Rockenfeller hopes for more after career-best NASCAR Cup finish

Rockenfeller hopes for more after career-best NASCAR Cup finish

The two-time Le Mans class winner and former DTM champion was a last-minute fill-in to drive Legacy Motor Club’s No. 42 Chevrolet two weeks ago at the Indy Road Course and again this past Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

NASCAR indefinitely suspended the team’s original driver, Noah Gragson, and he has since asked for and received his release from the organization.

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Rockenfeller, who was one of the three drivers of NASCAR’s Garage 56 entry in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, overcame a pit road speeding penalty at Indy and finished 24th.

A second-consecutive week driving NASCAR’s Next Gen car improved his performance as he qualified 21st – his best start in a Cup race – and ended up 19th.

As in the Indy race, Rockenfeller was hampered by an issue on pit road Sunday at Watkins Glen. His team had trouble on stop in the race and he lost eight positions.

Also like the Indy race, Watkins Glen saw only one caution and ended with a long green-flag run, but he was still able to gain three spots on the final lap to earn his career-best Cup finish.

Mike Rockenfeller, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Camaro

Mike Rockenfeller, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images

“Starting from 21st and only finishing 19th is for sure not what we were hoping for or what I was hoping for,” Rockenfeller, 39, said. “On the first pitstop, we had an issue on the left side with the jack and we lost a ton of time there. That probably cost us eight spots, but that’s how it is.

“The car was tricky to drive but for sure we learned a lot again in the race. The last stint, I would say, after the restart we were quite OK. At the very end, I was just hanging on. Getting three positions on the last lap was nice and made a top-20 finish, which at the end is still my best result.

“Thanks to the team and everybody for letting me hop in the seat and try to do my best. I hope to come back.”

While the deal has yet to be finalized, Rockenfeller has been in discussions to drive the No. 42 for LMC in the Oct. 8 Cup race on the Charlotte Roval, which he drove last season for Spire Motorsports.

That would give him five Cup starts over two seasons and he has finished better each time he’s had an opportunity in the car.

Mike Rockenfeller, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Camaro

Mike Rockenfeller, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

Rockenfeller said there was “no question” getting back-to-back weeks in the Cup car was helpful to his progression.

“You are more in the zone with the team, and you communicate better and understand each other better,” he said. “It just takes time. You’re racing against the best of the best here. You see guys one week can be on top and the next you can be in the mid-field or the back. It’s super-tight.

“For me it was good to have the back-to-back events. We’ve made progress, not good enough really, but I think it leaves me more prepared for the race. It just takes a little bit of time.

“I’m happy that we’ve made progress – it’s good for the team and good for myself.”

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