Reed Sorenson, the current rookie point leader, and Travis Kittleson have dominated the rookie standings this year. There are been some flashes of brilliance from other rookies like Davin Scites and Boris Jurkovic, but Sorenson and Kittleson have swept their freshman counterparts under the table with speed and consistency.
And now, with just seven races left in the season and only 136 points separating the two, the rivalry between the two is beginning to brew!
This was very evident after last Friday's race at Madison International Speedway, where Kittleson hoped to capitalize on Sorenson's misfortunes of getting caught a lap down.
"We were running in the top-10 early in the race," said the 17-year-old rookie leader Sorenson. "Gary (St. Amant) and I were racing hard for a position and split a lapped car going down into the corner. Well, I tried to stay low and Gary came down the track and we hit. Gary spun out and had some damage. I was in the grass trying to avoid it all and just lost my car with the wet tires and everything. Then I got turned around and had to back up to keep from hitting a big tractor tire in the infield. That got us down a lap, but we still had a very fast car."
This is where the two drivers begin to tell different stories, but their stories and emotions in explaining what happened next proves their rivalry is certainly heating up.
You see, with a possible top-five finish ahead of him, Kittleson thought he would be able to trim away some of Sorenson's point lead. But according to Kittleson, his rookie counterpart didn't make it too easy for him when he was trying to get around Sorenson's lapped car.
"It got to be pretty late in the race and we were trying to fight our way back up to the front after stopping for some fresh tires, but there was one lapped car out there (Sorenson) that just wouldn't let us get around him. He was blocking us like crazy. He was racing other cars that were lapped down and just wouldn't let us get by him.
That really kept us from advancing up to the front like we could have.
"I am sure we had about a third-place car if we would have been able to get up there and race with the leaders. We could have made up a lot more positions on him and cut his point lead down some more, but I guess he didn't want to play that way."
Sorenson claims he was just racing for position with the car of Brett Sontag in front of him.
"There was a pack of like six cars there racing really hard," added Sorenson. "We had a caution with 15 to go or 20 to go in the race and we were pulling 10-20 car lengths on Kittleson and other guys, so I knew we had a fast car even though we were a lap down.
"My crew said I was fast enough to go up there and get Sontag, who was also a lap down, so I just raced hard and tried to get up there to get Sontag, which I did. Hey, that was another spot. That was what we needed and what we are racing for.
Travis Kittleson (left) and Reed Sorenson (right) have always been friends, but a new rivalry between the two is now brewing.
So you think winning the ASA Rookie of the Year honors isn't that big of a deal? And you think the $50,000 prize isn't driving the two top rookies in the series right now? Well, think again; and you need to look no further than the Madison (WI) race to prove our point. This year's top rookies are starting to form quite a rivalry, even if they won't look at it that way.
Kittleson's #30 (left) and Sorenson's #29 (right) always seem to be close on the track.
"If Travis would have been a lot faster than us, I would have let him go, but he wasn't that much faster than us. I was just racing for every position I could get. I know he wasn't happy after the race, because he thought I was holding him up."
Travis ended up seventh and Reed came home 12th.
"I was furious after the race," said Travis. "He was really blocking me. I would have forced the issue more if that is what I realized he was really trying to do a little earlier than I did. I was ready to get out of the car and go down there and talk with him, but I thought better of it in the end.
"Brad (Sorenson, Reed's father) came down after the race and apologized and said they were just trying to get as many positions as they could. I wasn't too happy and was yelling at him, but then I laid off and figured he probably didn't have a whole lot he could do about it at that point."
Sorenson, who has led the rookie points for much of the middle part of the season, said he wasn't singling Travis out and doesn't see that they are building a rivalry. In fact, he says he still has a lot of respect for his fellow competitor.
"It's just hard racing," said Sorenson. "That is all you can say about it. We aren't really rivals more than anyone else. I mean, you are rivals with everyone out there. There are so many guys racing for position, you can't just back off, because the moment you do, you will fall behind. That isn't how you win championships and races.
"We were able to jump up to third in the overall point standings because both Robbie (Pyle) and Mike (Garvey) had problems. I did go down and apologized to Gary; I felt bad for him. He was a little mad, but said that it is just the way his season is going. If that wouldn't' have happened, we wouldn't have gotten down in the first place and could have had a top-five finish for sure."
Maybe it's not a personal rivalry, but the fact of the matter is they are battling for the $50,000 prize and only one guy will win it. That is enough to motivate anyone. Plus, they'll be able to add their name next to the likes of Mark Martin, Pat Schauer, Kenny Wallace, Ted Musgrave, Scott
Hansen, Johnny Benson, Tim Fedewa, Kevin Cywinski, Steve Carlson, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Clanton, Johnny Sauter, David Stremme and more as this year's ASA Rookie of the Year. (EDITOR'S NOTE: That's quite a list, isn't it?) In our eyes it's a much welcomed rivalry and one that looks like it could continue into future years when both guys head off to the "big leagues" of NASCAR.