Being a rookie driver is a tough job. You don’t have any experience in this division, the veteran drivers don’t know you and as a result, they don’t trust you yet either. You’re trying to show what you can do without ruffling any feathers. You have to get the job done, but you’re still learning.


That’s why when a rookie has a strong run in a race, people pay attention to it. And when they have a strong season, they get recognized for it with a Rookie of the Year award.


Each year, honors the top rookies from throughout North America in the annual 51 Awards. Today, we’re pleased to announce the winner of the Rookie of the Year award for 2017.


Breakthrough Performance

(Rookie of the Year)

Race fans have been hearing this name for a couple of years now, but this driver is still so young that he’ll be a rookie in quite a few divisions of racing over the next few years. And most likely, he’ll end up winning Rookie of the Year honors in those divisions just like he did in this year’s 51 Awards.


The driver we’re talking about is Wisconsin native, Derek Kraus. The 16-year-old driver led 120 laps in his first full NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season. He scored nine top-five finishes in 14 races and won the final race of the season at Kern County Raceway Park (CA). Those numbers were good enough to put him third in the overall standings and score him the Rookie of the Year honors for the series.


But winning Rookie of the Year honors in the 51 Awards is different than winning it for a racing series or division. This is a fan vote, and that means that the race fans have to recognize your achievements. That’s exactly what happened for Kraus this year.


“I’m over-the-top excited,” Kraus said when he learned the news. “Huge thank you to all the fans throughout the country that voted for me and got me this award. It means a lot to be the one driver out of all the other drivers that were in the running for it. And it’s really humbling that so many people took the time out of their busy day to vote for me.”


Kraus was able to narrowly edge out JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour driver Carson Hocevar for the crown this year. Hocevar scored three victories in 2017. Rounding out the podium was Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year, Hudson O’Neal. The son of Don O’Neal finished ninth in the overall LOLMDS standings in 2017.


Fourth in the voting went to Ricky Schlick who finished second in the overall points standings with the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series. Rounding out the top five was Anthony Alfredo who scored two wins and finished second in the standings with the CARS Late Model Stock Tour.


Past Rookie of the Year Award Winners

2016 – Christian Eckes

2015 – Todd Gilliland

2014 – Timmy Solomito

2013 – Kaz Grala

2012 – Kyle Larson

2011 – Erik Jones

2010 – Ross Kenseth

2009 – Chase Elliott

2008 – No Vote

2007 – Joey Logano

2006 – No Vote

2005 – Joey Logano

2004 – Steve Wallace

The 51’s: 2017 Rookie of the Year Award Goes To…