April 11, 2014 — photo courtesy NAPA Auto Parts — DARLINGTON, S.C. — If there is one thing that has been evident through the first six races of 2014 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, it’s that the future of NASCAR looks bright. At least two Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders have finished in the top 10 of every race this season.
This streak, however, could be threatened tonight in the VFW/Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway, a track that is notoriously hard on drivers. There’s a good reason many refer to it as “The Track Too Tough to Tame.”
For this year’s class of rookie standouts, Darlington stands as the first real challenge on the 2014 schedule as its tight turns and narrow straightaways often see contestants swap paint and collect the famed “Darlington Stripe” by rubbing against the outside wall.
Of the 10 drivers competing for the rookie award, only three of them have made a series start at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval. Ty Dillon, second in the rookie standings with five top 10s, started the 2013 race for Richard Childress Racing, finishing 13th. Chris Buescher has competed in two Nationwide events at Darlington, posting finishes of 17th and 12th. Last year, Tanner Berryhill ended his day at Darlington in 40th with rear-gear issues.
Elliott, who leads both the championship and rookie standings and has five top-10 finishes, has never competed at the track in a national series event. Neither has third-place rookie Dylan Kwasniewski, who has one top 10.
The VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 takes the green flag tonight at 8 PM Eastern with live coverage on ESPN2 and MRN Radio.