Rookie Report: Camping World 500
By Dominic Aragon
March 19, 2017
AVONDALE, Ariz.—All five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 39 starters in the Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday.
The race was the fourth stop of 36 for the MENCS in 2017.
Below is a breakdown of how each fared.
No. 13 Ty Dillon
Dillon started 15th in his 22nd career MENCS start and third at Phoenix.
The 25-year-old driver was running 26th after the completion of the first stage and 18th after the completion of the second stage.
Dillon finished 16th, his third consecutive lead lap finish.
“It was a solid day,” Dillon said. “I don’t think we had the speed to be in the top-ten, but I think we had a top-15 car all day.”
Dillon will enter next weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway unofficially 24th in driver’s standings, 25 points behind the Chase cutline. Jimmie Johnson currently holds the 16th and final Chase position.
No. 19 Daniel Suarez
Suarez started 27th in his first MENCS start at Phoenix.
Suarez was 25th after the conclusion of the first stage and 23rd after the second stage.
The 25-year-old driver was running 14th before the final caution. A two tire pit stop enabled Suarez to restart 12th for overtime.
Suarez finished seventh for the first top-ten finish of his MENCS career.
“The guys did an amazing job, they just did exactly what they had to do; fast pit stop, two tires, and the car was almost as good as four tires,” Suarez said.
Suarez picked up eight positions in driver’s standings, and sits 20th in driver’s standings, 21 points behind the Chase cutline entering next weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.
No. 23 Gray Gaulding
Gaulding started 36th, the lowest of the rookies.
Gaulding was the first rookie to go one lap down, running 36th on lap 26. He earned the free pass under the first caution of the race.
Gaulding was involved in a two-car accident with David Ragan in Turn 1 on lap 205. Ragan blew a left-rear tire, collecting Gaulding.
“I had nowhere to go, it happens,” Gaulding said. “I hate it happened.”
Gaulding sits 39th in driver’s standings entering next weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.
No. 77 Erik Jones
Jones started eighth in his second career series start at Phoenix. He was the highest qualifying rookie and his starting position marked the second consecutive week he started inside the top-ten.
Jones was scored in 11th after the first stage and seventh after the second stage, earning four stage points.
Running fifth before the final caution and final pit stops, Jones restarted 14th with two laps to go after a four tire pit stop.
Jones finished eighth for his first MENCS Cup top-ten finish.
“I think we kind of had it coming here in the last couple weeks,” Jones said. “We just had a few issues to iron out, whether it be on pit road, on the racetrack, just bad circumstances, finally, everything just kind of played out the way we needed it to.”
“We wanted to run fifth, we felt like we had a fifth place Camry, but just wasn’t in the cards.”
Jones sits 18th in driver’s points, 11 points behind the Chase cutline.
No. 83 Corey LaJoie
LaJoie started 31st in his first MENCS start at Phoenix.
LaJoie was part of the first caution, making contact with Reed Sorenson on lap 28.
After the race resumed, LaJoie went a lap down while running 36th.
LaJoie brought out the race’s second caution for hitting the wall via a downed right-front tire in Turn 1 on lap 118.
LaJoie finished 38th, failing to finish for the second consecutive race. LaJoie said he was okay after the on-track incidents.
“It’s frustrating because I know I’m a better racecar driver than what I’m showing this year,” he said.
LaJoie sits 37th in driver’s standings, 75 points behind the Chase cutline.
Rookie finishes after Phoenix, Race 4/36
7) No. 19 Daniel Suarez
8) No. 77 Erik Jones
16) No. 13 Ty Dillon
36) No. 23 Gray Gaulding (OUT)
38) No. 83 Corey LaJoie (OUT)
Unofficial points position after Phoenix/Points deficit to Chase cutline
18) Erik Jones (-11)
20) Daniel Suarez (-21)
24) Ty Dillon (-25)
37) Corey LaJoie (-75)
39) Gray Gaulding (-88)
Daniel Courson/The Racing Experts