First and foremost, and I say this not to detract from any of our rookie of the year contenders over the last three or four years, but the first-year drivers in recent years have been a non-factor.
It's not because of the caliber of the rookies, but let's face it, they were not with top-notch teams. If you look at Kevin Conway, he was with a struggling race team. Stephen Leicht won Rookie of the Year in 2012, and that was with a start-and-park team. I hate that for Stephen Leicht.
We have not had a true top-notch team with a rookie for several years. So I think to have two drivers that are making their full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup debuts this year with top-notch teams - Danica Patrick with Stewart-Haas Racing and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Roush Fenway Racing - that immediately elevates the caliber of driver that they are.
Ricky, the back-to-back Nationwide Series champion, will move into the full-time ranks with Roush Fenway. That puts a lot of spotlight on him.
And obviously Dani...