Rookie Report: Firekeepers Casino 400
By Dominic Aragon
June 18, 2017
Four of the five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 37 starters in the Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday.
The race was the 15th race of 36 for NASCAR’s premiere series in 2017.
Below is a breakdown of how each fared.
No. 13 Ty Dillon
In his third Michigan start in NASCAR’s premiere series, Dillon finished 20th on the lead lap.
Dillon, who started from the rear in 37th, finished the first stage (lap 60) in 25th and the second stage (lap 120) in 27th, one lap down.
Dillon received the free pass during the third stage of the race and earned his third consecutive lead lap finish.
Unofficially, Dillon leaves Michigan 23rd in driver’s standings, 134 points behind a playoff-eligible position. Matt Kenseth, who is ranked 11th in driver’s standings, currently holds the final playoff position with 398 points.
No. 19 Daniel Suarez
Involvement in the race’s final caution relegated Suarez to a 24th place result, his lowest finish in nine races.
Suarez, who started the race 20th, finished the first stage 19th and the second stage 20th.
While running inside the top 20 with nine laps to go, Suarez received contact in an incident involving five drivers on the backstretch.
Despite his car receiving damage, Suarez was able to continue the race and finished on the lead lap for the seventh consecutive race.
Suarez will enter next weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway 19th in driver’s standings, 85 points behind a playoff-eligible position.
No. 77 Erik Jones
Jones overcame a loose lug nut to finish as the highest rookie of the race for the fifth time this season in 13th.
After starting as the highest rookie of the race in 14th, Jones finished the first stage of the race in 34th, one lap down because of having to pit for a lug nut issue on a right-rear tire. He finished the second stage in 17th on the lead lap.
“Yeah, just a long day overall,” Jones said. “Just never quite had the car to—I think we really needed—we were fighting just being free and as the day went on we never really fixed that issue and that loose wheel early kind of got us pinned in a strategy we didn’t want to be in.
“Had a lot of laps—I think we had 86 laps on our left side tires—and just couldn’t quite get it there at the end.”
Jones is 16th in driver’s standings after Michigan. He is 52 points behind a playoff-eligible position.
No. 83 Corey LaJoie
LaJoie started 32nd and finished 30th in his first start at Michigan in NASCAR’s premiere series.
The BK Racing driver finished each of the first two stages in 32nd off the lead lap.
LaJoie remains 34th in driver’s standings after Michigan.
Did not start.
ROOKIE FINISHES AT POCONO, RACE 15/36
13) Erik Jones
20) Ty Dillon
24) Daniel Suarez
34) Corey LaJoie (-3 LAPS)
UNOFFICIAL POINTS POSITION AFTER MICHIGAN, POINTS DEFICIT TO PLAYOFF CUTLINE
16) Erik Jones (-52)
19) Daniel Suarez (-85)
22) Ty Dillon (-134)
34) Corey LaJoie (INELIGIBLE)
35) Gray Gaulding (INELIGIBLE)
TOP FINISHING ROOKIES BY TRACK
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)
NASCAR Media Group Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images