Rookies Elliott, Blaney Shine at Phoenix
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on March 13, 2016 | 9:15 P.M. EST
Today marked the first time two rookies finished in the top 10 since the 2014 fall race at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
Rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney had a solid day at Phoenix International Raceway as both came home with top-10 finishes in the Good Sam 500.
Today marked the first time two rookies finished in the top 10 since Kyle Larson (second) and Austin Dillon (eighth) in the 2014 fall race at Kansas Speedway.
Elliott bounced back from a tough ending last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to equal his career-best finish, in eighth.
"My guys have been bringing such fast race cars to the racetrack every week since Daytona, and I haven't been doing a very good job of getting the finishes that they deserve," Elliott said. "I'm just happy today that we could finally finish one of these things and get a solid top 10 finish."
After starting from the 17th, Elliott posted the seventh-best average running position (8.8) in the 313-lap race to earn Rookie of the Race for the second time this season.
"I felt like we made gains throughout the day," Elliott said. "The guys did a great job on pit road picking up spot there. Alan made good adjustments and gave up a couple spots on that last restart, but I was proud of the effort and hopefully we can take it and try to get a little better in Fontana."
Blaney, who also has two top Rookie of the Race honors this season, led the rookie standings heading into Phoenix. He averaged a 15th-place position through-out the race and was able to finish 10th after making two passes in the overtime finish following a pit stop.
“The guys did a great job with two tires at the end and I thought about staying out but we wouldn’t have been on the first two rows so we had to come in to get two (tires)," Blaney said. “We fought really hard all day. We got a lot better throughout the day. We didn’t start out that great and we just got better as we went along.”
The finish was Blaney's second consecutive top 10 of the season and it came in Wood Brothers Racing's first trip to PIR since 2011 and 26th overall.