Rookie Report: Daytona 500

By Dominic Aragon
February 27, 2017

Three of the four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 40 starters in the 59th running of the Daytona 500 Sunday.

Below is a breakdown of how each driver fared.

No. 13 Ty Dillon
Starting 18th, Dillon made his third career start in the Daytona 500 and 19th career start in the MENCS.

Dillon’s day included involvement in two accidents; a six-car accident on lap 105 and an 11-car accident on lap 142.

Dillon ran as high as eighth place, but the lap 142 accident knocked the
25-year-old driver out of the race. He finished 30th.

“We got caught up in that first crash when Kyle [Busch] cut a right-rear [tire],” Dillon said. “Really had nowhere to go and Bootie [Barker] and the guys worked really hard.

“I was so proud of our guys, we got it fixed. Just got a lap back and I probably should have been more patient there because we were the only car a lap down and should have waited for that crash and dodge another one, but sometimes you just can’t here at Daytona.

“But, I was proud of my guys for how hard they worked. We just got caught up in it. Just a bummer because I felt like I had a fast-enough car to get back up there and have a good finish and capitalize on a day that went sour early.”

Dillon will enter next weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway 31st in driver’s points, 16 points behind the Chase cutline.

No. 19 Daniel Suarez
In his MENCS debut, Suarez started 19th, becoming the first driver since Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier in 2014 to make their premier series debut in the Daytona 500.

During his green-flag pit stop on lap 17, NASCAR deemed Suarez too fast exiting pit road, giving the driver a pass-through penalty.

The penalty caused Suarez to fall one lap down, who was running 37th off the lead lap at the beginning of the second stage.

Through use of a free pass under the race’s fifth caution, Suarez was able to get back on the lead lap, running as high as ninth, before being collected in an 11-car accident on lap 142.

Suarez completed a total of 141 laps, finishing 29th.

“I just don’t feel like I did a really good job in the first part of the race,” Suarez said. “I made a lot of mistakes. I just wasn’t able to slow down enough to get into my [pit] box and then I made a couple mistakes there.

“We were able to overcome those mistakes and put ourselves back into the game. And actually I was so ready to race because I had been taking care of my car a lot, a lot. I was asking my team, possibly, ‘It’s time to race, it’s time to race,’ I guess it was still too early.”

Suarez begins the season 30th in driver’s standings, 16 points behind the Chase cutoff.

No. 77 Erik Jones
Making his third career MENCS start, Jones started in 34th in his first Daytona 500.

Jones missed his pit stall during green flag pit stops on lap 18, subsequently causing the driver to fall one lap down.

He earned the free pass under the race’s first caution period, a single-car incident involving Corey LaJoie on the backstretch on lap 31.

Jones peaked at 16th place, but involvement in the race’s third caution, a five-car accident on lap 105, knocked the driver out of the race. He finished 39th.

“Well, I learned a lot,” Jones said about his first Daytona 500 start. “It’s just nice kind of settling in with everybody and settling in with my spotter Rick Carelli and working more with Chris [Gayle] and just kind of getting settled into the role with these cars.

“I was trying to figure it all out and like I said I thought we were in a good spot to cycle out towards the front. I was just getting to the point where I thought we were going to get to start racing and that happened. So, unfortunate but I learned a lot.”

Leaving Daytona, Jones sits 37th in driver’s points, 24 points behind the Chase cutline.

The Daytona 500 marked each rookie’s first points-paying MENCS race with their respective teams.

All three of the Rookie-of-the-Year candidates received the free pass at some point during the race. However, none of the ROTY candidates were running at the finish of the Daytona 500.

Rookie finishes after Daytona, Race 1/36
29) No. 19 Daniel Suarez
30) No. 13 Ty Dillon
39) No. 77 Erik Jones

Unofficial points position after Daytona/Points deficit to Chase cutline
30) Daniel Suarez (-16)
31) Ty Dillon (-16)
37) Erik Jones (-24)

Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR Media Group
Which driver will win Rookie of the Year?
No. 13 Ty Dillon
No. 19 Daniel Suarez
No. 77 Erik Jones