Rookie Report: Auto Club 400
Photo by Marcus Leno/
Martin Truex Jr. leads Ryan Blaney on pit road at Auto Club Speedway Saturday.

By Dominic Aragon Editor March 21, 2016

FONTANA, Calif.—Five rookie-of-the-year candidates were among the 39 starters in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 field at Auto Club Speedway. Below is a breakdown of how each fared.

No. 21 Ryan Blaney
Blaney started 14th in his first race at Auto Club Speedway.

Blaney was scored 18th on lap 50,  eleventh on lap 100, and 16th on lap 150. Blaney ran as high as fifth.

Blaney eventually finished 35th. After the race, he offered insight on his day.

Photo by Dominic Aragon/
Ryan Blaney leads Josh Wise out of the garage area at Auto Club Speedway Friday.

“We blew a tire, I don’t know what happened,” he said. “There was no warning and the tire just exploded into three. That stunk. We were good on some runs, but at the end of the race we weren’t very good.

“We really struggled bad on restarts, really bad. It would take about 20 laps to go back forward, but we just lost all of our track position and then got in the wall and that really hurt our race car. We were gonna salvage a decent day, and then the tire exploded.

Blaney sits 17th in driver standings heading into the next race at Martinsville Speedway, 0 points behind the Chase cutoff.

No. 24 Chase Elliott
Elliott started Sunday’s race eighth, the highest of the rookie drivers.

Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Chase Elliott races Jimmie Johnson at Auto Club Speedway Sunday.

Elliott was scored 17th at lap 50, fourth on lap 100 and seventh on lap 150. He led one lap.

Elliott finished sixth in the race, the highest rookie. The top-ten showing is his third of 2016.

“It was just a hilarious restart; always gets wild here,” he said. “I felt like it was a good race to watch at least. I felt like there was a lot of opportunity to move around different lines and be able to work traffic.

“We were really proud of our group. Man, they worked hard all weekend, made a lot of gains on our car from when we unloaded on Friday. Made even more gains during throughout race. We were pretty happy with it towards the end and just need to do a better job maximizing those restarts.”

Elliott sits 16th in points, inside the Chase cutline, with a tiebreaker over fellow rookie Ryan Blaney.

No. 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt
Earnhardt started 39th in his third race of 2016.

The fourth-generation Earnhardt was the first rookie to fall a lap down. He was scored 37th on lap 50, 37th on lap 100, and 35th on lap 150, with a peak position of 34th.

He finished 34th, five laps down.

“We unloaded in pretty bad shape, but kept working on the car and making it better,” he said. “I came and ran good here in an XFINITY car; struggled in these things. These things are a whole other animal.

“I learned a lot, the team keeps improving each weekend… It’s not a good finish, but it’s a decent finish for the situation we’re in.”

Photo by Marcus Leno/
Chris Buescher leads Jeffrey Earnhardt out of the garage area at Auto Club Speedway Saturday.

No. 34 Chris Buescher
Buescher started 16th, his best qualifying effort of his Sprint Cup career.

Buescher brought out the first caution of the race on lap 28, a single-car incident in turn two.

Buescher was scored 34th on lap 50, 36th on lap 100 and 34th on lap 150. He ran as high as 14th.

Buescher eventually finished 33rd, one lap down.

“Unfortunately, that flat tire early there just got us behind,” Buescher said to The Racing Experts. “We had a lot of speed in [the car], we just didn’t get to race, just trying to get our lap back, and we were never able to get that and get back rolling. A top-20 car, no doubt, probably a little bit better than that, just didn’t play out the way we needed it to.”

Buescher sits 35th in points, 61 points behind the Chase cutoff.

No. 44 Brian Scott
Scott started 21st in his third race at ACS, the lowest qualifying rookie.

Scott was scored 24th on lap 50, 26th on lap 100 and 24th on lap 150. He ran as high as eighth.

Scott picked up his best finish of the season and matched his career best with a 12th place effort. It was also his second lead lap finish of 2016.

Photo by Marcus Leno/
Brian Scott practices at Auto Club Speedway Saturday.

Scott sits 25th in points, 25 points behind the Chase cutline.

Thanks to Team Chevy and Ford Performance.

Which rookie impressed you the most at Fontana?
Ryan Blaney
Chase Elliott
Jeffrey Earnhardt
Chris Buescher
Brian Scott
Do Quizzes