Today, we unveiled our top 10 die-cast cars of 2014 along with our list of the top 10 best-selling drivers.

This year, just like the previous three years that we’ve put these lists together, we’re struck with how closely die-cast sales mimic the big stories in the sport.

The headline this year was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s season-opening win at the Daytona 500.

The Race Win die-cast of Earnhardt’s Daytona 500-winning car wasn’t just the biggest seller of the year. It was the biggest seller in the history of Lionel Racing. And by quite a large margin.

Earnhardt’s ensuing success just built on that early momentum; and his Superman paint scheme, standard paint schemes, and Pocono win cars all contributed to a year where he didn’t just make the list multiple times; he dominated.

But in addition to Earnhardt’s incredible die-cast sales is a story that’s just as meaningful for the future of NASCAR.

For the first time, three rookies made the top 10 list of the year’s best-selling drivers. This is huge.

Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – all rising stars in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series – beat out some very heavy hitters in the sport to gain a spot in the Lionel Racing top 10.

This doesn’t just mean they were marketed well or had industry support on the business side.

It means that NASCAR nation has submitted its vote.

We know that die-cast are bought and collected by the most passionate of NASCAR fans. New names on this best-selling list mean that core fans don’t just like these drivers and appreciate their talent, they like them enough to actually purchase enough of their die-cast to make a big impact on the year’s merchandise sales.

Why is this so huge?

Like it or not, several of the most popular drivers in NASCAR are drawing closer and closer to the day when they will hang up their fire suits and move on to other endeavors.

With the results of this top 10 list, we’re seeing for the first time that there are some new stars on the horizon who fans believe can step into these veterans’ shoes.

And that’s a good thing.