Somewhat lost in all the hoopla regarding Carl Edwards’ announcement that he is stepping away from NASCAR is the ripple effect it had on the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series rookie landscape.
Let’s just say that with Daniel Suarez, a rookie, now stepping in to fill Edwards’ shoes in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, it just got a whole lot more interesting.
Prior to the Edwards-Suarez seat swap, it already had been generally assumed that Erik Jones would likely run away with the top rookie honors in this upcoming season. He was the clear-cut favorite to be the first ’17 rookie to win a race, too — with his only other competition supposedly coming from Ty Dillon.
Jones will drive the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota this season, as Furniture Row expands from one team to two and continues to build on a strong technical alliance with JGR. So Jones — who became the youngest NASCAR touring series champion in history when he won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title at the age of 19 years, five months and 21 days — is going to be in top-notch equipment.
No offense to Dillon, who is a talented young driver, too. But as the driver of the No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet in a single-car operation, Dillon is not going to have the luxury of being in the same type of equipment as Jones on a week-to-week basis.
Now Suarez enters the picture.
The defending XFINITY Series champion obviously has talent and has been teammates with Jones. In fact, Jones was one of the drivers Suarez edged out to become the first Latin American driver to win a NASCAR touring series title last year.
Although Suarez has not yet driven in a single Cup race — the 2017 Daytona 500 live on FOX on Feb. 26 will be his first — he’s obviously going to inherit a strong team in the one that Edwards is leaving behind.
All of which brings to question, which of these three rookie drivers do you, the race fan, think will win first in the Cup Series? Will it be Jones or Suarez in their superior equipment? Or will Dillon be able to pull off a Chris Buescher-like upset and sneak into Victory Lane ahead of both of them?
Vote in the poll below to make your voice heard.