Rookie Report: Alabama 500
Gaulding posts first career top-10 finish, leads rookies at Talladega

By Dominic Aragon
October 15, 2017

Four of the five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 40 starters in the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday.

Below is a breakdown of how each fared.

Dillon was the other rookie to post a career-high finish at Talladega.

Dillon started the race in 25th. He finished the first stage in 20th and the second stage in 19th.

Dillon ultimately finished 11th. His previous high finish was 13th-place twice this season (Talladega in May and Darlington in September).

“We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast,” Dillon said. “We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasnt anything that affected the car.

“I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn't get any help from behind. We ended up 11th.

“It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It’s just tough and it’s disappointing we couldn’t get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end.”

With five races left in the season, Dillon remains 24th in driver’s standings.

Suarez came eight laps short of capturing his first career Cup Series victory.

Suarez started the race in the 14th position, the highest qualifying rookie.  

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver finished the first stage in 17th and the second stage in 21st.

Suarez did not officially lead a lap, however, he found himself fighting for the lead in the final stage. With eight laps to go while leading the race, Suarez made contact with Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet in Turn 3, causing a crash.

Altogether, six drivers were involved in the incident. Suarez was unable to continue the race and finished the race as the first car out in 15th.

Suarez remains 20th in driver’s standings.

Jones posted his seventh DNF of 2017 in the Cup Series.

The Furniture Row Racing driver started the race in 23rd.

Jones made contact with Jamie McMurray on lap 25 out of Turn 4, ultimately causing a five-car crash. Jones’s No. 77 Toyota had too much damage to continue the race. He finished the race 36th.

Jones gave his take on what happened.

“It was kind of hard to see from my view,” he said. “I was behind the 18 (Kyle Busch) and he started checking up, he swerved off to the left and the 1 (Jamie McMurray) was sitting there really slow on the race track so I didn’t really have any choice.

“Unfortunately, ran him over and kind of caused a chain reaction from there. It’s a bummer. We didn’t get to race today and I was hoping we’d just get a chance to go up and see what we had.

“It’s unfortunate, but those kind of things are going to happen here.”

Jones remains 19th in driver’s standings.

Gaulding posted a career-high finish at Talladega.

The lowest starting rookie (39th) was the highest finishing rookie (ninth).

Gaulding finished the first stage in 16th and the second stage in 18th.

Gaulding was involved in two crashes during the final stage, and his car sustained damage, but was able to continue the race.

Gaulding finished the race in ninth-place. His previous high was 24th-place twice this season (Talladega in May and Indianapolis in July).

“Unreal, it’s a dream come true,” Gaulding said.

The BK Racing driver climbed one position to 35th overall in driver’s standings.

Talladega marked the first time in 2017 Gaulding was the highest finishing rookie.


Did not start.

Sarah Crabill/Getty Images


Matt Courson/The Racing Experts

Team Chevrolet
Toyota Racing

9) Gray Gaulding

11) Ty Dillon
15) Daniel Suarez (OUT)
36) Erik Jones (OUT)

19) Erik Jones
20) Daniel Suarez
24) Ty Dillon
34) Corey LaJoie

35) Gray Gaulding

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)
14) Pocono; Erik Jones (3rd)
15) Michigan; Erik Jones (13th)
16) Sonoma; Daniel Suarez (16th)
17) Daytona; Erik Jones (9th)
18) Kentucky; Erik Jones (6th)
19) New Hampshire; Daniel Suarez (6th)
20) Indianapolis; Daniel Suarez (7th)
21) Pocono; Daniel Suarez (7th)
22) Watkins Glen; Daniel Suarez (3rd)

23) Michigan; Erik Jones (3rd)
24) Bristol; Erik Jones (2nd)

25) Darlington; Erik Jones (5th)
26) Richmond; Erik Jones (6th)

27) Chicagoland; Daniel Suarez (12th)

28) New Hampshire; Erik Jones (6th)

29) Dover; Daniel Suarez (8th)

30) Charlotte; Daniel Suarez (6th)

31) Talladega; Gray Gaulding (9th)

Will a rookie win a race this season?