Though it’s been by no means a full news week, one bit that may have fallen between the cracks for many NASCAR viewers pertained to a lesser-known driver making his NASCAR debut later this month.
Justin Boston, a full-time competitor in ARCA over the last two years for Venturini Motorsports, will make the leap to the Camping World Truck Series come Bristol. He’ll add three additional races before 2014 is over, with spots on the entry lists at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead as well.
Boston, while perhaps not a whirlwind of a rising talent, has made a decent living in ARCA since he arrived in 2013. He won the rookie of the year title last year, scoring eight top 5s and 16 top 10s en route to a third-place finish in the standings. 2014 has been similarly successful, granting the 24-year old his first series win along with another shot at the title.
The idea with Boston’s brief foray into the Truck Series with Venturini Motorsports is to potentially lay the foundation for a full-time run in the series in 2015.
It’s always great to see new drivers – and teams – climbing their way up the racing ladder into NASCAR. But interestingly, Boston may have been far from the first choice for many in terms of drivers jumping from lower series into one of NASCAR’s national circuits. While he’s a triumph for now, there’s plenty others chomping at the bit, waiting for their turn in the sport.
Who might some of the next Justin Bostons be? Some of them are closer than you may think.
1. James Bickford
The 16-year-old Bickford could absolutely get a major NASCAR look in the future – and that’s not just because of his famous cousin. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He’s only won multiple Sprint Cup Series championships and just scored his 90th win two weeks ago.
But being Jeff Gordon’s cousin doesn’t make you a star. So what’s the real down-low about the Napa, Calif., native?
Simple: he’s shown he’s fast right off the bat. In his first season in the K&N Pro Series West, he’s already won his first race at State Line Speedway in Idaho last month, and he’s currently ranked fifth overall in series points behind a smattering of high profile contenders like Greg Pursley and David Mayhew. Along with the win, he’s finished in the top 5 four times and has shown qualifying power, with an average start of 5.6. If he’s already contributing those kinds of numbers at 16, just wait to see what he’ll do as he ages.
2. Patrick Staropoli
Yes, Michael Waltrip, you saw him first. Nice job.
Staropoli is already becoming a top prospect in NASCAR – and he hasn’t even run a full season. He was discovered as part of 2013’s Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge overseen by Waltrip and, after winning, has gone on to race in four K&N Pro Series West races.
Though he’s a bit older (24) than most prospects and is trying to balance racing with attaining a medical degree, he’s already shown definite promise. In seven total races split between the K&N East and West series, he’s only finished outside the top 10 once – and that was still an 11th-place finish. Like Bickford, he also got a win to add to his resume this year, finding victory at Irwindale in March.
He may not have a ton of experience, but it seems like there’s a lot of upside given his solid results in a small window of time. If Waltrip still believes in him, he could even become the next Brett Moffitt type that suddenly finds his way to the Cup Series – and impresses, for that matter.
3. Mason Mitchell
Earlier this year, the word on the street (see: racing forums) was that Mitchell, a standout in ARCA, would be running select NASCAR Nationwide and/or Camping World Truck series races in 2014 with his family-owned operation.
Instead, the 20-year-old hasn’t surfaced in NASCAR just yet, but given his stats over the past few months especially, don’t count him out from having a similar trajectory to Boston before the season is up.
Ever since entering ARCA in 2012, the Des Moines, Iowa, native has shown exceptional promise, whether it’s for another team or his family-owned organization. He earned 17 top 10s over 24 races from 2012-2013, and in 2014 alone he’s already approaching that number, with 12 top-10 finishes so far. Couple that with a myriad of runner-up finishes that came before he finally broke into Victory Lane at Chicagoland Speedway last month.
It’s down to Mitchell and Grant Enfinger for the series title and, if recent previous champions in the series are any indication, chances are a title will be a springboard into at least a shot at NASCAR, if not a full-time endeavor.
4. Matt Tifft
Tifft, another part-timer like Staropoli, is just now old enough to race on all NASCAR tracks, having turned 18 at the end of June. So should we expect to start seeing him among NASCAR’s ranks? It sure seems so.
It all comes down to Tifft’s impressive streak in Ken Schrader’s equipment. In seven races in 2014, he’s rattled off four top 5s and an additional top 10, scoring an 8.7 average finish. Pocono’s been his only trouble spot, with both of his finishes outside the top 10 this season coming there.
Tifft is the type who hasn’t been noticed by some of the bigger names just yet, but he has Schrader, a well-respected NASCAR veteran, in his corner, something that can’t be discounted. Once he gets that elusive win, his stock will probably rise even further, perhaps leading to a ride in the Truck Series a la Cole Custer.
5. Daniel Suarez
OK, this last had before now refrained from including drivers who have already received a shot at one of the top three series, but Suarez is a little different in that he’s only driven in all three once – in the Nationwide Series in what appears to have been a one-off deal for Joe Gibbs Racing.
But Suarez is showing that his lone start at Richmond earlier this year, where he finished 19th, shouldn’t be his only shot at stardom.
The 22-year-old is a frequent competitor in the K&N series, where he finished third in points last here in Pro Series East competition and has won three times. But he also differs a bit from the rest in that he’s a native of Mexico and races full time in the NASCAR Toyota Series based there, a circuit that admittedly doesn’t turn out too many one-off starters in NASCAR’s main series, let alone full-time competitors. Right now Suarez is having a solid season with wins at New Smyrna and Daytona to start the season, and a runner up finish at Winston-Salem. It’s be a checkers or wreckers story for 2014, currently sitting 13th in points having missed a start at Columbus – which was won by fellow Max Siegel Toyota development driver Sergio Pena.
NASCAR’s Mexico series may not be a hotbed of talent, but Suarez is showing the sport does indeed have some potential south of the border. Though he’s already received his first taste of the Nationwide Series, he’s showing he absolutely deserves more moving forward.