Last weekend’s Phoenix Raceway event was a significant outing for several members of the NASCAR Cup Series’ talented Sunoco Rookie class.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer earned his first NASCAR Cup Series top 10 with a ninth-place finish on Sunday. The effort moved him to 22nd in the standings – best among rookies.
Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick earned points in the first two Stages and ran among the top five for a portion of the race before a late accident cost him a fitting finish. The two-time and defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion was ultimately 33rd in the finishing order, but earned a lot of positive praise for his work Sunday. The up-and-down day dropped him to 25th in the standings heading into Atlanta.
Christopher Bell had his best outing of the four-race season, finishing 24th in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota, one position ahead of Front Row Motorsports’ driver John Hunter Nemechek.
Custer is tops among the rookies in the standings, followed by Reddick and Nemechek, who sit in 25th and 26th position, respectively.
Bell is currently 32nd in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, but he does have two wins at this week’s Atlanta Motor Speedway venue. He won the 2017 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race from pole position and answered it with a victory in last year’s Xfinity Series race at Atlanta.
“Atlanta is statistically one of my best race tracks,’’ Bell said. “Every race I’ve ran there, I’ve been able to lead laps at some point. I was able to win once in the truck and once in the Xfinity car.
“Atlanta is definitely another race I have circled, and I love that race track. It’s going to be different in the Cup car, but I’m ready to get there this weekend see what happens’’
Nemechek is the only other rookie to have celebrated in Atlanta’s Victory Lane – earning the 2016 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race win.
Custer’s best showing was a runner-up to Bell in last year’s Xfinity race. Reddick was fifth in that race.