Rookie Report: Pure Michigan 400
Jones ties career-high finish at MIS

By Dominic Aragon
August 14, 2017

Four of the five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year candidates were among the 39 starters in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday.

Below is a breakdown of how each fared.

Dillon picked up his second consecutive lead lap finish with a 21st-place effort at MIS.

Dillon started the race 33rd, his lowest start in six races. He finished the first stage 27th (lap 60), one lap down, and the second stage 29th (lap 120), one lap down.

During the third stage, Dillon took a wave around to get back on the lead lap during the race’s fourth caution period.

“The balance of our GEICO Chevy felt a lot better yesterday in practice than it did today, but we were able to bring the car to us with some wedge adjustments,” Dillon said.

“We had a fast race car there toward the end. The strategy was to go long on fuel mileage in the final stage of the race and it worked great. We were able to pit for four fresh tires and fuel and get a decent finish at the end of the day.”

With three races left before the playoffs start, Dillon remains on the outside of the cutline and is mathematically ineligible from making the playoffs on points alone.

Dillon climbed one position in driver’s standings to 23rd overall, 260 points behind a playoff-eligible position. He lost one point from last week to the cutline.

Matt Kenseth, who is ninth in driver’s standings, holds the final eligible playoff position with 654 points.

Suarez posted the lowest finish of his Cup Series career after involvement in a crash with Kasey Kahne in the third stage.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver started the day 16th. He finished the first stage in 14th.

Suarez restarted as the leader to begin stage two, electing to stay out during the first round of pit stops under caution at the conclusion of stage one. He finished the stage in fifth, earning six stage points.

During the third stage on lap 139, Suarez made contact with Kahne in Turn 2, giving both of their racecars too much damage to continue in the race.

Suarez finished 37th.

“I don’t really know, I was very, very tight and I was just trying to hold my line,” Suarez said of the incident. “I think the 5 [of Kasey Kahne,] he was passing me obviously and he went up a little too soon for me.

“I was trying to give him some room, but actually I got out of the throttle at that point, but I don’t know if he was told it was already time to go up; I don’t know.

“It’s just unfortunate because we came from a streak of top-[10s] and now this is going to be the end of it. We’re going to regroup and come back stronger next week.”

Suarez had a streak of four straight top-10 finishes before Michigan.

Suarez fell two position to 17th in driver’s standings, 139 points behind the last playoff spot.

Suarez is still mathematically eligible to make the playoffs on points alone.

LaJoie finished three laps down in 31st at MIS.

LaJoie started 34th, the lowest of the rookies. He was the first rookie to go one lap down in stage one around the lap 30 mark.

The BK Racing driver finished the first stage in 34th, two laps down, and the second stage 33rd, two laps down.

LaJoie remains 34th in driver’s standings, ineligible to make the playoffs.

Jones came away with his second top-five finish of 2017, tying his career-high finish with his result at MIS.

Jones started the day in eighth place, his fifth consecutive top-10 start.

The Furniture Row Racing driver finished the first stage in fifth and the second stage in fourth, earning a total of 13 stage points between both finishes.

During the third stage, Jones and teammate Martin Truex Jr. ran first and second at one point. Jones ultimately finished the race in third.

“[Martin and I] were kind of in our own league there for a long time – we were kind of matching lap times, he would go faster and I would go faster,” Jones said. “I really thought that whoever was out front was going to win, unfortunately neither of us got it done.

“Neither of us really got going great after that last restart. I spun my tires, he spun his and it just wasn’t what we needed at the end.”

The result was Jones’ eighth career top-10 finish in NASCAR’s top series. He was the highest finishing rookie for the eighth time this season.

Jones picked up two positions in driver’s standings and sits 16th overall, 130 points behind Matt Kenseth.

He picked up 30 points to the cutline with his result at MIS.

Did not start.

Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Team Chevy
Toyota Racing

3) Erik Jones

21) Ty Dillon
31) Corey LaJoie (-3 LAPS)
37) Daniel Suarez (OUT)

16) Erik Jones (-130)
17) Daniel Suarez (-139)
23) Ty Dillon (-260)
34) Corey LaJoie (INELIGIBLE)
35) Gray Gaulding (INELIGIBLE)

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)
16) Sonoma; Daniel Suarez (16th)
17) Daytona; Erik Jones (9th)
18) Kentucky; Erik Jones (6th)
19) New Hampshire; Daniel Suarez (6th)
20) Indianapolis; Daniel Suarez (7th)
21) Pocono; Daniel Suarez (7th)
22) Watkins Glen; Daniel Suarez (3rd)

23) Michigan; Erik Jones (3rd)

Will a rookie win a race this season?