Five Young Stars to Watch in ’21

There are some talented drivers in this year’s rookie crop across NASCAR top three divisions. Pete Pistone takes a look at five of them.

Chase Briscoe
Stewart-Haas Racing has a new look in 2021 with Briscoe taking over the No. 14 ride to replace veteran Clint Bowyer, who moves to the FOX television both. Briscoe put together one of the most dominating seasons in recent Xfinity Series history finding Victory Lane nine times last year. Now he gets a shot at NASCAR’s top division and a chance to bring SHR back-to-back Rookie of the Year honors after Cole Custer took the award home in 2020.

"Growing up in Indiana and racing sprint cars, the guy I always looked up to was Tony Stewart," Briscoe said. "To be able to drive for him is a dream come true. Tony and Gene (Haas) have built something really special in Stewart-Haas Racing. Being a part of it in the Xfinity Series and now, the NASCAR Cup Series, has always been my goal."

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Anthony Alfredo
The 2021 Cup Series rookie class welcomed a new participant when Front Row Motorsports signed Alfredo to pilot the No. 38 Ford Mustang this season. Alfredo was impressive in a limited 2020, including driving in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress Racing. He’ll be the second consecutive freshman to drive for Front Row with John Hunter Nemechek, now with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, the team’s pilot last season.

"We met Anthony and spent time with him when last season ended," said team owner, Bob Jenkins. "We wanted another young driver and someone that fit well into our team. We feel that Anthony is a great match and we look forward to this season together."

NASCAR.com: Alfredo joins McDowell at Front Row

Sam Mayer
The 17-year-old Mayer made many trips to Victory Lane in 2020, including five in the ARCA Menards Series and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and will graduate to the Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports this year. Mayer had driven for the organization earlier in his career as a Late Model pilot and he’ll start the year in a limited capacity until he turns 18 in June, which will allow him to compete on every sized track in the series.

"Being able to share this news makes me very excited for the coming year," Mayer said after the announcement. "I hope I can learn as much as I can in the second half of next season and to be ready to go race fulltime for the NXS championship in 2022."

Hailie Deegan
The already high-profile Deegan climbs the NASCAR ladder in 2021 with a full-time Camping World Truck Series ride. Deegan, 19, completed her first full season of ARCA Menards Series competition for David Gilliland Racing last year and now takes the wheel of the team’s Ford 150. She made her Truck Series debut last October with a 17th-place finish at Kansas Speedway and now has her sights set on a full schedule.

"I am excited for this next step in my career with Ford Performance," Deegan said. "I have raced trucks in the off-road world but to now have the opportunity to race trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a dream come true. I can’t wait for Daytona 2021 to get here."

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Carson Hocevar
One of the country’s best Late Model racers will run a full Camping World Truck Series slate in 2021. Hocevar joins Niece Motorsports after making seven starts for the team a year ago and will vie for rookie honors. Hocevar, a Michigan native, won several Super Late Model races last season, including the Winchester 400.

"Carson has really impressed us," said team owner Al Niece. "He’s proven his talent – getting into the truck with no track time and really holding his own. We’re thrilled to have him with us full time."