After rookie Alexander Rossi won the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day, all eyes were on the standout rookies of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to see if they could make it two rookie wins on the day.
While none of the five rookies in the field were able to end the night in victory lane, NAPA Auto Parts, which sponsored Rossi in the Indianapolis 500 and also sponsors rookie Chase Elliott and his No. 24 Chevrolet wound up with the top rookie finish at Charlotte courtesy of Elliott’s eighth place finish. The finish marks Elliott’s ninth top-10 finish in the first 13 races of the 2016 season.
The top-10 finish was hard fought for Elliott, who started 12th, but was hit with a pit road speeding penalty early in the race, putting his No. 24 team behind the eight-ball. Throughout the remainder of the race, the youngest member of the Hendrick Motorsports stable slowly but surely made his way back through the field, moving into the top-10 by lap 240 and settling into eighth place at lap 360, where he would end the night.
“Definitely a long one, very difficult. We fought hard and we are trying to get that next little bit,” said Elliott.
Elliott’s fellow rookie contender, Ryan Blaney, also found pit road trouble during the first round of pit stops on the night as he was busted for speeding, dropping him back to 20th. While Elliott was able to march back through the field, the same could not be said for Blaney, who struggled from there on out. A loose wheel near the midpoint of the race didn’t help matters and a cut tire in the final handful of laps just added insult to injury, leaving him three laps down at the finish with a 20th place finish.
“It was a long night, man, a really, really long night. Nothing could go right for us. That was the frustrating part. I didn’t do us any favors speeding on the first stop. I think we got most of our track position back after that. Then we had a green flag stop and there was a total miscommunication. The next stop we were able to line up with the lead-lap cars and the left-front wheel was loose and had to come back and change that tire. We just struggled from there on out. We definitely didn’t do ourselves any favors tonight. There’s some stuff we have to work on with the race car. I probably didn’t do the best job tonight,” Blaney said.
As for the other rookies, Brian Scott finished 29th, six laps down, after spinning off of Turn 2 on lap 115, Chris Buescher finished 37th, 12 laps down, and Jeffrey Earnhardt finished 39th, 18 laps down.
Photo: Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing