We all know that being a “rookie” can be tough, but when your field of battle means traveling at speeds in excess of 180 miles an hour, inches from a wall with 42 other drivers, being a “rookie” can be downright brutal.
A Strong History
The Rookie of the Year program was started in 1957 as a way to recognize freshman drivers for their achievements in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.
2007 marks the 10th consecutive year of Raybestos brand brakes’ sponsorship of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Program, and like the rookies that this program is designed to salute Raybestos brand brakes is just getting started.
“It’s an honor for us to sponsor the Raybestos Rookie of the Year program,” said Ken Myers, marketing manager for Raybestos Brand Products. “It’s amazing to be on the ground floor of a young driver’s career and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year program gives us the perfect opportunity to recognize and foster the talent driver’s need to succeed in this demanding sport.”
Paving the Way to Success
Since 1979, six Rookie of the Year Program winners have gone on to win a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title, including Raybestos Rookies Tony Stewart (1999, 2005) and Matt Kenseth (2000).
Additionally, at least one Raybestos Rookie of the Year has won a Bud Pole in each of the last 11 years (1996-2006) and there has been a first-time Bud Pole winner in each of the last 20 years (1987-2006).
Currently, Ryan Newman Raybestos Rookie of the Year in 2002 holds the all-time Raybestos Rookie record for the most poles (6), the most top-fives (14) and the most top 10’s (22). The record for the most earnings by a Raybestos Rookie is held by Kasey Kahne. He earned $5.4 million for his achievements in 2004.
What Winning Means
Drivers that have captured the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award agree that it was no doubt an important step in their careers.
“Winning the Raybestos Rookie of the Year put me in an elite group of guys who have won it before and that means more than anything,” said Denny Hamlin, Raybestos Rookie of the Year for 2006. “Having the Raybestos Rookie Jacket sitting there in my trophy room puts into perspective the history behind it and what I accomplished because that was our number one goal last year.”
Capturing a winning formula takes the effort and determination of not only the drivers and teams it takes the commitment of sponsors as well.
“Sponsor longevity is important in racing, no matter what,” said Ryan Newman, 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year. “To have them be a part of the Rookie of the Year program for 10 straight years says a lot about their interest. They’ve always been a great sponsor, from what I’ve seen, and they’re a good performance partner.”
2007 Rookie Class
Six drivers are vying for the chance to be named the 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, including: A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, David Reutimann and Brandon Whitt.
A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the No. 84 Team Red Bull Toyota Camry, started his racing career in karts and has won two International Karting Federation Grand National Championships.
Allmendinger made his NASCAR debut with Bill Davis Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on September 16, 2006 at the New Hampshire International Speedway.
Paul Menard, driver of the No. 15 Menards Chevy Monte Carlo, began his successful racing career at the age of eight when he won the Briggs Junior Class Championship in his native Eau Claire, WI.
In 2003, Menard began competing part time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series while still racing in the ARCA Series. In 2004, Menard began driving for his present team, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., in the Busch Series.
Last season, Menard began driving the No. 15 car part-time for DEI in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and scored his first top-10 finish in the Golden Corral 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger, boasts an extensive racing resume. Montoya born in Colombia began racing karts at the tender age of six. He’s enjoyed great success in the open wheel racing series and his career highlights include an International F3000 title, a world title in the CART Championship Series and victories in some of the world’s most prestigious races.
On July 9, 2006, Chip Ganassi Racing announced that Montoya would compete in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2007. Montoya made his NASCAR debut in the Busch Series’ Sam’s Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park where he finished in 11th place. He competed in his first NEXTEL Cup series race in the final race of the 2006 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, has raced in the ARCA, NASCAR Craftsman Truck and NASCAR Busch Series.
In 2004, at the age of 18, Ragan made his truck debut at the Texas Motor Speedway and finished 20th. One year later, Ragan was a contender for Roush Racing: Driver X, and despite concerns of his outspokenness, Ragan won a ride in the Craftsman Truck Series for the 2006 season.
On October 11, 2006, Roush Racing named Ragan as the full-time driver for the AAA Ford Fusion, replacing veteran driver Mark Martin.
In October 2006, Michael Waltrip Racing named David Reutimann as the driver of the No. 00 Toyota Camry co-sponsored by Domino’s Pizza and Burger King.
Reutimann a third-generation driver is no stranger to the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Program, as he received this honor in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004.
He has competed in the NASCAR Busch Series on a limited basis since 2002, and made his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut last season at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Brandon Whitt, driver of the No. 72 Dutch Quality Stone Chevy Monte Carlo, was named Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Southwest Touring division in 2002 and made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut one year later.
Whitt won his first truck race in 2005 at Memphis after taking the lead from Ron Hornaday on the last lap. His first attempt in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series was at Phoenix International Raceway with his current team, CJM Racing.
Getting All Rookies on the Right Track
Just as Raybestos brand brakes has done for the last 10 years with the Rookie of the Year Program, Raybestos brand brakes are helping rookies in the shop build professional confidence with the new 1-2-3 strategy.
The proliferation of brands and part numbers has become confusing to young technicians. To address this, the Raybestos brand hydraulic, rotor and friction lines have been redefined and simplified. Additionally, Raybestos brand brakes has been refined into Advanced Technology, Professional Grade and Service Grade products.
This new program is intended to simplify the ordering process for technicians to satisfy their needs.
For more information on the Raybestos brand brakes 1-2-3 strategy or the Raybestos Rookie of the Year, contact your Raybestos brand brakes sales representative or visit www.raybestos.com.