timothy Peters is older than 22.

Young stars on the rise in NASCAR Touring, Whelen All-American

- A year after becoming the youngest race winner and pole-sitter in K&N Pro Series West history, Dylan Kwasniewski took the big step in his sophomore season in becoming the youngest champion in the 59 years of the series. The 17-year-old Las Vegas driver won three times and posted 12 top-fives in 15 races en route to taking the title by six points over teammate and defending champion Greg Pursley.

- Kyle Larson never had raced a stock car prior to February. That lack of experience didn't slow down the transition for the 20-year-old open-wheel star from Elk Grove, Calif. Larson won twice, including at New Hampshire, on his way to winning the K&N Pro Series East championship. He joined Joey - Logano and Ryan Truex in becoming the only drivers in series history to win rookie of the year and the championship in the same season. He also gave Rev Racing and Drive for Diversity their first NASCAR touring title. Larson, an Earnhardt Ganassi Racing development driver, nearly won for Turner Motorsports in his fourth career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start.

- Darrell Wallace Jr. picked up his sixth career win in the K&N Pro Series East at Greenville early in the year. It was a big milestone year for the 19-year-old from Concord, N.C., a graduate of the Drive for Diversity program, as he made four Nationwide starts for Joe Gibbs Racing. Wallace scored three top-10s and earned his first pole at Dover. He became the first African-American driver to win a pole in the Nationwide Series.

- After capping 2012 by winning the K&N Pro Series West finale at Phoenix, Ryan Blaney continued his successful progression. After rallying from a spin to finish second in the K&N Pro Series East opener at Bristol, Blaney also finished second at Iowa in a partial season in the K&N Pro Series. The 18-year-old from High Point, N.C., made 13 Nationwide starts and nine in the Truck Series, highlighted by his breakthrough victory at Iowa.