Each week after the race, I will take a look at our two Rookie of the Year (ROTY) contenders and any other drivers deemed a “rookie.”
Like a professor, a grade will be provided for their performance on the track. All things considered, a high finish doesn’t necessarily mean a good grade, as a bad finish doesn’t always result in a bad grade.
Let’s take a look at how our two ROTY contenders fared following the STP 500 at Martinsville.
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.:
Much like the weather was not nice to Martinsville, Martinsville was not nice to Bubba Wallace.Wallace and the No.43 team seemed to struggle at the short track, though this is not uncommon for Rookie drivers.
Trouble started early with a pit road violation on Lap 53 after Wallace was caught speeding. At a track like Martinsville, even small penalties like this can put a drive a lap or two down. Just a few laps later on Lap 65, Wallace collides with JJ Yeley and continues to lose positions. Radio chatter indicated a possible flat tire on the No.43. Just 5 laps later, he’s dropped to 38th and dragging his right front splitter and hits pit road for repairs. His team finally took the car tot he garage for repairs, losing many laps but NASCAR allowed them back on track.
By the end of Stage 1, Wallace was at the end of the 38-car field and 6 laps down.
Stage 2 didn’t fair much better. Wallace did pick up a few positions but ended the stage laps down from the leaders. At the end of the race, he finished 34th and 16 laps down from the leaders.
STP 500 Grade: B-
Notes: Damage at Martinsville is pretty much inevitable. What happened to Wallace wasn’t really avoidable but it cost him a good race. The important thing to note here is that he logged most of the laps. Granted, those laps were run injured, but they were laps logged at one of the sports toughest tracks. No doubt that Wallace will come back to Martinsville next time and be better for it all.
There isn’t much to say this week for William Byron. The rookie ran a good race… and that is about all he did. The important thing to note here is that he stayed out of trouble and logged laps. Byron started 20th and finished in the same position, running mid-pack throughout much of the race. Martinsville is a track where teammate Jimmie Johnson has had a lot of success and the Hendrick Motorsports team has a good record of bringing fast cars to the short track. This definitely played into Byron’s favor.
Byron completed all but 3 laps of the STP 500. The rookie took to Twitter following the race saying, “tough day for us but glad to put in a full race to know what’s most important for next time.” That is the important thing to take away from your first trip to a track like Martinsville… finding out what works and what doesn’t, and to run a better race next time.
STP 500 Grade: B
Notes: While Byron didn’t make any headlines this week, he didn’t run a bad race. The best thing he can do is review his team notes, and maybe have a sit-down with Jimmie Johnson before returning to Martinsville.
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