Rookie Report: Toyota/Save Mart 350

Chase Elliott leads Jamie McMurray and others during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.
Photo by Brian DeGruchy/The Racing Experts

Dominic Aragon
Editor
June 27, 2016 daragon@theracingexperts.net


SONOMA, Calif.—Four of the five Sprint Cup Series rookie-of-the-year candidates were among the 40 starters in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Below is a breakdown of how each rookie fared after completing 110 laps around the series’ first road course stop of the season.



No. 21 Ryan Blaney
Blaney started Sunday’s race 26th, his lowest qualifying effort in seven races.

In his first Sprint Cup Series road course start, Blaney ran as high as fifth place, eventually placing 23rd on the lead lap.

“It was a long day,” he said. “Early on, we short-pitted and got some track position. We had some good fortune [with the second caution], but I gave all the spots right back.”



Ryan Blaney leads Greg Biffle during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.                         Photo by Brian DeGruchy/The Racing Experts

Ten races remain until the start of the Chase, and unofficially, Blaney drops outside the Chase cutline to 17th in driver’s standings. He will enter next Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway three points back of 16th Kasey Kahne.



No. 24 Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott’s 16th place qualifying effort was the highest among the rookie contenders and lowest starting spot in the last seven Sprint Cup races.


Elliott ran as high as fifth place, eventually finishing 21st on the lead lap.

Elliott’s 21st-place finish continues a streak of ten consecutive lead lap finishes, yet, snaps a streak of six consecutive top-ten finishes.



Chase Elliott races during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.
Photo by Brian DeGruchy/The Racing Experts

The result is his lowest finish in the series since a 38th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, 13 races ago.

Unofficially, Elliott remains sixth in driver’s standings, 91 points ahead of the Chase cutline.



No. 34 Chris Buescher
Buescher started Sunday’s race 36th, the lowest of the rookie-of-the-year eligible drivers.

Buescher was the only rookie candidate to make to make a prior start on a road course in the Sprint Cup Series before Sunday’s race (Watkins Glen 08/2015).


Buescher, who ran as high as 19th, finished 30th; his second consecutive lead lap finish in the series.



Chris Buescher races during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.                                           Photo by Brian DeGruchy/The Racing Experts

“Just a little bit of everything, just how these cars drive, what we need to be faster, balance wise, just how aggressive everybody is on restarts, and how often you get door-slammed at these places,” he said about his biggest takeaway at Sonoma Sunday.

“At the end, the car looks a little rough, everybody’s does, but that’s part of it. Just got to be more aggressive.”

After Sonoma, Buescher unofficially fell one position in driver’s standings to 33rd overall. He sits 192 points behind the Chase cutline.



Brian Scott races during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway Sunday.
Photo by Brian DeGruchy/The Racing Experts

No. 44 Brian Scott

Scott started 22nd, his best qualifying effort in the last four Sprint Cup Series races.

Scott ran as high as 12th, eventually finishing 33rd on the lead lap. Sunday’s race marks his first lead lap finish in 11 Sprint Cup races (Fontana 03/2016).


Scott was unavailable for comment.




Unofficially, Scott remains 30th in driver’s standings, 180 points behind the Chase cutline entering Daytona.


Thanks to Ford Performance and Racing-Reference.info.

Isabel Gonzalez contributed to this report.



Which rookie will finish highest at Daytona next week?
No. 21 Ryan Blaney
No. 24 Jeff Gordon
No. 34 Chris Buescher
No. 44 Brian Scott
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