With the recent announcement of Tony Stewart's retirement, many fans are wondering who is next face in the garage will be. Now, that both Gordon and Stewart will be walking away in back-to-back seasons, fans are searching. Searching for that young hero to grab on to and support over the long haul. Though many fans won't agree that we have a thriving group of young racers, we actually do. Realistically NASCAR has a great amount of talent waiting to break through, the issue is fans won't let them. Fans love their drivers. They don't want to let them go and want to hold on to them forever, which is very understandable. Fans usually grow up supporting one guy and that is who their loyalty is with, which is something that is both good and bad. It's great to have that one driver you care so much about, but on the flip side, no one gives anyone new a chance.
I have done a similar post about this subject, but today I want to state it again. I want to look into the pool of young talent and select who I think could be the next big star. To classify this you have to be under the age of 25, and you can't be running Cup full-time. So sorry Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson are not on this list (not saying they can't be big stars, just trying to look a little deeper). So let's do this thing, 5 drivers who could be the next big star on the Cup circuit.
As much as people want to bash Chase Elliot, the kid has potential. Many Gordon fans seem to think that people assume Chase will feel the shoes of the 4-time champ, but they should know no one believes that. Regardless of whether you think the 19-year-old deserves to be in the #24 car is irrelevant, because guess what... he has already signed a multi-year deal. No matter what this kid will be behind the wheel of one of the best cars in NASCAR history. Chase has every intangible he needs to have success at the Cup level. He has a great mentor in his father Bill, a NASCAR legend, and when you have Rick Hendrick and Dale Jr. backing you that never hurts. Many fans think Chase is not ready because he hasn't won this season in Xfinity and has had a rather quiet year defending his championship. Though he has only found victory lane once, Chase has managed to score 11 top-5's and 21 top-10's in just 27 races.
See he has something many young drivers don't have and that folks is consistency. In his 60 Xfinity Series starts he has 47 top-10's which means so far he has ran top-10 in 78% of his races. That is a great stat that is very looked over. Chase is also a champion who went through some struggles this season. The other complaint is that Chase hasn't ran well in the #25 this year in his five starts. Well, this is also a bad topic to judge off of. For one, when they run the fifth car, that team has the least amount of focus. Hendrick wants Chase to get experience but the real resources go to funding the cars that can actually bring him a championship. Chase's team on those weekends is literally the least important of the 5 teams. Also, his pit-crew is made of guys from other teams or back-ups. When he steps into the #24 he will be a primary driver who gets all the attention. The team can focus on building the car how he likes it, and he will have 36 races instead of 5 to get seat time. You can love him or hate him, this kid has potential. Notice I am not saying he will be a big star, but he has everything he needs to be competing for championships in just a few years.
Ryan Blaney is the quiet guy with a loud amount of talent. I feel as though this guy is constantly looked over by fans. Blaney is only 21 years old and has as much talent as Chase Elliot, the Dillon Boys, and Erik Jones. Blaney was introduced into the sport by his father Dave Blaney. Ryan has only emerged over the last 4-years, but hasn't been able to lock down a full-time ride in Cup or Xfinity just yet. Reports from Jayski.com say that Penske is working with Wood Brothers Racing to try and get Blaney in as many Cup races as possible for next season. Blaney has looked very confident in the Cup car, and has honestly ran better than Chase. I put him second due to the fact that Chase already has a ride locked up over the next few years. Obviously if Penske finally puts this kid in a car he will be sitting pretty.
The only concern I have for Blaney is that he may have to run for the Wood Brothers. Nothing wrong with one of the most historical teams in NASCAR but the #21 team has struggled for speed over the long haul. Though Blaney showed lots of speed in the Motorcraft Ford this year more will have to be done for Blaney to be competitive on a week-to-week basis. I would like to see Ryan get a chance to run full-time Xfinity for a year in either the #22 or #12 car for Roger Penske, and then take a shot at running full-time Cup. Though he already has Cup level talent, I am a fan of working your way up. He needs to adjust to the constant pressure of the Xfinity Series before jumping straight into a Cup ride. Overall, I like this kid. He has speed and is very mature from the looks of it. I think he has the skills to be a future champion if he lands in the right spot.
Mr. Erik Jones. Funny, how that two drivers on this list are actually younger than me! This kid has plan out talent, he has shown speed ever since he stepped foot in the NASCAR world. In just five starts in a truck in 2013 he managed to find victory lane, and hasn't stopped since. In terms of pure talent this kid is at the top of the list of young drivers. Jones currently leads 2-time champion Matt Crafton in the Camping World Truck Series standings with just a handful of races left. He is in the perfect position to bring home his first NASCAR title this season. Jones who is technically a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver has shown everyone that he will be a main stay in this sport for years to come, especially when he had the opportunity to run Kyle Busch's Cup car earlier this season. Jones was running top-5 before spinning sending him into the wall and eventually led to a 40th place finish. This kid will be a future Cup winner and maybe champion depending on where he lands in the next few years. Jones has already announced that he will compete for the Xfinity Series championship next season for Gibbs, which will only boost his stock.
If I am making a prediction for the future look for this kid to be in Cup around 2018. I would give him 2 more years in Xfinity, and then making his run for the Cup. I would say that there is a good chance he could be the heir to Matt Kenseth's #20 car, but that also depends on if Kenseth is willing to walk away. If Kenseth where to stay I would say Jones will sign with another Toyota team to a 1 or 2 year deal waiting on Gibbs to give him his break. Who knows maybe the #78 team becomes a satellite team, and Jones could run for Furniture Row Racing. Either way this kid has a bright future, I expect to be hearing the name Erik Jones for quite some time.
Cole Custer is a big mystery. We rarely get to see the young man out of Ladera Ranch, California, but when we do he impresses. Custer who races under JR Motorsports in the #00 Camping World Truck is destine to be a future NASCAR star. Custer who has shown flashes of greatness in his handful of starts has already captured 2 wins, and confident wins at that. Custer has been in position to win other events as well, but still has some learning to do. Custer has been limited on the schedule due to his age, which is probably the reason the 17-year-old hasn't been able to run a full-time truck series program just yet.
Custer definitely is on the right path. When Dale Jr. starts a truck program just for you, he must have confidence. Look for Custer to finally run for a truck or Xfinity title in 2017 when he will begin the season at 18-years-old. If Custer keeps on the JR Motorsports path then a solid ride in Cup could be waiting, and we all know that Hendrick has close ties with JRM, and you never know when they could be looking to replace Dale Jr. or Jimmie Johnson. Also, who is to say Kahne stays around after his 3-year extension runs out. All I am saying is Custer has shown a lot of talent early and is surrounding himself with the right people. Look for this young kid to start emerging and moving through ranks quickly.
I questioned putting Buescher on this list, but at the end of the day he has to be mentioned. Buescher who currently leads the points standings with just a few weeks left has emerged as one of the faces of the Xfinity Series. Though he hasn't been as consistent as I would like, he has managed to maintain his points lead over Xfinity regulars Reagan Smith and Chase Elliot all season. Buescher who has found victory lane twice could be the only bright spot for Roush-Fenway Racing in 2015. Buescher needs to impress a little more, but then again he is doing everything he needs to, to walk away a champion come Homestead.
Looking down the road for Buescher, he should definitely get a full-time Cup opportunity by 2017. I think Roush will put him in the car again for next season, but after that Buescher should be good to go on the Cup level. I think the one good thing about Roush-Fenway's struggles is that new talent will have a chance there soon. Biffle who is the oldest driver in the garage will be done in another two or three seasons which opens up the #16 ride. Also, Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne have shown little success which could open another ride if Biffle sticks around. Overall, I don't think Buescher is championship material at the Cup level, but if Roush can get things figured out then who knows what could happen. Let us not forget that Roush was a power house in the Cup garage just a few short years ago.
Honorable Mentions: Bubba Wallace, Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez, Brandon Jones, Brennan Poole, Tyler Reddick, Ty Dillon
Well thanks for reading!!! Let me know who you think could... I said COULD be the next big Cup Series star!!! Was there anyone I didn't mention, or someone who doesn't belong? Let me know!!! Have a great day!