Motor sports: Who is NEXT?

Updated: December 19, 2011, 12:01 AM ET
ESPN The Magazine

Chase Elliott

[+] EnlargeChase Elliott
Todd Warshaw/Getty ImagesAGE: 16 | HOMETOWN: Dawsonville, Ga.
FAME CLAIM: Son of racing legend Bill Elliott
The little one of the "Awesome" one has flexed his muscle in late-model stocks, chewing up fields featuring drivers three times his age. That attracted the attention of another NASCAR icon, Rick Hendrick, the guy who gave Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch their first Cup rides. The 10-time Sprint Cup champion owner signed Chase to a multiyear contract in February and fielded a K&N East ride for him. In April, he finished fourth in his debut race. "The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree," says Hendrick. "I've always admired Bill's ability in a race car and how he handled himself with the fans. I see those same traits in Chase, with his natural driving talent and an awareness of what he needs to do away from the track to be successful."

Courtney Force

[+] EnlargeCourtney Force
AP Photo/Sam VarnHagenAGE: 23 | HOMETOWN: Yorba Linda, Calif.
FAME CLAIM: Youngest daughter of John Force
We don't know what she's going to be racing yet, but whatever it is, she'll no doubt turn heads. The youngest daughter of Funny Car legend John Force will make her pro debut in 2012 while big sister Ashley is on maternity leave. Courtney has the option to race Funny Cars, a Force family tradition, but she could make the move to Top Fuel dragsters. Her background in the minor leagues is in the longer, faster dragsters, and she notched one Alcohol fuel win at Seattle in 2009. This year she also made close to 60 test runs in a Nitro Funny Car, preparing to make a lifelong dream come true.

Josef Newgarden

[+] EnlargeJosef Newgarden
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireAGE: 20 | HOMETOWN: Nashville, Tenn.
FAME CLAIM: 2011 Indy Lights Champion
After a stint in Europe racing single-seaters, the Tennessee native had a dominant rookie season in Indy Lights. Newgarden's five wins came on a variety of tracks, including street courses like St. Petersburg and Edmonton and large ovals like the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Because Newgarden is a Mazda Road to Indy scholarship winner, any IndyCar team that fields a car for him will have a half-million dollars guaranteed. Owners are looking for a multiyear commitment, but Newgarden hasn't ruled out a return to Formula racing across the pond as a stepping stone to F1.


Ryan Truex

[+] EnlargeRyan Truex
Jason Smith/Getty ImagesAGE: 19 | HOMETOWN: Mayetta, N.J.
FAME CLAIM: Two-time K&N East Series Champion

The kid brother of Sprint Cup vet Martin Truex Jr. already has an impressive résumé in NASCAR's development series, winning East Series championships in 2009 and 2010. Ryan recently left Michael Waltrip Racing, big bro's team, for a limited schedule in a Joe Gibbs Nationwide ride. The move is already paying off with three top-10 finishes in just five starts, including a career-best fourth at Richmond.




Darrell Wallace Jr.

[+] EnlargeDarrell Wallace Jr.
AP PhotoAGE: 18 | HOMETOWN: Mobile, Ala.
FAME CLAIM: 2010 K&N East Series Rookie of the Year

With a name like that, the kid had better be able to drive. And he can. In 2010, Wallace became the youngest winner in East Series history, winning at historic Greenville Pickens Speedway in his first career start. He's added four more victories since, including money performances in front of Sprint Cup teams at Richmond and Dover this year. Driving for former Dale Earnhardt Inc. exec Max Siegel, Wallace has finished third and second, respectively, in East Series points the past two years. As he makes the move to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012, Wallace is the favorite to become NASCAR's first African-American champion.



Eric Morse is a writer for ESPN The Magazine. Follow The Mag on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.