Motor sports: Who is NEXT?
FAME CLAIM: Son of racing legend Bill Elliott
FAME CLAIM: Youngest daughter of John Force
FAME CLAIM: 2011 Indy Lights Champion
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.
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.
Every year since 1998, ESPN The Magazine has recognized an elite group of emerging athletes to watch in the year ahead -- athletes we call NEXT. They are competitors not only on the cusp of stardom, but on the verge of transcending their sports. NEXT is what happens when the hype is real.