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Best NASCAR drivers who never won Rookie of the Year ft. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and others

Gowtham Ramalingam
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Best NASCAR drivers who never won Rookie of the Year ft. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and others

The Rookie of the Year award is one of the highest honors that a young driver who has made it into the NASCAR Cup Series can get. While being bestowed with this distinction is a promise of potential, not receiving it doesn’t mean otherwise. Many big stars in the show, who’ve gone on to achieve a lot of success, never got to be named Rookie of the Year. Here’s a list of the brightest of them.

Jimmie Johnson: What better example to make this case than the most successful driver in Cup Series history? The Hendrick Motorsports icon made his debut in 2002. He lost ROTY to Ryan Newman despite winning three races. As the world knows, he went on to collect seven championships over his career.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The son of racing legend Dale Earnhardt is perhaps the most popular driver to exist without winning a Cup Series championship. Following the large footsteps of his father, he stepped into the game in 2000. Though he collected two wins, the ROTY award was given to Matt Kenseth.

Martin Truex Jr.: 2006 was a really interesting year as far as rookie entrants went. Truex Jr. battled with his future teammate Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer amongst others to be named the best rookie. However, Hamlin would end up with the ROTY winning a couple of races for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kurt Busch: To be just, Kurt Busch put up quite the effort in 2001 to earn rookie honors. While it did look like he might drive away with the prize on Roush Racing’s Ford, Kevin Harvick ended up being the hero. He’d taken over Dale Earnhardt’s ride that year and impressed the masses with an admirable two-win season.

Dale Jarrett: A Cup Series champion and a three-time Daytona 500 winner, Jarrett made his debut for Freelander Motorsports in 1987. He lost the rookie title to Davey Allison, an Alabama Gang member, who’d won two races that year. Both the icons are NASCAR Hall of Famers today.

Mark Martin: Often dubbed the greatest driver to never win a championship, Mark Martin finished runner-up in the Cup Series table five times. When he made his debut in 1982, he was up against Geoffrey Bodine to win the ROTY award. He finished second to Bodine in the race and set him up to be the man who’d go on to be the reason for the survival of Hendrick Motorsports.

Meanwhile, in 2024, four rookies contend for the ROTY award. They’re Josh Berry, Carson Hocevar, Kaz Grala and Noah Gragson. While achieving the title would mean a lot, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to not do so. The drivers listed above stand testament to that.

Post Edited By:Srijan Mandal

About the author

Gowtham Ramalingam

Gowtham Ramalingam

Gowtham is a NASCAR journalist at The SportsRush. Though his affinity for racing stems from Formula 1, he found himself drawn to NASCAR's unparalleled excitement over the years. As a result he has shared his insights and observations by authoring over 350 articles on the sport. An avid fiction writer, you can find him lost in imaginary worlds when he is not immersed in racing. He hopes to continue savoring the thrill of every lap and race together with his readers for as long as he can.

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