Rookie Report: Go Bowling 400
By Dominic Aragon
May 14, 2017
All five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 40 starters in the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway Saturday night.
The race was the 11th stop of 36 for the MENCS in 2017.
Below is a breakdown of each driver’s race weekend.
No. 13 Ty Dillon
Dillon started 22nd in his second career start at Kansas in the series.
The Germain Racing driver was scored 25th at the end of the first segment (lap 80) and 21st after the second segment (lap 160).
Dillon, who ran as high as second, was involved in two of the cautions during the race; once for a spin in the first segment, and contact with Erik Jones in the third segment that sent Jones spinning off of Turn 4 to the infield.
Dillon finished the race in 14th for his fifth consecutive lead lap finish.
“Man, did this team fight hard,” Dillon said. “We struggled in the first two stages to find the perfect balance for our No. 13 Twisted Tea Chevrolet. We spun when we stayed out with old tires, but we didn't get any damage and were able to recover.
“It started coming to us there in the final stage, but it was just impossible to pass cars. We really needed track position that we just didn't have. We picked up some spots at the end with the cautions though and brought home a solid top-15 finish.
“We have a lot of notes to take back with us on our intermediate-track program. There is still some work to do, but we’ll get there.”
After the Kansas race, Dillon unofficially sits 21st in driver’s standings, 46 points behind a playoff-eligible position. Trevor Bayne, ranked 14th in driver’s standings, currently holds the final playoff position with 250 points.
No. 19 Daniel Suarez
Suarez started 15th in his first series start at Kansas, the highest of the rookies.
At the conclusion of the first and second segments, Suarez was 18th and 11th respectively.
Suarez ultimately finished the race in seventh, the highest finishing rookie for the fourth time this season.
The top-10 result tied a career-high finish and marked the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s third career Cup Series top-10 finish.
“We had a top-10 car and that’s exactly where we ended up,” Suarez said. “Very happy for the performance of the car and looking forward to keep digging, keep working and keep learning for next weekend.”
Suarez picked up two positions in driver’s standings and sits 19th. He is unofficially 33 points behind the cutline for the playoffs.
No. 23 Gray Gaulding
Gaulding started 25th, his highest-career start in the Cup Series.
Gaulding was the first rookie to go a lap down on lap 26 while running 34th, but earned the race’s first free pass under the first caution of the race.
Gaulding finished the first segment 31st and the second segment 36th, five laps down.
While running on the lead lap during the second stage, Gaulding brought out the caution for an accident in Turn 2.
The BK Racing driver eventually finished 34th, 31 laps down.
“We cut a [right-rear tire] and it just made for a long night, proud of my 23 team for sticking with me all night,” Gaulding said on social media post-race.
Gaulding dropped one position to 36th in driver’s standings, 199 points behind a playoff-eligible position.
No. 77 Erik Jones
Jones started 32nd in his second career start at Kansas. He was one of 12 drivers who did not post a qualifying time Friday due to problems with inspection.
Jones finished the first segment 12th and the second segment in ninth, earning two stage points for the top-10.
During the third segment, Jones restarted as the leader with 19 laps to go, electing to not pit under a caution period. He led a total of two laps.
Making contact with Ty Dillon with nine laps to go, Jones spun into the infield grass area. Altogether, Jones brought out three cautions; one in the second segment and two in the third segment.
The Furniture Row Racing driver finished 22nd, his first lead lap finish in five races.
Entering the next points-paying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in two weeks, Jones ranks 20th in driver’s standings, 33 points behind a playoff-eligible position.
No. 83 Corey LaJoie
LaJoie started 38th, the lowest of the rookies. He did not post a qualifying time Friday.
LaJoie finished the first segment 29th, and the second segment 31st, one lap down.
LaJoie brought out two cautions Saturday night; one in the second segment and one in the third segment.
The BK Racing driver finished 27th, two laps down. He sits 34th in driver’s standings, 173 points behind the cutline for the playoffs.
ROOKIE FINISHES AT KANSAS, RACE 11/36
7) Daniel Suarez
14) Ty Dillon
22) Erik Jones
27) Corey LaJoie (-2 LAPS)
34) Gray Gaulding (-36 LAPS)
UNOFFICIAL POINTS POSITION AFTER KANSAS, POINTS DEFICIT TO PLAYOFF CUTLINE
19) Daniel Suarez (-33)
20) Erik Jones (-33)
21) Ty Dillon (-46)
34) Corey LaJoie (-173)
35) Gray Gaulding (-199)
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)