NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year Records, Stats and Notes
ROOKIE ‘YELLOW’ STRIPES
rookies will be noted on the car they drive by a yellow stripe on the rear bumper of the car.
sometimes a driver not a Rookie of the Year Candidate may have to run a yellow stripe if they not competed on that race track before.
or if NASCAR decides the driver doesn’t have enough experience.
No idea when this first started appearing on rookie cars, but have seen it on a car as early as 1970.
ALL NASCAR CUP TIME ROOKIE of THE YEAR WINNERS
2022 TBD candidates: #2-Austin Cindric, #21-Harrison Burton, #38-Todd Gilliland
2021 #14-Chase Briscoe(o wins), #38-Anthony Alfredo (both ran all 36 races), Ross Chastain not eligible as he ran too many past races
2020 #41-Cole Custer (1 win) – #8-Tyler Reddick, #95-Christopher Bell, #38-John Hunter Nemechek, #15-Brennan Poole, #00-Quin Houff
2019 #8-Daniel Hemric (0) – #47-Ryan Preece, #36-Matt Tifft
2018 #24-William Byron (0) – #43-Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.
2017 #77-Erik Jones (0) – #19-Daniel Suarez, #13-Ty Dillon, #23/#83–Gray Gaulding, #23/#83-Corey LaJoie
2016 #24-Chase Elliott (0)[CH] – #21-Ryan Blaney, #34-Chris Buescher(1 win), Brian Scott, Jeffrey Earnhardt
2015 #34/#55-Brett Moffitt (0) – Matt DiBenedetto, Jeb Burton, Alex Kennedy, Tanner Berryhill
2014 #42-Kyle Larson (0)[CH] – #3-Austin Dillon, #51-Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Cole Whitt, Alex Bowman, Ryan Truex, Parker Kligerman
2013 #17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (0) – #10-Danica Patrick, Timmy Hill
2012 #33-Stephen Leicht (0)(only ran 15 races) – #26-Josh Wise
2011 #71-Andy Lally (0) – no other drivers
2010 #34/#37/#38/#7-Kevin Conway (0) – Terry Cook
2009 #20-Joey Logano (1) [CH] – Scott Speed, Max Papis, Dexter Bean
2008 #01-Regan Smith – #77-Sam Hornish Jr., #00-Michael McDowell, #10-Patrick Carpentier, #40-Dario Franchitti
2007 #42-Juan Pablo Montoya (1) – #6-David Ragan, #15-Paul Menard, #00-David Reutimann, #84-A.J. Allmendinger
2006 #11-Denny Hamlin (2) – #07-Clint Bowyer, #1-Martin Truex Jr.[CH], #40-David Stremme, #41-Reed Sorenson, #49-Brent Sherman
2005 #5-Kyle Busch (2) [CH] – Travis Kvapil, Stanton Barrett, Mike Garvey, Eric McClure
2004 #9-Kasey Kahne – Brendan Gaughan, Brian Vickers, Scott Wimmer, Scott Riggs, Johnny Sauter
2003 #42-Jamie McMurray – Greg Biffle(1), Tony Raines, Casey Mears, Jack Sprague, Larry Foyt
2002 #12-Ryan Newman (1) – Jimmie Johnson(3)[CH], Carl Long, Shawna Robinson
2001 #29-Kevin Harvick (2) [CH] – Kurt Busch[CH], Casey Atwood, Jason Leffler, Ron Hornaday Jr.[HOF], Andy Houston
2000 #17-Matt Kenseth (1) [CH] – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2)[HOF], Dave Blaney, Scott Pruett, Stacy Compton, Mike Bliss
1999 #20-Tony Stewart (3) [CH][HOF] – Elliott Sadler, Buckshot Jones
1998 #28-Kenny Irwin (0) – Kevin Lepage, Jerry Nadeau, Steve Park
1997 #31-Mike Skinner (0) – David Green, Jeff Green, Robby Gordon
1996 #1-Johnny Benson (0) – Stacy Compton [listed as a candidate for 1 race], Randy MacDonald [3 races]
1995 #41-Ricky Craven (0) – Robert Pressley, Randy LaJoie, Steve Kinser, Davy Jones
1994 #8-Jeff Burton (0) – Joe Nemechek, Steve Grissom, Loy Allen, John Andretti, Jeremy Mayfield, Mike Wallace, Ward Burton
1993 #24-Jeff Gordon [CH][HOF] – Bobby Labonte[CH][HOF], Kenny Wallace, P.J. Jones, Todd Bodine
1992 #66-Jimmy Hensley (0)(was 46 years old) – Dave Madar III, Andy Belmont
1991 #68-Bobby Hamilton – Ted Musgrave, Stanley Smith, Wally Dallenbach Jr.
1990 #20-Rob Moroso (0)(died during season in personal auto wreck) – Jack Pennington, Jerry O’Neil, Jeff Purvis
1989 #84-Dick Trickle(0)(was 47 years old) – Hut Stricklin, Larry Pearson, Jimmy Spencer, Rick Mast, Ben Hess, Chad Little, Butch Miller, Mickey Gibbs
1988 #10-Ken Bouchard(0) – Ernie Irvan, Brad Noffsinger, Jimmy Horton
1987 #28-Davey Allison (2)[HOF] – Dale Jarrett[CH][HOF], Steve Christman, Rodney Combs, Derrike Cope, Mark Stahl, Brett Bodine
1986 #32/#35-Alan Kulwicki (0)[CH][HOF] – Michael Waltrip, Chet Fillip, Pancho Carter, Kirk Bryant, Jim Sauter, Davey Allison [HOF][listed 4 races], Derrike Cope , Jerry Cramer , Rick Baldwin , Jonathan Edwards , Wayne Slark 
1985 #90-Ken Schrader (0) – Eddie Bierschwale, Don Hume
1984 #88-Rusty Wallace [CH][HOF] – Dean Combs, Clark Dwyer, Tommy Ellis, Doug Heveron, Phil Parsons, Greg Sacks
1983 #17-Sterling Marlin(0) – Trevor Boys, Bobby Hillin Jr., Ronnie Hopkins, Ken Ragan
1982 #23/#50-Geoffrey Bodine (0) – Mark Martin[HOF], Brad Teague
1981 #47-Ron Bouchard (1) – Mike Alexander, Gary Balough, Stan Barrett, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Tim Richmond, Johnny Rutherford, Joe Ruttman, Connie Saylor, Morgan Shepherd, Rick Wilson
1980 #90-Jody Ridley (0) – Slick Johnson, Kyle Petty, Lake Speed
1979 #2-Dale Earnhardt [CH][HOF](1) – Terry Labonte[CH][HOF], Harry Gant, Joe Millikan
1978 Ronnie Thomas – Roger Hamby, Blackie Wangerin, Baxter Price, Al Holbert
1977 Ricky Rudd – Sam Sommers, Janet Guthrie, Tighe Scott, Tommy Gale, Gary Myers
1976 Skip Manning – Terry Bivens, Neil Bonnett, Jimmy Means, Bill Elliott[CH][HOF], John A. Utsman, Johnny Ray
1975 Bruce Hill – Carl Adams, Bruce Jacobi, Grant Adcox, Chuck Bown, Joe Mihalic, Travis Tiller, Ferrel Harris, Dick May
1974 Earl Ross (1) – Richie Panch, Jackie Rogers, Ramo Stott
1973 Lennie Pond – Darrell Waltrip[CH][HOF], Johnny Barnes
1972 Larry Smith – David Sisco, Doc Faustina
1971 Walter Ballard – Maynard Troyer, Richard Brown, D.K. Ulrich
1970 Bill Dennis – Joe Frasson, Jim Vandiver
1969 Dick Brooks – Buddy Young, Hoss Ellington
1968 Pete Hamilton – Dave Marcis, Don Tarr
1967 Donnie Allison – Charlie Glotzbach, Paul Dean Holt
1966 James Hylton – Bill Seifert, Frank Warren
1965 Sam McQuagg – Henley Gray, Clyde Lynn
1964 Doug Cooper – J.T. Putney, Buddy Arrington
1963 Billy Wade – Bobby Isaac[CH][HOF], Larry Manning, JD McDuffie
1962 Tom Cox – Cale Yarborough[CH][HOF], Ed Livingston
1961 Woody Wilson Wendell Scott[HOF], Lee Reitzel
1960 David Pearson [CH][HOF] – Gerald Duke, Paul Lewis
1959 Richard Petty [CH][HOF] – Fritz Wilson, Buddy Baker[HOF], Bob Burdick
1958 Shorty Rollins (1)
1957 Ken Rush
1955-56 not awarded
1954 Blackie Pitt
Keys to above list
[HOF] = NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee
[CH] = Won NASCAR Cup Championship at least once
race wins during rookie year in parens()
rest of rookie class listed above, if known
(NOT a 2002 candidate but won – Jamie McMurray (1) and ran and won ROTY in 2003)
(NOT a 2009 candidate but won – Brad Keselowski (1), didn’t run for the award in 2009 or 2010)
(NOT a 2011 candidate but won – Trevor Bayne (1) and wasn’t allowed to run for ROTY in 2014)
(NOT a 2019 candidate but won – Justin Haley (1) only started three Cup races in 2019 and two in 2020)
SOME NASCAR CUP SERIES ROOKIE of THE YEAR HISTORY
* Austin Cindric is the most recent Rookie of the Year candidate to win a NASCAR Cup Series race (in his 8th start), capturing the Daytona 500 race at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022, Cole Custer had been the most recent to win a race, on July 12, 2019, at Kentucky Speedway (Justin Haley was not ROTY candidates when he won at Daytona on July 7, 2019 in his 3rd start).
* The most recent Rookie to score a top-five finish is Austin Cindric, who won at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2021.
* The way to the NASCAR Cup championship is to win Rookie of the Year. Thirteen Rookie of the Year drivers have gone on to win at least one NASCAR Cup title: Richard Petty (1959), David Pearson (1960), Dale Earnhardt (1979), Rusty Wallace (1984), Alan Kulwicki (1986), Jeff Gordon (1993), Tony Stewart (1999), Matt Kenseth (2000), Kevin Harvick (2001), Kyle Busch (2005), Joey Logano (2009), Kyle Larson (2014), Chase Elliott (2016)
* Cole Custer was the 3rd ROTY candidate to make the NASCAR Playoffs. In 2020, Custer was cut after the first 3 races in the playoffs and finished 16th of 16 playoff drivers. Denny Hamlin was the first in 2006 when it was known as the Chase and finished 3rd. Chase Elliott was the 2nd in 2016 and finished 10th in the playoffs.
* The most recent Rookie to win a pole position in the NASCAR Cup Series is Daniel Hemric. Hemric captured the top starting spot at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2019.
* Regan Smith (2008) became the first Rookie of the Year in the 52-year history of the program without a DNF (did not finish). He was running at the finish in all 34 starts he made and captured top rookie honors over Sam Hornish Jr. by just seven points (236-229).
* The 2008 season marked the first time in NASCAR’s modern-era (since 1972) that THREE drivers shared the lead in the Rookie standings. After the second race of the season, Sam Hornish, Jr., Dario Franchitti and Regan Smith were all tied at the top of the standings.
* Denny Hamlin was the only Rookie to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Cup since the program was created in 2004 (two other drivers have since made it, now known as the Playoffs)
* The record for most wins by a Rookie is THREE, shared by Tony Stewart (1999) and Jimmie Johnson (2002).
* A Rookie has posted multiple victories SEVEN times in NASCAR Cup:
1987: Davey Allison, two
1999: Tony Stewart, three
2000: Dale Earnhardt Jr., two [didn’t win award]
2001: Kevin Harvick, two
2002: Jimmie Johnson, three [didn’t win award]
2005: Kyle Busch, two
2006: Denny Hamlin, two
* More than one Rookie has posted victories during their first NASCAR Cup season only three times:
1981: Morgan Shepherd (one) and Ron Bouchard (one)
2000: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two) and Matt Kenseth (one)
2002: Jimmie Johnson (three) and Ryan Newman (one)
Most Starts: 41 – James Hylton (1966), Walter Ballard (1971)
Fewest Starts: 5 – Woody Wilson (1961)
Most Wins: 3 – Tony Stewart (1999) & Jimmie Johnson (2002)
Most Top 5s: 20 – James Hylton (1966)
Most Top 10s: 32 – James Hylton (1966)
Most Poles: 6 – Ryan Newman (2002)
Highest Championship Finishing Position: 2nd-Place – James Hylton (1966).
ROTY Finishes In Final Top 10 of Drivers Standings
Driver, Rank, Year
James Hylton, 2nd, 1966
Denny Hamlin, 3rd, 2006 (Chase system)
Shorty Rollins, 4th, 1958
Tony Stewart, 4th, 1999
Jimmie Johnson, 5th, 2002
Ryan Newman, 6th, 2002
Dale Earnhardt, 7th, 1979
Jody Ridley, 7th, 1980
Earl Ross, 8th, 1974
Kevin Harvick, 9th, 2001
Walter Ballard, 10th, 1971
Chase Elliott, 10th, 2016 (playoff system)
Some of the best NASCAR Cup ROTY seasons
1958 Shorty Rollins 29 (of 51) races, 1 win, 12 top 5’s, 22 top 10’s, 0 poles, final points position was 4th
1959 Richard Petty 21 (of 44) races, 0 wins, 6 top 5’s, 9 top 10’s, 0 poles, points pos 15th
1962 Tom Cox 42 (of 53) races, 0 wins, 3 top 5’s, 20 top 10’s, 0 poles, points pos 19th
1966 James Hylton 41 (of 49) races, 0 wins, 20 top 5’s, 32 top 10’s, 1 pole, points pos 2nd
Modern Era 1972-present:
1979 Dale Earnhardt 27 (of 31) races, 1 win, 11 top 5’s, 17 top 10’s, 4 poles, points pos 7th
1987 Davey Allison 22 (of 29) races, 2 wins, 9 top 5’s, 16 top 10’s, 5 poles, points pos 21st
1999 Tony Stewart 34 races, 3 wins, 12 top 5’s, 21 top 10’s, 2 poles, 4th in points
2000 Matt Kenseth 34 races, 1 win, 4 top 5’s, 11 top 10’s, no poles, 14th in points
2000 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 34 races, 2 wins, 3 top 5’s, 5 top 10’s, 2 poles, 16th in points
2001 Kevin Harvick 35 (of 36) races, 2 wins, 6 top 5’s, 16 top 10’s, no poles, 9th in points
2002 Jimmie Johnson 36 races, 3 wins, 6 top 5’s, 21 top 10’s, 4 poles, 5th in points
2002 Ryan Newman 36 races, 1 win, 14 top 5’s, 22 top 10’s, 6 poles, 6th in points
2006 Denny Hamlin 36 races, 2 wins, 8 top 5’s, 20 top 10’s, 3 poles, 3rd in points (Playoff system, The Chase)
2014 Kyle Larson 36 races, 0 wins, 8 top 5’s, 17 top 10’s, 1 pole, 17th in points (Playoff system but not in the playoffs)
2016 Chase Elliott 36 races, 0 wins, 10 top 5’s, 17 top 10’s, 2 poles, 10th in points (Playoff system)
2020 Cole Custer 36 races, 1 win, 2 top 5’s, 7 top 10’s, 0 poles, 16th in points (Playoff system)
a BOLD stat is the record holder as the end of 2020
SOME PAST ROOKIE of the YEAR NEWS and NOTES
Rookie Austin Cindric gets first NASCAR Cup victory in thrilling Daytona: On the 85th birthday of his car owner, Roger Penske, 23-year-old NASCAR Cup Series rookie #2-Austin Cindric beat #23-Bubba Wallace to the finish line by .036 seconds in overtime to win Sunday’s 64th running of the Daytona 500. In a thrilling run to the finish in NASCAR’s new Next Gen race car at Daytona International Speedway, Cindric held off Wallace and #14-Chase Briscoe (.091 seconds behind) to notch his first Cup victory in his eighth start in the series. Cindric got the win in chamber-of-commerce weather with a sold-out crowd jamming the grandstands.(see more HERE)(2-20-2022)
Chase Briscoe is 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year: When the checkered flag dropped on the Season Finale 500, Chase Briscoe was officially named the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Briscoe was the highest-finishing rookie 29 times this season. Briscoe is one of only three drivers to win the rookie-of-the-year title in all three of NASCAR’s top national touring series – Camping World Truck (2017), Xfinity (2019) and Cup (2021). He joins William Byron and Erik Jones.(Full post here)(11-7-2021)
Custer wins at Kentucky: #41-Cole Custer is the first NASCAR Cup Rookie of the year candidate to win since Chris Buescher won a rain shortened race at Pocono on August 1, 2016. Justin Haley won a race in his third start in 2019, but was not running for Rookie of the Year and is not running in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020, although he did run the Daytona 500.(7-12-2020)
Three rookies finish in Top-10: For the first time since 1994 at Pocono Raceway, three rookie drivers scored top-ten finishes in a NASCAR Cup Series race. At Kentucky Speedway on July 12, 2020, Cole Custer won the race, #95-Christopher Bell finish 7th and #8-Tyler Reddick finished 10th. At Pocono Race on July 17, 1994, Ward Burton finished 2nd, JOE Nemechek 3rd and Jeff Burton 4th.(7-12-2020)
Daniel Hemric wins Rookie of the Year: Daniel Hemric, driver of the #8 Camaro ZL1, clinched the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors after a 12th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead. With the title, Hemric is now the 19th different Chevy driver to win the award in NASCAR’s premier racing series since 1972. He joins the list of recognizable Chevy-powered names, including Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Jeff Gordon. The year-end honor was achieved following one top-five and two top-10 finishes, plus 22 laps led during the 2019 season. Hemric also earned his first-career NASCAR Cup Series pole at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400.(Chevy Racing), see full story and transcript here
ALSO: Richard Childress Racing recently announced that Hemric will not return to the #8 for the 2020 Cup Series season with Tyler Reddick moving into that ride. Hemric will run in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports in 2020, scheduled to race in 21 races for the organization driving the #8 Chevy.(11-17-2019)
William Byron is the NASCAR Cup Series 2018 rookie of the year: In the penultimate race of the year, the driver of the #24 Hertz Chevy locked up the title with a ninth-place finish – his fourth top-10 of the year. “Really just had a good car this weekend, so that was a lot of fun and good for us to have a weekend like that,” Byron said. “Something to build toward for Homestead and next year’s going to be a different deal for us.
Byron is the fourth Hendrick Motorsports driver to earn the rookie title in the Cup Series, joining Jeff Gordon (1993), Kyle Busch (2005) and Chase Elliott (2016).
Proud to have that and thankful for Hertz and all their support, Hendrick Motorsports and all the people back at the shop.” He has now won rookie of the year honors in four consecutive seasons after earning the award in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017, the NASCAR Truck Series in 2016 and the K&N Pro Series East in 2015. He joins Erik Jones as just the second driver to win rookie of the year in the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series in back-to-back-to-back seasons.(11-11-2018)
NASCAR updates National Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year points system: NASCAR announced an update to the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure in all three national series, placing a brighter spotlight on some of those young stars. Beginning the 2018 season, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year point system will mirror the points structure that awards the season-long championship, including stage points and playoff points, with the eventual Sunoco Rookie of the Year earning the most points throughout the season.
As is the case with the season-long points structure, a race win will earn a Sunoco Rookie 40 points and five playoff points. A second-place finish will earn a Sunoco Rookie 35 points; a third-place finish nets 34 points, and so on. A Sunoco Rookie who wins a stage will earn 10 points and one playoff point.
The new Sunoco Rookie of the Year guidelines will take effect in all three NASCAR national series – the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Truck Series.(1-18-2018)
On the same weekend Sunoco Rookie of the year candidates won all three NASCAR national series races for the first time in history:
Chris Buescher, 23 years old, won the NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono on August 1, 2016;
Erik Jones, 20, won the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway on July 31, 2016;
William Byron, 18, won the NASCAR Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway on July 30, 2016.
Their average age is 20.33.(NASCAR)(8-4-2016)
Rookies: #48-Jimmie Johnson tied Tony Stewart’s rookie record for most wins by a NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year candidate with three in 2002. #12-Ryan Newman holds the rookie record [Modern Era 1972-present] of top fives, with 14, Hylton holds the all time record with 20. The top ten’s record [Modern Era 1972-present] is held by Newman with 22, which is 10 below the all-time record of Hylton in 1966. Some comparisons (all were Rookie of the Year except Earnhardt Jr):
Joey Logano won 2009 Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Cup Series. Logano captured top rookie honors 26 times in 36 races and officially claimed the honor by 33 points (270-237) over Scott Speed. At 19 years of age, Logano became the youngest driver to win Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Logano first Rookie to win in 71 races: Rookie #20-Joey Logano rallied from a lap down and stretched his fuel mileage to perfection to win the rain shortened LENOX Industrial Tools 301 Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Logano scored his first NASCAR Cup Series victory in just his 20th start and his first in two starts at New Hampshire. He became the first Rookie [Keselowski is not a Rookie Candidate] to win in 71 races, dating back to Juan Pablo Montoya’s victory at Sonoma Raceway in 2007. He joined Ryan Newman (2002) as the only Rookies to win in 29 NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire. He won in just his second start at New Hampshire and led the race just once, covering the final 10 laps. Logano leads Scott Speed by 31 points (199-168) in the overall Rookie standings. Logano scored his first top-five and fourth top-10 of the 2009 season.(PR)(6-29-2009)
NASCAR to implement rookie orientation program: NASCAR will implement a one-day rookie orientation seminar next February for newcomers to its three national touring series. The annual program will be designed for rookies and drivers 22 and under. It will focus on NASCAR rules and policies as well as the adjustment to competing on the national stock-car circuit. “It’s something we’ve been looking at for the last two or three years,” Poston said. “We looked at what all the other leagues do, and one thing we realized is all the other leagues do this, and there seems to be a lot of benefit both for the league and their participants.” The program will include University of Central Florida professor Dr. Richard Lapchick of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports to address professional and personal conduct and Aegis Laboratories’ Dr. David Black to address the NASCAR substance-abuse policy. NASCAR Chairman Brian France also would be one of the presenters with other NASCAR executives, NASCAR’s medical liaisons, series directors, veteran drivers and track operators. “We want to do this to touch base with drivers that are new to the national series and make sure that they have an opportunity at their very start to get face-to-face with NASCAR executives, to understand the sport and who we are,” Poston said. “It’s really to welcome to the national series, welcome them to the sport and also to answer any questions that they have.” NASCAR has an 18-year-old age limit for its three national touring series and has toyed with the idea of increasing the age minimum for the NASCAR Cup Series. Poston said that is still under consideration.(SceneDaily)(11-4-2009)
Some Rookie Stuff: Jamie McMurray is the 4th driver to pick up his 1st career Cup win at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in the modern era (The others: 2000: Matt Kenseth; 1995: Bobby Labonte; 1994: Jeff Gordon). McMurray became the 3rd rookie to win this year, joining Jimmie Johnson & Ryan Newman. It marks the first time that 3 rookies have won a Cup race in the same season in the modern era [1972-present]. Of the 13 first-time winners since 2000, 7 of those have come on Bruton Smith (SMI Tracks). 2000: Dale Earnhardt Junior (Texas), Matt Kenseth (Charlotte), & Jerry Nadeau (Atlanta; 2001: Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Elliott Sadler (Bristol); 2002: Kurt Busch (Bristol) & Jamie McMurray (Charlotte).(10-13-2002)
Quickest wins by a driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in only his 12th Cup start. Ron Bouchard won a NASCAR Cup race in his 11th start in 1981 at Talladega, Mark Donohue won in his 5th Cup start in 1973 at Riverside, the earliest in the ‘modern era’ of Cup, he would only make one more Cup start. Others: Morgan Shepherd won in his 15th start (Martinsville) in 1981, but wasn’t named Rookie of the Year. Several other drivers won in their first year, but weren’t considered ROTY candidates: Dan Gurney at Riverside in 1963 in his third race and Mario Andretti at Daytona Beach in 1967 in his fifth start.
BUT in 2001, #29-Kevin Harvick won his first Cup race in his third ever start, the best ever in the modern era [1972-present]. McMurray won in his 2nd start at Lowe’s today which is the new Modern Era record and ties the all time record, set by John Rostek, who won in his 2nd career start in April 1960 at Arizona State Fairgrounds.
ALSO of Note, Johnny Rutherford won a Daytona Qualifying race in his first start back in 1963, back then the Qualifier races counted as wins and the championship and points. And of course Jim Roper won in his first start, the first race ever held by NASCAR in 1949 and Jack White won in his first start in 1949, the 5th race of the season.(10-13-2002)
First time back-to-back: #48-Jimmie Johnson’s victory comes a week after #12-Ryan Newman won, marking the first time in series history rookies have won back-to-back races.(News and Record), Actually in 2000 Dale Earnhardt Jr and Matt Kenseth won back-to-back points races, with Earnhardt Jr winning at Richmond and Kenseth winning at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May of 2000, the Winston was run between the two races, also won by a rookie, Dale Earnhardt Jr.(9-23-2002)
Earnhardt Jr. the fastest Correction and UPDATE: #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr has won his first two NASCAR Cup races faster then anyone in the modern era. Earnhardt Jr. won his 2nd race in his 16th start. Tony Stewart did it in his 32nd race, Dale Earnhardt in his 41st, Jeff Gordon 50th, Darrell Waltrip 65th and Bobby Labonte 77th. Not sure what the all time record is but Red Byron won his 2nd race in his 5th start during the first NASCAR Cup season in 1949
Correction: Davey Allison also won his 2nd race in his 16th start(5-7-2000)
Harvick: #29-Kevin Harvick won his 2nd Cup race in his 17th start.
UPDATE: add #48-Jimmie Johnson ties the record as he won his 2nd race in his 16th start.(6-2-2002)