Rookie Roundup: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Edition

Bubba Wallace was quite strong in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas.

Bubba Wallace was quite strong in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas.

After each 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 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas.

An eighth place finish for Wallace was quite solid for this rookie.

An eighth place finish for Wallace was quite solid for this rookie.

Darrell Wallace Jr.

After a rough few weeks on the circuit, Bubba Wallace finally had his chance to shine. And shine he did.

Wallace fought his way to his second top-10 of the season, his first since the opening race at Daytona.

There wasn’t a lot of excitement under the Texas Sun, but watching the young drivers battle it out with the veterans was all of the entertainment I needed. Wallace fought to stay on the lead lap in a relatively long race and at the end of the 500 miles, Wallace was one of only 10 cars to complete all 334 laps.

After a good qualifying run, sticking the No.43 P15 on the grid, he stayed there throughout a majority of the race. He and his team utilized some great pit strategy to stay out front and on the lead lap and it paid off in the end.

“That was a good week off for us to re-group. The guys did a hell of a job all weekend long,” Wallace told NASCAR.com following the race. “I thought we had pretty decent speed and a lot of people in the garage were like ‘your car is pretty good, so just don’t mess it up.”

O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Grade: A+

Notes: I really have nothing to say here. Wallace ran a phenomenal race and really earned his stripes at Texas. But this week, it’ll be a different story. I am excited to see how he handles a track like Bristol. He has had some decent success in the junior leagues at this track, lets see how that transitions to the Cup series.

William Byron netted his first top-10 finish, a great finish for this rookie.

William Byron netted his first top-10 finish, a great finish for this rookie.

William Byron

Texas really seemed to take a liking to William Byron. Following the first practice at Texas, things weren’t looking too promising for this young Hendrick Motorsports driver and his team. They were sitting at the end of the line in the practice session, not even breaking the top-30 in speed.

Thankfully, it was all uphill from there…for the most part.

Qualifying, thanks to a little rain, put the team on the starting grid at 33rd. They had a battle to get up front and not lose laps, but 500 miles is a long race and Byron used it to his advantage.

With pit strategy and a little rough racing, Byron found himself with his first top-10 finish of his Cup career and no doubt his last.

O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Grade: A+

Notes: Maybe I am getting a little nicer with my grades this week, but these two rookies really proved themselves at Texas. I am really excited to see how Byron handles a tough track like Bristol, but I have a feeling a short track like this might just be the type that this 20-year-old thrives with.

Katie Copple

They say the best things are left unsaid. I say, the best things need to be put down on paper...or the internet in this case. I discovered NASCAR and the world of motorsports in college and it changed my life... and my career path. Now, when people ask me to describe myself, I tell them that I am a 20-something that has an obsession with racecars.

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