2018 NASCAR Next class includes nine young drivers experienced in successSporting News — Bob.Hille@performgroup.com (Bob Hille)
The nine drivers making up the 2018 NASCAR Next class unveiled Tuesday afternoon aren't strangers to accolades.
The group of emerging stars includes the rookies of the year in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, as well the ARCA Rookie of the Year, a former USAC Midget Champion and Lucas Oil Off Road Driver of the Year.
"NASCAR Next highlights emerging talent who have shown the talent and intangibles it takes to achieve success at the highest levels or our sport," NASCAR executive VP and CMO Jill Gregory said. "Alumni of the program are currently making their marks across NASCAR’s three national series and we believe members of this year’s class have potential to do the same."
This year's class: Anthony Alfredo, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East; Hailie Deegan, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West; Riley Herbst, ARCA Racing Series; Derek Kraus, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West; Chase Purdy, ARCA Racing Series; Will Rodgers, NASCAR K&N Pro Series; Zane Smith, ARCA Racing Series; Tanner Thorson,, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; and Ryan Vargas, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. (To read each driver's bio capsule, click here.)
The newest class is the eight in the industry initiative that aims to identify and honor some of the top up-and-coming young stars in a sport that is trying to grow younger.
Notable NASCAR Next alums include Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr., all of whom are competing full time in NASCAR's Cup Series this year.
"The NASCAR Next program was created with the goal of establishing credibility and marketplace awareness, focusing on sculpting potential future stars of the sport. The drivers taking part in the initiative have proven they are capable of success on the race track, and this program gives them the opportunity to stand out among the competition when striving to gain attention of the industry, sponsors, media and fans.
"The NASCAR Next selection process includes input from industry executives, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Council and media members. Drivers must be between the ages of 15-25, aspire to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and show potential – on and off the track – to realize that goal."