Last Sunday, we saw two rookies shine in NASCAR’s first race back to action in a 70 day span. Without any practice or qualifying and having not been in a race car in 10 weeks, rookies Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek grabbed top 10 finishes at the Darlington Raceway, one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks on the schedule. That was their first Cup starts on the 1.366-mile South Carolina oval.
A week later, the rookies were making their first career starts in NASCAR’s longest race of the season. 600 miles of action awaited them this weekend. When it was all said and done, we saw three rookies grab top 13 finishes.
Reddick, qualified his No. 8 Chevrolet fifth and would finish fourth, 13th and 11th respectively in the first three stages run under the lights at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was in fourth on the final restart of the Coca-Cola 600 but faded to ninth for his fourth top 13 finish in his last five starts on the season.
Christopher Bell though quietly nabbed a top 10. He finished 10th in his No. 95 Toyota for his best finish of the season. That comes after a career best finish of 11th last Wednesday in Darlington.
“I think we are headed in the right direction,” said Bell. “We have to obviously keep making gains – getting a little bit faster, me doing a better job. We’re gaining on it. We are creeping up on it. I think we snuck a little bit of a better finish out than what we probably deserved, but we will take it after the first couple weeks.”
Cole Custer earned his second best finish of the season (he was 9th in Phoenix) in bringing his No. 41 Ford home 13th.
”Man, definitely a persevering night for the HaasTooling.com Mustang,” Custer said. “I could’ve done better at the start of the race. We definitely got the car better throughout the race. We fought hard all night. We fought hard to stay on the lead lap and got our lap back that one time. To finish 13th in my first 600 that I’ve run was definitely pretty cool. I got a good restart at the end. We have some things we know we can do better when we come Wednesday. I can do some things better. I’m looking forward to it. We’re moving in the right direction with this package. We just have to keep grinding through it.”
For these rookies to keep doing this early and often, it may be a matter of time before one of them reaches victory lane.