WHO'S NEXT? IN
NASCAR, IT'S MOST LIKELY ONE OF THESE DRIVERS
2014-15 Class Announced At Richmond;
Sport’s Top Rising Stars Spotlighted By Industry Program
Chase Elliott took the NASCAR Nationwide Series
checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this
month, he joined fellow rising star Kyle Larson in
the 2014 win column.
Before their headline-making victories on one of the
sport’s biggest stages, though, Elliott and Larson
were ‘next’ – the next in a wave of young talent
making its way up the NASCAR ladder.
Like Elliott and Larson before them, the 12 drivers
named today to the 2014-15 NASCAR Next class have
résumés loaded with accomplishments and promise. The
roster was unveiled at Richmond International
Raceway and marks the kickoff of the fourth
installment of the industry initiative designed to
spotlight NASCAR’s rising stars.
“Over the last five years, our sport has undergone a
tremendous shift, as we’ve seen an abundance of
talented, young drivers begin to achieve their
potential at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR
Nationwide Series level,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR
vice president of industry services. “The NASCAR
Next program is an instrumental platform to help
draw attention to these young drivers – from media
and fans to stakeholders and sponsors – and foster
their growth within the sport.”
The 12 drivers have already won 20 times, and hold
the honors as the youngest winners in the NASCAR K&N
Pro Series, NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series and NASCAR
Camping World Truck Series, as well as youngest
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and highest
finishing female in NASCAR K&N Pro Series history.
The list also includes the 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro
Series East and West Sunoco Rookies of the Year.
The team was selected through an evaluation process
that included input from industry executives and
veteran racers. Drivers must be between the ages of
15-25, have tangible and expressed goals in eventual
competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and
possess the potential to realize that goal.
Additionally, each driver in NASCAR Next must be
actively competing in a NASCAR touring or weekly
series – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East or West, NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern
Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented
by Mobil 1, NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, NASCAR
Whelen Euro Series or NASCAR Whelen All-American
Series. NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping
World Truck Series competitors also are eligible
provided they are not slated to run a full season in
their respective series.
Former NASCAR Next members who have made an impact
in NASCAR’s national series include Ryan Blaney,
Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton, Chase Elliott, Dylan
Kwasniewski, Kyle Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr.
The NASCAR Next members for 2014-15 are:
• Cole Custer (16 years old, Ladera Ranch, Calif.,
Twitter: @colecuster00) – A two-time winner in the NASCAR
K&N Pro Series East in 2013, he opened the K&N Pro Series
West season this year with a victory from the pole in
• Rubén García Jr. (18, Naucalpan, Mexico,
@rubengarcia4) – The 2012 NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series Rookie
of the Year continues to improve and finished fourth in the
standings last season. Earlier this season, he made his
NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.
• Gray Gaulding (16, Colonial Heights, Va., @graygaulding)
– Holds the mark for youngest pole winner in both the NASCAR
K&N Pro Series East and West, and recorded his first series
win at Phoenix last fall.
• Ryan Gifford (25, Winchester, Tenn., @ryangifford2)
– The NASCAR Drive For Diversity driver scored the 2013
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win at Richmond and posted an
impressive top-10 finish in his NASCAR Nationwide Series
debut last August in Iowa.
• Austin Hill (20, Winston, Ga., @hillbroracing) –
The winner at last year’s K&N East race at Dover, he has two
top-five finishes in this season’s four races.
• Erik Jones (17, Byron, Mich., @erik_jones) – Made
his mark on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last
November in Phoenix by becoming the youngest winner in
• Jesse Little (17, Sherrills Ford, N.C.,
@jesselittle97) – The 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He made his first series start
just 11 days after turning 15 in 2012.
• Dylan Lupton (20, Wilton, Calif., @LuptonDylan) –
The 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the
Year picked up his first series victory at Evergreen
Speedway in August.
• Brandon McReynolds (23, Mooresville, N.C.,
@Bmcreynolds28) – With starts in four different NASCAR
series, he is chasing the championship in the K&N Pro Series
West, where he is second in points.
• Ryan Preece (23, Berlin, Conn., @RyanPreece16) – He
became the youngest champion in the history of the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour last season while balancing a 43-race
schedule in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (finished
fourth in the national standings) and making his NASCAR
Nationwide Series debut.
• Ben Rhodes (17, Louisville, Ky., @benrhodes) – The
current points leader in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with
three poles in four races, and a win at Greenville (S.C.)
Pickens Speedway. He scored an impressive top-10 finish in
his NASCAR Camping World Truck series debut at Martinsville.
• Kenzie Ruston (22, El Reno, Okla., @KenzieRuston) –
She finished sixth in last season’s K&N Pro Series East
season standings and has top 10 finishes this season at New
Smyrna and Daytona. She has the highest finish – both in a
race and in the championship standings – for a female driver
in K&N Pro Series East history
Source: Jason Christley / NASCAR
April 25, 2014