Rookie Report: AAA 400 Drive For Autism
By Dominic Aragon
June 4, 2017
Four of the five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 39 starters in the AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway Sunday.
The race was the 13th race of 36 for NASCAR’s premiere series in 2017.
Below is a breakdown of how each fared.
No. 13 Ty Dillon
Dillon started 21st in his second career series start at Dover.
The Germain Racing driver finished the first two stages on the lead lap in 20th.
During the third stage, Dillon had yet to pit during a cycle of green flag pit stops when the caution flag flew for a Regan Smith accident in Turn 2 on lap 330.
Dillon claimed the lead after he and the remaining lead lap cars pitted under caution.
Dillon led a total of 27 laps. In his previous 30 Cup Series starts, Dillon led 10 total laps.
While running inside the top-five with two laps to go, Dillon was one of ten drivers involved in the final accident of the day. He finished 14th, the last car on the lead lap.
“To lead laps like that meant a lot to me,” Dillon said. “We had to restart fourth on old tires and I just think the air off the No. 31 got me a little loose and they left a bunch of sand there off Turn 2 and as soon as I got loose and hit that sand it was all over.
“I feel bad for all the cars that got torn up. But, really, I don’t really know what the No. 31 or myself could have done any different to stay out of that crash.
“Proud of our effort today. We proved to ourselves as a team that we can run up front with the big boys and just proud of our effort by our GEICO Chevy.”
Dillon unofficially leaves Dover 23rd in driver’s standings, 99 points behind a playoff-eligible position. Matt Kenseth, who sits 12th in driver’s standings, currently holds the final playoff position with 327 totals points.
No. 19 Daniel Suarez
Suarez started third, his highest start of his Cup Series career and highest of the rookies.
At the conclusion of the first stage (lap 120), Suarez was 10th and 13th after the second stage (lap 240). Suarez earned one stage point with his top-ten finish in stage one.
In the final stage, Suarez avoided the final accident with two laps to go to en route to a sixth place finish, a career-high for the driver in the Cup Series.
“I think it was good,” Suarez said of his race day. “Like everything, ups and downs. In the beginning, we were okay and then later on we were pretty bad.
“We were able to make some adjustments and get back to a top-10. I feel like we had a top-10 car and we ended up right there. I think the entire team is making process and that’s for sure and I’m very proud of that and we just have to keep working and keep moving in the same direction.”
Suarez has finished inside the top 10 four times this season, including twice in the last three races.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will enter next weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway 19th in driver’s standings, 49 points behind a playoff-eligible position.
No. 23 Gray Gaulding
Gaulding started 32nd, the lowest of the rookies.
The BK Racing driver finished the first segment 27th and the second segment 26th, one lap down.
Gaulding eventually finished the race in 24th, four laps down.
Entering next weekend’s race at Pocono, Gaulding is unofficially 35th in driver’s standings, 253 points behind the playoffs cutline.
No. 77 Erik Jones
Jones started seventh, his second consecutive top-ten start.
Jones finished eighth in the first stage and ninth in the second stage, earning an additional five points to his total at the end of the race.
Jones, who was running inside the top 10 with two laps to go, was one of ten drivers involved in the overtime wreck on the backstretch. He crashed out of the race, finishing 15th.
The finish was the driver’s third DNF in the last five races.
Jones remains the highest rookie in driver standings at 18th, 44 points behind a playoff-eligible position.
Did not race at Dover.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Tyler Head/The Racing Experts
ROOKIE FINISHES AT DOVER, RACE 13/36
6) Daniel Suarez
14) Ty Dillon
15) Erik Jones (OUT)
24) Gray Gaulding (-4 LAPS)
UNOFFICIAL POINTS POSITION AFTER DOVER, POINTS DEFICIT TO PLAYOFF CUTLINE
18) Erik Jones (-44)
19) Daniel Suarez (-49)
23) Ty Dillon (-99)
34) Corey LaJoie (-245)
35) Gray Gaulding (-253)
TOP FINISHING ROOKIES BY TRACK IN 2017
1) Daytona; Corey LaJoie (24th)
2) Atlanta; Erik Jones (14th)
3) Las Vegas; Erik Jones (15th)
4) Phoenix; Daniel Suarez (7th)
5) Auto Club; Daniel Suarez (7th)
6) Martinsville; Erik Jones (12th)
7) Texas; Ty Dillon (17th)
8) Bristol; Ty Dillon (15th)
9) Richmond; Daniel Suarez (12th)
10) Talladega; Ty Dillon (13th)
11) Kansas; Daniel Suarez (7th)
12) Charlotte; Erik Jones (7th)
13) Dover; Daniel Suarez (6th)