Rookie Report: Good Sam 500
Photo by Brian DeGruchy/

Chase Elliott pre-race at Phoenix International Raceway.

By Dominic Aragon Editor March 14, 2016

AVONDALE, Ariz.—Four rookie-of-the-year candidates were among the 39 starters in Sunday’s Good Sam 500 field at Phoenix International Raceway. Below is a breakdown of how each fared.

No. 21 Ryan Blaney
Blaney started 12th in his first Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix, the highest qualifying rookie.

Blaney spent 200 laps, or 63.9 percent of the race running inside the top-15. Blaney eventually finished tenth.

“We fought really hard all day,” Blaney said. “We got a lot better throughout the day. We didn't start out that great and we just got better as we went along.

Photo by Brian DeGruchy/
Ryan Blaney drives pit road at Phoenix International Raceway.

“The guys did a great job with two tires at the end and I thought about staying out but we wouldn't have been on the first two rows I don't think so we had to come in and get two and I think it picked us up one spot.

“It was a good day and a good job by everybody on this Motorcraft Quick Lane team and a top-ten car is all I could ask for.”

Blaney’s top-ten finish is his second consecutive and fourth of his career.

Blaney is the only rookie inside the Chase cutoff, sitting 14th in driver’s points. He is 19 points above the cutline.

Photo by Brian DeGruchy/
Chase Elliott leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Phoenix International Raceway.

No. 24 Chase Elliott
Elliott started 17th in his Sprint Cup debut at PIR.

Elliott, who posted the fastest lap 13 times Sunday, ran as high as fourth place. He was one of six drivers to post a triple-digit driver rating.

“I felt like it was a solid day for us,” said Elliott, who finished eighth. “I was just happy we finally put a day together and got a finish that these guys deserved.

I feel like we had a good car. We made gains on it all day long.

“That last restart, obviously, was pretty wild. We tried our best. We gave up a couple of spots, but we will take it and move on to Fontana.”

Elliott, the highest finishing rookie, has accomplished that feat twice this season.

Elliott climbed six positions in points to 22nd overall, 16 points behind the Chase cutoff.

Photo by Brian DeGruchy/
Chris Buescher climbs into his car prior to the start of qualifying Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.

No. 34 Chris Buescher
Buescher started 32nd, the lowest starting rookie in the race.

Buescher, who peaked at 27th, was the first rookie to fall one lap down during the race.

Buescher finished 30th, six laps down.

“It was a long race for us,” Buescher said to The Racing Experts.

“Not near the results we wanted, but honestly, just looking forward to Fontana, getting on to the next one, moving past this race. I know we’ve got a great car going to Fontana.”

Buescher enters next weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway 35th in driver standings, 49 points back of the Chase cutoff.

No. 44 Brian Scott
Scott started 30th in his second career start at PIR.

Scott ran as high as 26th Sunday.

Scott finished 27th, five laps down. He enters next weekend’s race in Fontana 28th in driver standings, 34 points behind the Chase cutoff.

Photo by Brian DeGruchy/
Brian Scott's car sits on pit road prior to the start of qualifying Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Thanks to Team Chevy and Ford Performance.

Which rookie impressed you most at Phoenix?
Ryan Blaney
Chase Elliott
Chris Buescher
Brian Scott
Do Quizzes