Rookie Report: Duck Commander 500
Photo by Marcus Leno/TheRacingExperts.com
Ryan Blaney leads Jimmie Johnson and others on pit road at Texas Motor Speedway Friday.


By Dominic Aragon Editor April 10, 2016 daragon@theracingexperts.net


FORT WORTH, Texas—Five rookie-of-the-year candidates were among the 40 starters in Saturday’s Duck Commander 500 field at Texas Motor Speedway. Below is a breakdown of how each fared.


No. 21 Ryan Blaney
Blaney started seventh, his fourth top-ten start of 2016.


Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Ryan Blaney practices at Texas Motor Speedway Friday.

In his third career start at Texas Motor Speedway, Blaney ran as high as the top-ten. Blaney pit on lap 237 citing a vibration. A 10:1 favorite to win the race, he eventually finished 29th, four laps down. Blaney dropped five position in points to 20th overall, 17 points behind the Chase grid.




No. 24 Chase Elliott
Elliott officially started fourth, the highest qualifying rookie. The 20-year-old had to start from the rear after a transmission change.

Elliott led one lap during a green flag pit stop cycle on lap 74. Elliott was the only rookie to perform double-duty at Texas Motor Speedway. The Racing Experts caught up with him post-race to ask if it helped with his performance tonight. “I don't really know that it did, to be honest with you,” he said.


Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Chase Elliott practices at Texas Motor Speedway Thursday.

“The cars are very different. Other than just making laps on the racetrack and moving around and things, maybe finding a lane that might work later in the run. “I think the cars are so different, it's hard to compare a lot, in my personal opinion.” Elliott’s fifth place finish was his first career top-five in Cup and was the only rookie to finish on the lead lap. Entering next weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Elliott sits 14th in driver’s standings, 15 points ahead of the Chase cutline.





No. 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt
Earnhardt started 38th, the lowest qualifying rookie. Saturday’s race marked Earnhardt’s sixth career start in NASCAR’s premiere series.



Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Jeffrey Earnhardt at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday.

Earnhardt was the first rookie to go one lap down in the race, but earned the first free pass of the race after the competition caution on lap 30. Earnhardt, who peaked at 35th in the race according to loop data, finished 35th, eleven laps down.

“We weren’t really happy with our car when we unloaded here at Texas,” he said to The Racing Experts of his race. “But we kept working on it, and we got it better. We started off the race decent, a little on the free side. “Tried tightening it up too far. We played the back-and-forth game the whole race, never could get it fine-tuned. The car wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t perfect.


“...It’s tough on these mile-and-a-half's when you’re a smaller team and you don’t have all the resources a lot of these guys do. It’s tough to come here and expect to run really well. But we’re doing the best with the opportunity we’ve got.”


Earnhardt will be in the driver’s seat next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.



No. 34 Chris Buescher
Buescher started 34th in his second career Sprint Cup start at Texas Motor Speedway.


Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Chris Buescher practices at Texas Motor Speedway Friday.

According to loop data, Buescher ran as high as 27th, eventually finishing 28th, four laps down.

“Long night just getting started with the rain there, but once we got rolling, we definitely made improvements as we went,” he said to The Racing Experts. “We got quicker with our Love’s Fusion which [I’m] really proud of the guys of that.”


Buescher remains 36th in driver’s standings, 91 points behind the cutline for the Chase.



No. 44 Brian Scott
Scott started 27th in his second career Cup start at Texas Motor Speedway. Scott ran as high as 26th, according to loop data.

The first-year Richard Petty Motorsports driver was involved in the lap 295 multi-car incident on the backstretch. Scott finished 27th, four laps down, as the second highest rookie. “Just struggled all day,” he said to The Racing ExpertsUnloaded, first practice we were off, and we just obviously never got a the balance on the car that was going to race very well here at Texas.



Photo by Jeremy Thompson/TheRacingExperts.com
Brian Scott races during the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday.

“It’s a shame. I know we’re better than that, we’ve got a better team than that, we’ve just got to get a lot better fundamentally with the simple stuff back at the shop; preparation, simulation, stuff like that. We’re just getting beat when we unload real bad and we’re trying to play catch-up, and it’s making for tough weekends for us.” Scott will enter next week’s race 25th in driver’s standings, 47 points behind the Chase cutoff.



Note: Odds are according to Racing-Reference.info.


Which rookie impressed you most in Saturday's race at Texas?
No. 21 Ryan Blaney
No. 24 Chase Elliott
No. 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt
No. 34 Chris Buescher
No. 44 Brian Scott
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