Young guns. We hear that term used often and it basically relates to up-and-coming drivers in NASCAR. They’re usually baby-faced and depending on what division they’re in, they could be teenagers. As far as the top level in NASCAR, Sprint Cup, teenagers have given it a try but realistically drivers need a bit more time behind the wheel before they’re ready to take on full-time, the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Ironically, Gordon was one of the original young guns of the sport when he was Rookie of the Year at age 21 back 20 years ago (source: About.com).
This list of the six youngest drivers is about full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup wheel-men. The first thing you might notice about the names on this list is most of these drivers have been in the Sprint Cup division for awhile. Actually, there’s only one rookie while the rest on the list have driven multiple years in Cup. Only two of these drivers haven’t won a Cup race and a couple names on this list are essentially established veterans with many wins and accomplishments. All are under 30 but there aren’t any teenagers. Take a look at these six young men.
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6. Brad Keselowski — 29 years old
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the sports reigning champion just turned 29 last month — he was born February 12, 1984, in Michigan. Keselowski actually is in only his fourth full-time season in Cup at Penske Racing but sat behind the wheel for the first time in 2008. He has nine victories so far in the top division plus he has 20 wins in Nationwide along with a title back in 2010. In some regards, Brad K is still a youngster in Cup but the articulate yet hard-driving champ’s future looks bright for potentially becoming a superstar in the sport.
5. Aric Almirola — 29 years old
He was born March 14, 1984, in Florida and is in only his second full-time year of Cup racing driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola actually had his first ride in Cup back in 2007 but until 2012, had never run a full season. He had one full-time year in Nationwide in 2011 and two full-time seasons in Trucks (’06 and ’10). Aric has never won in Cup, though he did win once in Nationwide and twice in Trucks. His name was always mentioned as one of the up-and-comers but conversely he’s just turned 29 and now will have to prove himself soon.
4. Kyle Busch — 27 years old
One of the most accomplished drivers in NASCAR, it’s hard to realize he’s still only 27 years old. Born May 2, 1985, in Nevada, the still relatively young driver is coming up on his 300th start in Cup. Kyle is in his ninth full-time season in the top division, having started with Hendrick but now in his sixth season with Joe Gibbs Racing. He has 109 wins combined in NASCAR’s three national series’ and considering how proficient he’s been, it continues to surprise some that Busch hasn’t won a championship yet … but with his talent, he still has many years left to achieve that feat.
3. David Ragan — 27 years old
In his seventh full-time Cup season, it’s rather astonishing that this established driver is only 27. He was born on December 24, in 1985, in Georgia and like Kyle Busch, it’s surprising that Ragan has raced as much as he has and yet is as young as he is. At one time, he was the next up-and-coming star in the Roush organization, but that never materialized. David now drives for one of the smaller teams in Cup, Front Row Motorsports. With most of his racing future in front of him, Ragan can still rebound; but, how many more years before the next true young gun replaces him?
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 25 years old
As the only rookie on the list, the future is wide open for the 25 year old two-time Nationwide champion. He was born in Mississippi on October 2, 1987, and has only ten Cup starts to his name. However, if his past is any indication, Stenhouse should be someone to watch. In his only two full-time seasons in Nationwide, he won the championship. So far in his rookie year, Ricky is 12th in points, which would theoretically put him in the Chase. Indeed, this youngster is someone to keep an eye on.
1. Joey Logano – 22 years old
As the youngest full-time driver in NASCAR, it’s hard to imagine that this 22 year old is a veteran driver but Joey is in his fifth full season. Born May 24, 1990, in Connecticut, he’s the epitome of the young gun and has been watched closely by just about everyone in NASCAR. Mark Martin once said he knew Logano would be a future Cup champion when Joey was just 11 years old (source: Sporting News). However, in four years at Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano could only garner one victory and ended up out before Roger Penske hired him for 2013. Although he’s been driving Cup for awhile, he still is earning his way through the sport what with the recent controversies (see related articles). Still, Mark Martin probably had it right and a championship is likely in Joey Logano’s future.