Ty Gibbs vs. Noah Gragson Isn’t the Only NASCAR Rookie of the Year Miscalculation

Ty Gibbs vs. Noah Gragson Isn’t the Only NASCAR Rookie of the Year Miscalculation

It’s NASCAR’s show, so it makes the rules. That being said, it’s time to tweak one of the rules that doesn’t matter much. That’s because the list of Rookie of the Year nominees released Thursday contains too many names in the Cup Series and too few – for now, anyway – in the Xfinity Series.

Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson aren’t rookies, no matter what NASCAR thinks

There were other top talents in the 2022 Xfinity Series, but Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson understandably attracted disproportionate attention on their way to 15 combined wins and a Championship 4 double. That was on Saturday. About half of the Sundays from February through November, Gibbs and Gragson competed in Cup Series races.

Gragson had deals with Kaulig Racing and Beard Motorsports for 13 appearances, then replaced Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman in five heats. Meanwhile, Gibbs replaced Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing for 15 races in the second half of the season.

This season, Gragson will be full-time with Legacy Motor Club and Gibbs will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. In the list released Thursday, NASCAR considers them 2023 recruits; no other Cup Series drivers are on the list.

Again, it’s NASCAR’s league. So they make the rules. Their opinion seems to be that Gibbs and Gragson qualify as rookies since there was no competition for the championship.

Chandler Smith is missing from the NASCAR Rookie of the Year list Chandler Smith waits on the grid before the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway on November 4, 2022. | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Twitter lit up with questions about the Xfinity Series rookies almost as soon as NASCAR released the roster because there were only two candidates: Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sammy Smith and Jordan Anderson Racing’s Parker Retzlaff.

Retzlaff, 19, and Smith, 18, each made nine starts in the 2022 Xfinity Series. Again, NASCAR appears to have decided they were rookies since they did not compete for the 2022 championship.

However, Chandler Smith is absent from the list. After finishing third in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports last season, he moved up to the Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing, who have also committed to letting him compete in a handful of Cup Series races.

His absence from the Xfinity Series rookie roster is an obvious problem, given Smith’s limited Xfinity Series experience of three starts for Sam Hunt Racing.

There’s a possible explanation for the Xfinity Series rookie list

Chandler Smith will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 in a third Kaulig Racing car. He said he wasn’t nervous about what to expect at Daytona yet: pic.twitter.com/cCWqDshzm8

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) January 19, 2023

Rather than an oversight, Chandler Smith may be absent from the rule-based NASCAR Rookie of the Year list while leaving the door open for inclusion later this year.

He may not have stated which NASCAR Series championship he will pursue even though it’s obvious to the rest of the world: Smith has left Kyle Busch Motorsports and hasn’t signed with another series team. of trucks, and Kaulig Racing says it’s not. I intend to use the 20-year-old in more than a handful of Cup Series races.

So what we have is a paperwork problem. Once Smith declares he is in contention for the Xfinity Series championship, NASCAR will add him to the list of Rookie of the Year nominees. Given its Craftsman Truck Series credentials and the fact that Kaulig Racing offers competitive Xfinity Series cars, it should be central to the hunt for playoff honor.

The solution for NASCAR should be painfully obvious. There was no need to rush the rookie list a month before the season. He might as well have made the announcement during Speedweeks, when all three series are at Daytona. By then, everyone should have declared the plans for the 2023 championship.

Doing it like NASCAR did on Thursday unnecessarily created history where there was none.

Of course, that’s only NASCAR’s second-biggest rookie problem. With 33 starts between them, Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs can’t be Cup Series rookies. But NASCAR no longer has a rule about the maximum number of races for a driver before he loses his rookie status. If a reasonable rule existed, there would be no Cup Series rookies this season, and it wouldn’t be a big loss.

Have a question or comment about the race? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column every Friday. Write to him at [email protected]

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