May 16, 2017 | 6:58 P.M. EST
Todd Gilliland already has 12 wins in 30 K&N Pro Series starts and became the youngest champion in NASCAR national or touring series history last year when he took home the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship. (Photo: Getty Images)
Forty wins and 124 top-10s in 148 NASCAR starts during their 2016 and 2017 seasons, to date. … Three series champions, two of whom are the youngest in their respective NASCAR touring series. … The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year and the 2015 Snowball Derby runner-up.
These are just a few of the accomplishments already earned by the nine drivers in this year’s NASCAR Next class, and they’re just getting started.
Now in its seventh year, the industry initiative spotlights the best and brightest young stars in racing. Alumni of the program include current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suárez, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.
“The NASCAR Next program identifies emerging talent in our sport,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Drivers in this year’s class have already achieved success on the track or shown potential, and this program will help them further develop their skills. We look forward to watching these young stars connect with our fans and continue their climb up the NASCAR ladder.”
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 reach that goal.
The following drivers have been chosen for the 2017-18 NASCAR Next class:
Harrison Burton (@HBurtonRacing) – In his second year competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 16-year-old from Huntersville, North Carolina, has earned wins at Bristol Motor Speedway and Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. The son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver and current NBCSN analyst Jeff Burton also took home the pole award at Bristol for the second consecutive year.
Chase Cabre (@CabreChase) – In his rookie season driving for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 20-year-old Tampa, Florida, native captured his first two pole awards in the twin features at South Boston and earned his best career finish (fourth) at the Virginia short track.
Hailie Deegan (@HailieDeegan) – The 15-year-old Temecula, California, native has made a name for herself in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series. Last year the daughter of FMX legend Brian Deegan became the first female to reach the podium in the series’ history, was the 2016 Modified Kart champion in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and was named the Lucas Oil Off Road Driver of the Year.
Todd Gilliland (@ToddGilliland_) – The son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver David Gilliland has made quite a name for himself in the sport’s history books. The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, already has 12 wins in 30 K&N Pro Series starts and became the youngest champion in NASCAR national or touring series history last year when he took home the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.
Riley Herbst (@rileyherbst) – The 18-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada, driver is coming off a successful rookie season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. In 14 starts last year, he compiled seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
Cayden Lapcevich (@CaydenLapcevich) – Only the third Canadian-born driver to be chosen for the program, the 17-year-old from Grimsby, Ontario, won three times in 2016 en route to becoming the youngest NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion, and briefly held the title as the youngest NASCAR champion before being dethroned by Gilliland. Lapcevich is the first driver in Pinty’s Series history to earn both the Josten Rookie of the Year honor and the series title in the same year.
Ty Majeski (@TyMajeski) – A Roush Fenway development driver and one of the country’s top Super Late Model drivers, the 22-year-old Seymour, Wisconsin native kicked off his 2016 winning the Super Late Model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. He continued his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season with a third-place finish in the national standings on the strength of 14 wins and 21 top-fives in 26 starts. He will make his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at Iowa Speedway on June 24.
Chase Purdy (@chasepurdy12) – The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year made a splash last year when he took home both the rookie of the year and track championship at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway in NASCAR’s weekly series. The 17-year-old from Meridian, Mississippi is chasing another rookie title this year, competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
Zane Smith (@zanesmith77) – Smith, 17, from Huntington Beach, California, broke onto the national scene in 2015 when he won the Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. He capped the season with a runner-up finish to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver and NASCAR Next alumnus Chase Elliott in the Snowball Derby.
Since its inception in 2011, 36 of the 46 drivers who have been selected for the program have progressed to compete in one of NASCAR’s three national series, while more than a quarter have gone on to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Twelve NASCAR Next drivers have won a NASCAR national series race.
The last three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookies of the Year are NASCAR Next alumni, as are four of the top-five contenders for the award this year: Daniel Suárez, Erik Jones, Corey LaJoie and Gray Gaulding. The last four Sunoco Rookies of the Year in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series are also alumni of the NASCAR Next program.