Last week in California, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick tied fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender John Hunter Nemechek’s season-high water mark, finishing 11th. And in the process took the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings lead by just four points. In fact, three rookies earned top-25 finishes last Sunday – California’s Cole Custer was 18th and Nemechek was 25th.
Twice now (at Las Vegas and at Auto Club Speedway) Reddick, driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, has been the top finishing rookie.
It has been an adjustment for this class of rookies as none of the first-year drivers are ranked among the NASCAR Cup Series top 20 in the series driver standings three races in, but Reddick leads them, ranked 23rd with a four-point edge on Front Row Motorsport’s driver John Hunter Nemechek in 24th.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer is 26th in the standings just 11 points behind Reddick, and Premium Motorsport’s Brennan Poole, driver of the No. 15 Chevrolet, is 29th in the driver standings – 10 points behind Custer.
Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota, is ranked 32nd in the series driver standings, 32 points behind rookie standings leader Tyler Reddick. Quin Houff rounds out the rookie standings in sixth and is ranked 34th in the overall driver standings, 47 points back from Reddick.
The biggest surprise thus far has been Bell’s slow start, but it all could turn around this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. He won a NASCAR Xfinity Series race there in 2018. He’s led 259 laps in the last four races there and swept the pole position at the two races there last year in the Xfinity Series.
But Reddick will be hard to catch as the Californian has four top-10 finishes in five NASCAR Xfinity Series Phoenix starts with a best showing of third – in both of the 2019 races. Custer was runner-up in the 2019 Xfinity Playoff race and has finished top-10 in his last five races at the track.
Nemechek is a perfect three-for-three in top-10 Xfinity Series finishes at Phoenix. He won the pole position in his first start in 2018 and was a career best fourth in his last race there – last November. Made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Phoenix last November and finished 27th.
Houff actually made his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix last March, finishing 30th. He was 29th in the November Xfinity Series race there.
Reddick, Custer, Poole, and Bell will all be making their series track debuts this weekend at Phoenix.