Rookie Report: Coca-Cola 600
Chase Elliott walks on pit road prior to the start of the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.
Photo by Ryan Willard/

By Zachary Lange Staff Reporter May 30, 2016

CONCORD, N.C.—Five rookie-of-the-year candidates were among the 40 starters in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 field at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Rookie drivers this weekend were faced with a variety of obstacles to overcome, including record-setting event set by Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. In addition, the longest race of the 2016 led to mechanical failures from some of NASCAR Sprint Cup's rookie class. Below is a breakdown of how each fared.

No. 21 Ryan Blaney
For the Wood Brothers Racing Ford and Ryan Blaney, the longest race of the year seemed to be a struggle to stay on the lead lap. Blaney started 18th and was the free pass for being the first car a lap down on lap 113, but he fell a lap down again later in the race, before bringing it home in 20th.

Blaney had a pit road speeding penalty after caution that resulted in restarting at the back of the field.

Blaney cited the cooling weather conditions as the race went on as an area of trouble for the 21 team, stating post-race, “The first 100 laps or so we were pretty good.

“When the race track was hot we hit it pretty good and we're going forward pretty decent.

Ryan Blaney races during the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.
Photo by Ryan Willard/

As the track cooled off that changed our race car a lot and that started to hurt us.”

Blaney will enter next weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway 15th in driver standings, one point above the Chase cutline.

No. 24 Chase Elliott
Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott showed speed all weekend. After qualifying 12th and finishing second practice in sixth, Elliott ran most of the race in the top half of the field, and was able to bring it home in eighth.

Running as high as sixth, the team avoided mistakes on pit road and Elliott rebounded from a speeding penalty on pit road during the first-fourth of the race.

Chase Elliott practices for the Coca-Cola 600 Thursday.
Photo by Ryan Willard/

Elliott’s run was his ninth top-ten of 2016 and fourth consecutive.

“Definitely a long one, very difficult,” he said. “We fought hard and we are trying to get that next little bit.”

Elliott sits eighth overall in the standings, 66 points above the Chase cutline.

No. 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt
For Earnhardt, Charlotte Motor Speedway proved to be a difficult race for the rookie. Earnhardt started and finished in 39th, 18 laps down, after bringing out the third caution of Sunday night's race by slapping the wall in turns three and four on lap 203.

The Go-Fas Racing Ford continued to fall more laps down with a damaged car.

Jeffrey Earnhardt races during the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.
Photo by Ryan Willard/

Earnhardt spoke post-race about his efforts stating, “I wish it was a lot better. We struggled ever since we showed up here. The guys kept working really hard.”

No. 34 Chris Buescher
Front Row Motorsports’ Chris Buescher flexed some muscle throughout the week.

After making it to the second round of qualifying and starting 22nd and after finishing mid-20s on the practice charts, Buescher hit the wall and damaged the right rear of the car before making an extended pit stop and falling several laps down.

Buescher took the checkered flag in 37th, 12 laps down.

Chris Buescher pre-race at the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.
Photo by Ryan Willard/

“I’m bummed because I messed up mid-race; got up in the fence and was unable to get a good finish out of it,” Buescher said to The Racing Experts post-race. “But I am proud of the CSX guys, they got the car running really well. Middle of the race we had some really good speed and the car drove well.”

Buescher also spoke of how he can take notes from this race and apply them to future races stating, “We can definitely take a look at the notes we got from [Charlotte], and try to get a feel for a car that drives under me, and we made some great strides in that department this weekend.

“We just got to apply that (notes) to future mile and a half speedways.”

Buescher enters Pocono 34th in driver standings, 164 points back of the Chase cutoff.

No. 44 Brian Scott After starting 30th, Brian Scott had problems early in Sunday night’s race. Scott spun on lap 113 to bring out the second caution of the race.

Afterwards, Scott fell multiple laps down and was never able to recover.

Scott declined to comment after Sunday’s race. He enters next weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway 29th in driver standings, 119 points behind the Chase cutline.

Brian Scott drives down pit road during the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday.
Photo by Ryan Willard/

Thanks to Team Chevy and Ford Performance. Dominic Aragon contributed to this article.

Which rookie will finish highest at Pocono Raceway next week?
Ryan Blaney
Chase Elliott
Jeffrey Earnhardt
Chris Buescher
Brian Scott
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