Rookie Round-Up: Coca-Cola 600 Edition

Wallace ran a competitive Coca-Cola 600 as a rookie.

Wallace ran a competitive Coca-Cola 600 as a rookie.

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 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Bubba Wallace had a pretty good Coke 600, but it wasn’t without its struggles. 600 miles is a lot of laps, a lot of time to make mistakes. Unless it’s the closing laps of the race, a lot of time to make up for those mistakes.

In his first 600 appearance, Wallace kept the No. 43 on the lead lap throughout most of the race, only losing it in the closing laps following long runs by the leaders. He qualified 24th, which isn’t a terrible starting position at a place like Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He climbed up through the field, especially in the closing laps, and came home with a respectable 16th place finish.

Coca-Cola 600 Grade: B

Notes: While I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a great race for Wallace, it wasn’t a bad race either. This was the longest race of his career and to bring the car home in one piece and with a top-20 finish is nothing to hang the head about.

Meanwhile, Byron's debut in the Coca-Cola 600 was less than memorable.

Meanwhile, Byron’s debut in the Coca-Cola 600 was less than memorable.

William Byron

All told, 600 miles was a few miles too many for Rookie William Byron. After a good qualifying run and putting the No. 24 21st in line, Byron’s weekend seemed to just deteriorate from there.

Early in the race, Byron radioed in about his car being loose. Even after the first round of pit stops, his car just couldn’t grip the track.

Stage 2 seemed a bit brighter for the No.24 team with Byron working his way up into the top-15 but contact with the wall on lap 113 made that progress short-lived.

Byron acquired heavy damage to his Chevrolet and needed extensive repairs on pit road. This cost him a lap but he was able to continue. He went two laps down a short time later after being passed by leader Kyle Busch.

Their day ended on lap 141 after something on the car broke, sending Byron into the wall once again. The damage was too much to repair and he finished 39th.

Coca-Cola 600 Grade: C-

Notes: Byron was only able to finish a quarter of the race, so there isn’t a lot to grade him on. If he had been able to race the entire 600 miles, he would have had a much better outcome. I guess we will have to wait and see how Byron handles the “Roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway when the teams return in a few months.

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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