Rookie Report: Blaney leads rookies at Las Vegas with sixth place finish

By David Morgan, NASCAR Writer

With one of the best rookie classes in recent memory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series occurring during the 2016 season, each week we’ll take a look at the five rookies battling for Rookie of the Year and track their progress throughout the season.

In this week’s edition of the “Rookie Report,” the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is on deck and in true Las Vegas fashion, some of the rookies had a much better roll of the dice than the others.

Leading the way for the rookies at Las Vegas was Ryan Blaney, who ended the day in sixth. Throughout the day, Blaney kept his No. 21 car among the top-10 after starting the race in 14th. The sixth place finish is the best career finish for Blaney since finishing fourth at Talladega last May. With his finish, Blaney now finds himself in 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.

“This was really satisfying. It was a good day for us. We needed a good finish after last week and it is nice to go out here and we all had fast cars. Congrats to the 2 team, they did a great job coming back from that speeding penalty and made a great call at the end. Good job by them and good job by our team. We were good all day. We were able to drive up through the field early and made it better throughout the day. We had some spectacular late runs but we’d give up a little too much early and we couldn’t ever get back what we lost. It’s a great day. I’ve got to thank Motorcraft, Quick Lane and Ford. It’s a good way to get our season back on track after Atlanta. We had a good run and it always makes you feel good going into next week,” said  Blaney.

Blaney would have a great battle with fellow rookie Chase Elliott in the later stages of the race before Elliott was caught up in a crash with 41 laps to go, sending him to the garage. As a result of his crash with Matt Kenseth, Elliott dropped from his running position in the top-10 with Blaney all the way down to 38th, marking his worst finish of the season.

“Just disappointing. What a fast race car. I appreciate everybody working hard. I feel like we made a lot of gains this weekend. Just a terrible job on my behalf. It’s pitiful. We’ve run three races and finished one. Bad job on my end. I know better to miss a wreck like that,” said Elliott

When asked if there was anything he could have done to miss the wreck, Elliott said, “Yeah, got off the brake and missed it.”

Aside from the two major players in the rookie race, Blaney and Elliott, the three remaining rookie contenders were among those who did not end their day on a good note in Sin City.

Chris Buescher and Brian Scott piloted their Fords to finishes of 26th and 27th, respectively, ending the day one lap down each. Jeffrey Earnhardt, the fifth rookie contender in the field would finish five laps down in 33rd.

Image: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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