By Zane Miller
In this new series, we take a look at how the careers of every NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year Award winner has shaken out over time, as some have fared better than others over the now 75-year-long history of stock car racing’s top level.
10. Regan Smith (2008)
Smith took home the Rookie of the Year Award in 2008 against limited competition, missing two races and scoring a best finish of 14th at both Martinsville Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. Smith continued to race in the series through 2018, finishing his Cup career with one win, 14 top-10s in 224 races and a best points finish of 24th coming in 2012.
9. Juan Pablo Montoya (2007)
Montoya scored Rookie of the Year honors in 2007 with his first career win at Infineon Raceway (now Sonoma Raceway), six top-10s and a 20th place points finish. Retiring from the Cup Series following the 2014 season, Montoya amassed a total of two wins and 59 top-10s in 255 races, as well as his lone playoff appearance in 2009 as he finished eighth in the final standings.
8. Jamie McMurray (2003)
After claiming his first win in 2002 in a temporary substitute role, McMurray’s official rookie season saw him claim the award with a solid 13 top-10s and a best finish of third at both Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, on the way to a 13th-place points finish. Once his Cup career came to a close in 2021, McMurray picked up seven wins (including the 2010 Daytona 500) and 169 top-10s in 584 starts, with a best points finish of 11th coming in 2004. McMurray also reached the playoffs three times in his career.
7. Kasey Kahne (2004)
Kahne took home the 2004 Rookie of the Year Award, getting 14 top-10s to claim a 13th-place points finish, though he would have to wait until the following season to score his first win after finishing second five times during his rookie campaign. Once he reached his retirement in 2018, Kahne earned a total of 18 victories and 176 top-10s in 529 starts, picking up a best points finish of fourth in 2012, qualifying for the postseason six times.
6. Ryan Newman (2002)
Newman earned the award in 2002, thanks to grabbing his first career win at New Hampshire International Speedway (now New Hampshire Motor Speedway) and 22 top-10s for a sixth-place points finish. Retiring from the circuit following the 2021 season, Newman finished with 18 victories and 268 top-10s in 725 starts, scoring runner-up in points in 2014 as he qualified for the playoffs nine times.
5. Denny Hamlin (2006)
Hamlin nabbed RotY honors in 2006, picking up his first career victory at Pocono Raceway while going on to earn a second win at the track later in the season, taking 20 top-10s on the year to take third in points. However, while Hamlin’s career is still ongoing, he has claimed an impressive 48 wins and 321 top-10s in 614 starts as of the 2023 campaign, getting the runner-up points spot in 2010. Hamlin has also reached the postseason 16 times in his career, making it every year except for an injury-shortened season in 2013.
4. Matt Kenseth (2000)
Kenseth scored the first Rookie of the Year Award of the 2000’s with his first career win at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (now Charlotte Motor Speedway) and 11 top-10’s for a 14th-place points finish. Kenseth continued a lengthy Cup Series career in the years to come, winning the 2003 championship to go along with 39 victories and 331 top-10s in 697 races before retiring after the 2020 season, reaching the playoffs a total of 13 times.
3. Kevin Harvick (2001)
Harvick claimed RotY in 2001, scoring victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway) with 16 top-10s to pick up the ninth spot in the final standings. As Harvick’s Cup Series tenure is ongoing as of this writing, the 2014 series champ is one of the only drivers on this list to cross the 50-win mark with 60, while adding 430 top-10s in 790 starts to make 16 postseason appearances.
2. Joey Logano (2009)
After securing Rookie of the Year honors for the 2009 season with his first career victory at New Hampshire International Speedway (now New Hampshire Motor Speedway) with seven top-10s to take a 20th-place points result, Logano has established his Hall of Fame credentials with the 2018 and 2022 titles, scoring 31 wins and 257 top-10s in 507 starts thus far, as well as making nine playoff appearances.
1. Kyle Busch (2005)
Busch captured the award in 2005, thanks to achieving his first career victory at California Speedway (now Auto Club Speedway) and subsequent win at Phoenix Raceway to go along with 13 top-10 finishes for a 20th-place points spot. However, he has never finished outside the top-15 in points since that year, winning the championship in 2015 and 2019 while making the playoffs 15 times. In addition, Busch has earned 60 career wins as of this writing, as well as 355 top-10s in 642 races.