Rookie Report: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

By Dominic Aragon
April 9, 2017

FORT WORTH, Texas—All five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 40 starters in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday.

The race was the seventh stop of 36 for the series in 2017.

Below is a breakdown of each driver’s race weekend.

No. 13 Ty Dillon
In his second career MENCS start at Texas, Dillon started 14th, the highest of the rookie drivers.

At the time of the NASCAR-mandated competition caution on lap 32, Dillon was running 15th. He ended the first stage 18th (lap 85), and restarted the final stage in 13th (lap 178).

Dillon eventually finished on the lead lap in 17th, the highest of the rookies.

“We have run between 15th and 18th at these mile-and-a-halfs, and that’s better than we’ve ever done,” crew chief Bootie Barker said of the team’s race day. “Ty’s the main reason, but really, our aero program is really good, stepped up, and then everybody is working hard.”

After the race in Texas, Dillon unofficially sits 24th in driver’s points, 29 points behind a Chase-eligible position.

Denny Hamlin currently holds the final Chase-eligible position with 151 points, ranking 16th in driver’s points.

No. 19 Daniel Suarez
Suarez started 19th in his first MENCS start at TMS.

Suarez was scored in 29th at the time of the competition caution, ended stage one in 25th and began the third stage in 14th.

Peaking in eighth place, Suarez ultimately finished the race on the lead lap in 19th.

At Bristol Motor Speedway in two weeks, Suarez will enter the race weekend 23rd in driver’s standings, 26 points behind the Chase cutline.

No. 23 Gray Gaulding
Gaulding started 29th, his highest career start in the series in eight starts.

Gaulding received damage to his No. 23 car during a lap 11 incident involving Jeffrey Earnhardt and Reed Sorenson.

Gaulding was the first driver to go one lap down, occurring on lap 52 while running 35th.

The BK Racing driver was scored 35th at the time of the competition caution; 35th at the end of stage one, two laps down; and 35th, four laps down, at the beginning of stage three.

Gaulding finished 34th, 12 laps down, the lowest of the rookies. He sits 38th overall in driver's points.

No. 77 Erik Jones
The only rookie to not post a qualifying time Friday, Jones started 36th, the lowest of the rookies and lowest career starting position in ten starts.

In his second career start at Texas in NASCAR’s premiere series, Jones was 17th at the time of the competition caution, 20th at the conclusion of stage one, and restarted 28th at the beginning of stage three.

Jones finished 22nd, one lap down.

“Just need to get better for next time,” Jones said of his finish. “There’s nothing we can really take and nothing that will apply to next time. Just need to get our stuff better and have a better car for next time.”

Entering the off-weekend, Jones sits 14th on the Chase grid, 12 points above the Chase cutline. He is the only rookie currently holding a Chase-eligible position.

No. 83 Corey LaJoie
LaJoie started the race 23rd, his highest starting position in nine series starts.

LaJoie was running 27th at the time of the competition caution; 34th one lap down at the end of the first stage; and 32nd, three laps down, at the beginning of the third stage.

LaJoie finished 32nd, eight laps down.

The BK Racing driver will be 34th in driver’s points entering the next race at Bristol, 112 points behind a Chase-eligible position.


Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts

NASCAR Media Group
Toyota Racing

17) Ty Dillon
19) Daniel Suarez
22) Erik Jones (-1 LAP)
32) Corey LaJoie (-8 LAPS)
37) Gray Gaulding (-12 LAPS)

14) Erik Jones (+12)
23) Daniel Suarez (-26)
24) Ty Dillon (-29)
34) Corey LaJoie (-112)
38) Gray Gaulding (-134)

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)

Which rookie will finish highest at Bristol?
No. 13 Ty Dillon
No. 19 Daniel Suarez
No. 23 Gray Gaulding
No. 77 Erik Jones
No. 83 Corey LaJoie