March 19, 2014 — photo courtesy Jerry Markland/Getty Images — FONTANA, CA — Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon completed their first 500-lap race at Bristol Motor Speedway, finishing 10th and 11th, respectively; with Larson taking Sunoco Rookie Of The Race honors for the second time this year.
Though Dillon leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, his lead is shrinking. He currently holds a six-point lead over Larson, down from eight after Las Vegas – his largest cushion of the season.
Larson’s strong performance at Bristol put the rest of the field on high alert – though it’s his first season, he’s for real.
Larson contended for the win in final 100 laps at Bristol, scoring a driver rating (104.5) that ranked fourth best. Can he back up this strong performance in his home state of California?
Auto Club Speedway has been a site for big name first-time winners in the past. California native Jimmie Johnson scored his first Sprint Cup win as a ROY contender in his first start at Auto Club Speedway in 2002. Kyle Busch won his first NSCS Coors Light Pole Award and his first NSCS race at Auto Club Speedway as a ROY contender in 2005.
None of this year’s ROY contenders have started a NSCS race at Auto Club Speedway. Dillon, Larson and Parker Kligerman are the only rookie contenders to post top-10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Larson, a native of Elk Grove, Calif., posted a sixth-place finish in his only NNS start at what he considers to be his home track. Dillon finished fifth in each of his two NNS starts at Auto Club Speedway.