By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
The Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a relatively quiet race for most of the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year (ROTY) contenders in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. All five of the ROTY contenders have had experience at the 1.058-mile track nicknamed ‘The Magic Mile.’
Daniel Suarez was not only the best rookie at the Magic Mile, but tied his career best sixth-place finish. Suarez had a relatively quiet day in his No. 19 Arris High-Speed Modems Toyota Camry.
Suarez most notably started a round of green flag pit stops with Martin Truex Jr. in the final stage of the race. The round of pit stops came with about 60 laps to go. Suarez gave up a position inside the Top 10 to pit.
Ultimately after a late caution, Suarez found himself not only inside the Top 10, but nipping on the heels of his first career top five finish.
Suarez was proud of his team never giving up,
“It was a long day for sure, but, you know what, these guys never give up. They worked hard all weekend long just to make adjustments to the car and try to make the car a little bit better.”
“The race track changed pretty much all weekend with the VHT and with the weather. I think today has been the sunniest day of the whole weekend, so we had a couple issues there on the pit road leaving my box on the stop, but very proud of these guys. We made some good adjustments in the last couple runs we were able to overcome for a good finish.”
Suarez remains in the 18th position in the Championship Points standings. He is 120 points behind the Playoff cutoff and 354 points behind point leader Truex.
Ty Dillon ended the Overton’s 301 in 16th after hovering just outside the Top 10 all day long. Dillon and Suarez went back and forth as the top rookie after Erik Jones crashed early. A pit road penalty ultimately handed Suarez the top rookie spot.
— Ty Dillon (@tydillon) July 16, 2017
The race was quiet for Dillon’s No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS team. He kept his nose out of trouble and ultimately a commitment line violation ended their chances of a Top 10 finish.
Corey LaJoie finished exactly where he started, in the 31st position, three laps down in the No. 23 Dr Pepper Toyota Camry. While his teammate, Ryan Sieg ran as high as the Top 20 at one point of the race, it seemed that LaJoie struggled on the PJ1 treated pavement.
However, LaJoie finished ahead of Sieg when all was said and done.
Gray Gaulding finished 35th, six laps down, after a quiet day in the No. 55 #Checkit4Andretti Toyota Camry for Premium Motorsports.
Erik Jones finished in 39th in the No. 77 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota Camry after slamming the outside wall midway into Stage 1. Contact on pit road with Kasey Kahne’s Chevrolet cut Jones’ left front tire. Crew chief Chris Gayle thought the tire was undamaged and left Jones on track. One lap after the restart, his car went straight in turn three, slamming the wall, ending his day.
Jones was unsure if the tire was the cause of his early exit,
“I guess we cut a left front or a right front – I’m not sure. Just made a little contact on pit road, but didn’t have any marks on the tires, so we thought it’d be fine and obviously not – we didn’t even make it a lap, so no indication really. It’s just unfortunate. The 5-hour ENERGY Camry was pretty fast. I thought we had probably an easy top-10 car if not a few adjustments away from being a top-five car, so just really didn’t need a day like this trying to make the playoffs here. Feel like we’re going to work hard to try to get a win at this point. We’ll keep after it. Just need some good luck coming our way and hopefully we get it soon.”
The accident and early exit drops Jones from 14th to 17th in the Championship Points standings. He is 97 points behind the cutoff for the Playoffs, and 331 points behind point leader Truex.
Now all of the ROTY contenders will look to see if they can make history next week at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.