NASCAR Draft Kit: 2022 Top Rookies

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2022 Top Rookies

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

The 2022 rookie class will be about the same size as last season's group.  The level of talent is no less impressive when we examine their racing resumes.  We have some very seasoned, young Xfinity Series drivers who will make the transition this season, and they're not entirely unfamiliar with NASCAR Cup Series cars.  

In addition to our full-time rookies we have some young drivers who will make some part-time forays into the world of NASCAR Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport.  The transition from the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers.  However, as last season showed, drivers like Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo will have their highlights to go along with their struggles.  

We'll look at the ROTY candidates and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Rookie Drivers

1. Austin Cindric              
No. 2                
Owner: Team Penske                           
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5s Top 10s
ARCA Series81145
K&N Pro Series East22222
Truck Series2911816
Xfinity Series1331386289
Cup Series70001

Cindric is one of the hottest prospect drivers in NASCAR currently.

The 2022 rookie class will be about the same size as last season's group.  The level of talent is no less impressive when we examine their racing resumes.  We have some very seasoned, young Xfinity Series drivers who will make the transition this season, and they're not entirely unfamiliar with NASCAR Cup Series cars.  

In addition to our full-time rookies we have some young drivers who will make some part-time forays into the world of NASCAR Cup Series racing from the lower divisions of the sport.  The transition from the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series to the top division of NASCAR is always a big adjustment for young drivers.  However, as last season showed, drivers like Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo will have their highlights to go along with their struggles.  

We'll look at the ROTY candidates and some of the young, up-and-coming drivers who will make part-time starts in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, and give you some in-depth analysis on which rookie drivers are the ones to watch closely this season.

Rookie Drivers

1. Austin Cindric              
No. 2                
Owner: Team Penske                           
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5s Top 10s
ARCA Series81145
K&N Pro Series East22222
Truck Series2911816
Xfinity Series1331386289
Cup Series70001

Cindric is one of the hottest prospect drivers in NASCAR currently.  The son of Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske, is making the full-time move to NASCAR's top level in 2022.  Cindric will take over the prestigious No. 2 Ford of Penske Racing.  The 23-year-old talent has a very diverse racing background that includes sports cars, Rallycross and the lower divisions of stock car racing.  Cindric made his big splash in 2019 while competing in the Xfinity Series of NASCAR.  The breakthrough campaign would see him win two victories and 24 Top-10 finishes.  At this point, his future and destiny became pretty clear.  Cindric would go onto tally 13 total wins at this level of the sport, collect the 2020 Xfinity Series championship and finish runner-up in the championship last year.  With four years' experience and over 130 starts in the Xfinity Series, Cindric was deemed ready to make his big move up.  Crew chief Jeremy Bullins will work with him in year one, and make the transition as painless as possible.  Cindric is poised for big things in the sport.   

2. Harrison Burton            
No. 21              
Owner: Wood Brothers Racing             
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5s Top 10s
ARCA Series17311015
K&N Pro Series East33541724
K&N Pro Series West20001
Truck Series38011118
Xfinity Series75402649
Cup Series10000

Last July Burton was named to take over the No. 21 Ford of Wood Brothers Racing.  Matt DiBenedetto has driven this car for the past few seasons and had limited success with the single-car team.  Burton will now get his chance to make a big splash at the Cup Series level.  The 21-year-old is the son of former NASCAR great, Jeff Burton, and is another branch of a very rich family tree in motorsports.  Burton has spent the five years competing in the lower divisions of NASCAR and refining his driving skills.  The peak of his resume would come in 2020 while racing in the Xfinity Series.  Burton collected four wins and 22 Top 10's en route to an eighth-place finish in the championship points.  While not as heralded as Austin Cindric, Burton brings some obvious talents to the table.  His development is somewhat in question, but once racing at NASCAR's top level any deficiencies will soon become evident.  Burton is a driver to watch closely this season, but he'll likely have a pretty steep learning curve.

3. Todd Gilliland              
No. 38              
Owner: Front Row Motorsports             
Manufacturer: Ford

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5s Top 10s
ARCA Series10011
K&N Pro Series West2913132327
K&N Pro Series East24721622
Truck Series93222652

Gilliland takes the titanic leap from the Camping World Truck Series to NASCAR's top division in 2022.  The youngster has been promoted to Front Row Motorsports' No. 38 Ford and he will race the full schedule in pursuit of Rookie of the Year.  Gilliland is the son of long-time NASCAR veteran and team owner, David Gilliland.  The 21-year-old prospect got his start in quarter midgets and quickly progressed to late model stocks.  Gilliland would then go onto become the youngest winner in ARCA Series history when he captured a victory at age 15 at Toledo Speedway.  Soon after he would dominate the K&N Pro Series West for two seasons and win consecutive championships in 2016 and 2017.  Now comes the big step from Trucks to Cup.  The learning curve will no doubt be steep, but Gilliland has some driving talent to develop.  It will be a real battle between Gilliland and Harrison Burton to see who can step up and potentially challenge Austin Cindric for Rookie of the Year.

4. Noah Gragson             
No. 62              
Owner: Beard Oil Racing                     
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5s Top 10s
ARCA Series100125
K&N Pro Series East172159
K&N Pro Series West28511625
Truck Series47291230
Xfinity Series102504170

The 22-year-old Las Vegas native has signed a part-time racing schedule with Beard Oil Racing.  We'll get to see Gragson in only the superspeedway events of 2022 (four total) between Daytona and Talladega.  The young driver is fresh off a three-win campaign in the Xfinity Series where he finished third in the final standings.  Gragson now has just over 100 starts in that division of NASCAR with five total victories and he continues to groom his driving skills.  He has no Cup Series experience, so this season will serve as an introduction of Gragson to the Next-Gen car and racing at NASCAR's top level.  Anything can happen in superspeedway racing, and that gives Gragson some fantasy racing appeal in weekly lineup leagues for these handful of races.  However, Gragson still has some driver development remaining before he can make the full-time move to Cup.

5. Kaz Grala                   
 No. TBD                
Owner: Kaulig Racing                          
Manufacturer: Chevrolet

NASCAR Career StatsRacesWinsPolesTop 5s Top 10s
ARCA Series20112
K&N Pro Series West20000
K&N Pro Series East38001224
Truck Series3611617
Xfinity Series340049
Cup Series40002

Grala has made four Cup Series starts over the past two seasons, and already impressing observers with the two Top 10's he's collected in those four efforts.  He's proven to be very capable in both road course action and superspeedway racing.  Grala will be a part of Kaulig Racing's two-car effort in 2022.  One of the team's will be a driver rotation that will feature Grala to some degree (unknown number of starts) and veteran, A.J. Allmendinger.  The 23-year-old prospect could get a handful of starts or race as much as half the schedule.  It's not been announced at the time of this writing.  However, Grala has shown the gift of being a quick study behind the wheel and having success at every level he has competed.  Grala has been recently associated with Kaulig Racing and it appears this season's part-time schedule is the first moves in getting him into the Cup Series full-time at some point with this race team.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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