NASCAR

NSCS: Highly-Touted Rookie Class Struggles At Phoenix

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Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images

 

By: Brian Eberly – NASCAR/IndyCar Contributor (@beberly18)

March 2, 2014

AVONDALE, Ariz. — The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series features one of the best Sunoco Rookie of the Year classes in recent memory, with eight drivers running their first full-time seasons in 2014.

The second race of the season on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway showed the trials and tribulations that drivers experience at NASCAR’s top-level.  The yellow rookie stripes shown bright on the rear of these driver’s machines, as none of the rookies were in contention for a victory and none led a lap.

Kyle Larson, one of the pre-season favorites for the Rookie of the Year title, finished 20th in the No. 42 Clorox Chevrolet.  Larson was the only rookie to finish on the lead lap, which didn’t occur until Lap 299 of the 312-lap event.  Larson indicated his restarts weren’t good enough to catch the right breaks to get the “Lucky Dog” until it was too late.

Austin Dillon, the driver most expected to contend with Larson for rookie honors, finished 24th in the No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet.  Dillon indicated his Richard Childress team fought hard but just needed some track position.

Parker Kligerman started having engine issues on lap 20 and they subsequently continued to get worse until the car was no longer driveable.  He retired to the garage for good on Lap 246 as he was having difficulty maintaining the minimum speed.  The engine failure resulted in a 42nd place finish for the Swan Racing team.

I had a brief chat with Kyle Petty on Friday night at an event in Chicago, and he indicated he felt Cole Whitt would be one of the rookies to really watch this season.  A long, hard fought day for Kligerman’s teammate, Whitt, in the No. 26 GEAR SpeedStick Toyota resulted in a 27th-place result.

Justin Allgaier had his work cut-out for him from the drop of the green flag, as he wrecked his primary car in practice, forcing him to start the No. 51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet at the tail of the field.  Allgaier was involved in an accident on Lap 172 and finished 30th.

Michael Annett finished 34th in the No. 7 Accell Construction Chevrolet and Ryan Truex was 35th in the No. 83 Borla Exhaust Toyota.  After failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 last weekend, at least Truex was able to get some valuable track time on Sunday.

Alex Bowman finished 41st after suffering a broken spindle on the No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota.  Bowman indicated he felt they had a top-25 car, and was disappointed with the finish.

It’s safe to say this rookie class is glad to put Phoenix behind them and begin focusing on next week.  The series will stay out west and driver’s will test their luck, roll the dice, and gamble on a good finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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About Brian Eberly

Brian Eberly (@beberly18) is a Certified Public Accountant and Manager of Field Accounting at a transportation company, but when he isnt at the office you can most likely find him at a racetrack, watching a race on television, or following the action on social media. Eberly became interested in NASCAR in the nineties when Jeff Gordon was dominating the scene, and became hooked when he attended his first race with his dad in 1999 at Michigan International Speedway. Eberly has been writing about NASCAR since 2012 for various websites. An Illinois native and Northern Illinois University graduate, Eberly travels throughout the Midwest covering racing events in multiple series. When not following racing, he can be found on the golf course (usually trying to find his golf ball) and following the Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Bulls, and of course the NIU Huskies.

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