Rookie Report: Pennsylvania 400

By Dominic Aragon

August 2, 2016

LONG POND, Pa.—Four of the five Sprint Cup Series rookie-of-the-year candidates were among the 40 starters in the Monday running of the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Below is a breakdown of how each fared.

No. 21 Ryan Blaney
Blaney started 18th in his second career start at Pocono in the Sprint Cup Series.

On lap 16, the competition caution, Blaney was running 14th.

Blaney ran as high as fifth place in the Pennsylvania 400.

“I didn’t think we were too bad,” he said. “I thought we actually had a really good race car, but it didn’t really play out in our favor of getting track position.

“We got it and took a gamble on rain and it didn’t, and then we lost all of it and had to drive back up through the field. We should have cycled out about ninth right there and the fog rolled in.”

Blaney finished 11th for the second time in three races.

With five races before the beginning of the Chase, Blaney unofficially sits 17th in driver’s standings,  28 points behind the Chase cutline (Kyle Larson, 15th).

No. 24 Chase Elliott
Elliott started the race eighth, the highest starting rookie of the race.

By lap 16, the competition caution, Elliott was scored in ninth.

Elliott ran as high as fifth before getting caught up in an incident with Joey Logano on lap 105 in Turn 2.

“Yeah, we came off of Turn 1 and those guys were three-wide,” he said of the accident. “I thought Denny [Hamlin] had the best run, so I elected to push him down the back, down there at the exit of Turn 1; I thought that would be a good move to kind of get him passed, that hopefully he’d drag me by; and I was just still next to him and got in there.

“I thought I slowed down enough to not get loose, but got loose and collected Joey. So, I apologize to those guys. It was completely my fault. And I apologize to my guys.

“Man, they gave me a good car. I need to re-think my evaluation of how I’m going to approach these races because it’s not working out right now.”

Elliott eventually finished 33rd, four laps down, his sixth consecutive finish outside of the top-ten.

Elliott unofficially sits 13th overall in driver’s standings, 25 points above the Chase cutline.

No. 34 Chris Buescher
Buescher started 22nd his second Cup Series start at Pocono Raceway.

Buescher was scored 27th on lap 17, the competition caution.

On lap 94, Buescher was too fast exiting pit road, the only rookie to acquire an infraction during the race. Serving the penalty on lap 98, Buescher eventually cycled to lead on lap 127.

Buescher held over a ten second lead when the caution flew for fog on lap 132. The race was put under the red flag on lap 138.

After enduring the red flag period, Buescher was named the victor at Pocono Raceway.

“This is the strangest circumstances by far,” Buescher said about the win and about any victory across his racing career.

“We should be really close at this point [being Chase eligible]… this is definitely going to shake up everything for our year.”

Buescher is the first rookie-of-the-year candidate to score a victory in the series this season and the first since Joey Logano at New Hampshire in June of 2009.

Entering Watkins Glen, Buescher unofficially sits six points behind 30th place David Ragan in driver standings.

No. 44 Brian Scott
Scott started the race 35th, his lowest qualifying effort since the Daytona 500 this season, 20 races to go.

By lap 17, the competition caution, Scott was scored 31st. Scott ran as high as fifth during a green flag pit stop cycle.

Scott eventually finished 24th, his best finish in nine races.

Scott sits 33rd overall in driver’s standings, 36 points behind 30th place David Ragan. Scott is mathematically ineligible to qualify for the Chase on points alone.

Brian Scott was unavailable for comment.

Which rookie will finish highest at Watkins Glen?
No. 21 Ryan Blaney
No. 24 Chase Elliott
No. 34 Chris Buescher
No. 44 Brian Scott
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