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Brendan Gaughan, Scott Lagasse poised for rookie battle

Toward the end of the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, I wondered if there would be any rookies competing in 2009. Boy, was I wrong.

Turns out, there are seven drivers gunning for Raybestos Rookie of the Year this season, and unlike last yearís top rookie and runnerup, five will run the full schedule.

Three are with solid teams, which should give them a chance to prove their worth. Which one will come out on top of the rookie race?

Brendan Gaughan.

No, wait, Scott Lagasse Jr. Yeah, Lagasse.

Nah, Gaughan. Thatís my pick. And Iím sticking with it.

There are three other full-time rookies, Penske Racing's Justin Allgaier, Germain Racingís Michael Annett and RAB Racingís John Wes Townley, but none has the experience to compete with Gaughan or Lagasse - even though Annett could surprise people this year. Also, JTG Daughtery Racing's Michael McDowell and Roush Fenway Racing's Erik Darnell will compete part-time in the series in 2009.

Gaughan is a Cup veteran who has won in the Truck series, and heís driving for Rusty Wallace Racing. If RWR has its cars right, Gaughan could win this year.

Gaughan has struggled the last couple of years and clearly wants to prove he still has the talent that led him to Penske Racingís Cup program for the 2004 season.

Lagasse has a full-time ride with CJM Racing, which should benefit from its switch to Toyota and its alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. At 28, Lagasse is getting to be too old to be a development driver, so this is a key year for him.

CJM wonít run in the top five every week, but Jason Keller proved the team can do it on occasion. And if Lagasse can fulfill his potential, the No. 11 Toyota should run with Gaughan.

Still, in the end, Gaughanís experience should be enough to help him win the rookie title.

Or maybe Lagasseís talent will overcome Gaughanís experience.

No, itís Gaughan. Thatís my choice.

Commentary by Lee Montgomery

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