There’s a new crop of drivers looking to make their names during the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year class includes William Byron, Cole Custer, Spencer Gallagher, Daniel Hemric and Matt Tifft.
William Byron – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – is the pre-season favorite to win the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year award purely based on how successful he was in his rookie campaign last season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The Charlotte, North Carolina native, finished last season in the trucks with a series-rookie record seven wins driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This season, the JR Motorsports young gun will be looking to build on his recent success, and he will do that with the guidance of crew chief David Elenz. This weekend at Daytona the 19-year-old Byron will be making his series debut.
Cole Custer – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang – Almost everything is new at Stewart-Haas Racing this season – the announcement of moving to Ford from Chevrolet, and the creation of a NASCAR XFINITY Series team that will field one of the sport’s budding talents, Cole Custer. Custer, the Ladera Ranch, California native, will be teamed with crew chief Jeff Meendering in 2017. Custer made five series starts last season for JR Motorsports with four different crew chiefs. In spite of the crew chief rotation, he was able to post one top five and two top 10s. The 19-year old Custer will be making his NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut at Daytona this weekend.
Spencer Gallagher – No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet Camaro – is leading the charge of expanding his family-owned organization, GMS Racing, and with that comes the newly formed NASCAR XFINITY Series No. 23 team. Gallagher, who calls Las Vegas, Nevada home, finished the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season 12th in points after posting eight top 10s. Now Gallagher has turned his focus to the NASCAR XFINITY Series and will be working with crew chief Joey Cohen. The duo started seven NXS races last season, posting one top-10 finish. The 27-year-old’s top 10 just happened to come at Daytona International Speedway last July where he started 27th and raced his way up to an eighth-place finish.
Daniel Hemric – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro – made the announcement last season that he would be jumping to the NASCAR XFINITY Series and joining Richard Childress Racing in 2017. Hemric is coming off a solid season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he made the playoffs and finished sixth in the final standings driving for Brad Keselowski Racing. The 26-year-old from Kannapolis, North Carolina will be working with crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. who led Austin Dillon to rookie of the year honors and a series title (2013). This weekend at Daytona will be Hemric’s NASCAR XFINITY Series debut.
Matt Tifft – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – returns to the NASCAR XFINITY Series after being sidelined due to health issues last season. Tifft ultimately recovered and returned to racing, competing in the final six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races for Red Horse Racing, posting two top 10s during that span. This season, Tifft is looking to showcase his talent and bring the Rookie of the Year honors to JGR for the third consecutive season (Daniel Suarez, 2015; Erik Jones, 2016). Tifft has made 11 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts, logging one top five and six top 10s. He has made two restrictor-plate starts; finishing 23rd at Daytona and eighth from the pole at Talladega.