The NASCAR Cup Series season is four races deep, and one driver has taken a lead in the Rookie of the Year battle. Ty Gibbs has the lead over Noah Gragson.
Gibbs has taken a 19-point lead over his fellow rookie by largely avoiding incidents in the first four races. He ended the Daytona 500 25th overall, the trip to Fontana 16th overall, the trip to Las Vegas 22nd overall, and the trip to Phoenix 28th overall.
The driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry has also secured the Sunoco Rookie of the Week award three times in the first four weeks of the season.
Gragson, for comparison, has also completed all four races. He finished the Daytona 500 24th, Fontana 22nd, Las Vegas 30th, and Phoenix 29th. Though he was also involved in an incident at Phoenix Raceway along with AJ Allmendinger and Gibbs, which sent the race to overtime.
Gibbs Takes On a New Track
The race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway will present another opportunity for Gibbs and Gragson to both secure crucial points. They will do so at a track where only one of them has previous Cup Series starts.
Gragson competed at the reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway twice in 2022 while driving for Kaulig Racing. He was not able to complete either race due to unexpected issues. He crashed during Stage 1 of the spring race and then a suspension issue ended his July race early.
Gibbs has made 19 Cup Series starts. 15 took place in 2022 as he served as the injury replacement for Kurt Busch while the other four were in 2023 with Joe Gibbs Racing.
None of Gibbs’ Cup Series starts were at the Georgia track, but he has achieved success on the mini-superspeedway in an Xfinity Series car. For example, he won the first race on the reconfigured track.
Gibbs won the pole for the summer race, but he ended the day early after Riley Herbst slid up out of the bottom lane while battling the No. 54 for the lead. Gibbs’ Toyota GR Supra slammed into the wall and sustained extensive damage, which forced him to the garage.
Both Rookies Will Attempt To Join a Short List
Completing all of the laps is the top priority for both of these rookie Cup Series drivers. The goal is to gain experience and keep the car clean while methodically stacking points. Though delivering a strong performance will also be near the top of the list.
One other goal for both drivers, albeit one that will be harder to accomplish, will be to be in a position to contend for the win. If they can put themselves in the top 10 in the final laps of the race, a scenario could arise where one of these rookies stuns the field and joins an exclusive list.
There are only six drivers that have won their first career Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This list includes Carl Edwards in 2005, Kevin Harvick in 2001, Jerry Nadeau in 2000, Jim Hurtubise in 1966, Bob Burdick in 1961, and Bobby Johns in 1960. Though all of these wins were on the previous configuration.