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Jones Has Big Xfinity Pay Day At Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2016
Erik Jones celebrates his Xfinity Series victory at Bristol on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Erik Jones celebrates his Xfinity Series victory at Bristol on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Erik Jones out-smarted Kyle Larson Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, then held off Kyle Busch to snap the strangle-hold the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have had on the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year. By winning the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, Jones also collected the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

“If you had asked me with 20 to go where we would finish, I probably would have said third or fourth,” Jones said. “But the last restart all of the holes opened up that we needed to and we were able to take advantage of them and make something out of it. This is probably one of the coolest finishes that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Jones’ third career Xfinity Series victory and his first this year was an emotional one for the 19-year-old driver, whose father was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago.

“He’s going through treatment now and he’s missed the last few weeks,” Jones said. “It’s the first win they haven’t been here for. It was hard to hold the emotions back for that one.”

Jones’ 0.418-second over Busch doused the Sprint Cup champion’s hopes of sweeping a third straight weekend. It also marked the first by an Xfinity Series regular this year. Prior to Saturday, Busch had won four of the first six Xfinity races with Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon claiming the other two. The win guaranteed Jones a position in the Chase.

“I think in a way we’re relaxed more after this,” says Jones, who trails standings leader and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez by six points. “Not that we were worried about making the Chase, but it’s definitely nice to have that feeling of comfort for sure. I don’t think we’ll change much. We’re still going to race for wins every week. It’s just nice to wake up every morning knowing that we’re locked in for the end of the season.”

Jones established himself as a contender for Saturday’s 200-lap event by winning the first 50-lap heat race held to determine the starting lineup. Austin Dillon won the second 50-lap heat race.

Throughout the main race, it was obvious the top cars belonged to Larson, Jones and Busch, who led 94, 62 and 43 laps, respectively. Jones’ opportunity to steal the victory from Larson came late in the event when the yellow waved on lap 189 for a two-car wreck. The caution period ended on lap 197, setting up a three-lap dash to the checkered flag.

For the restart, Jones was fourth behind then leader Larson, who selected the outside lane. Bush restarted second on the inside and Suarez was third behind him. When the green flag waved, Busch’s Toyota stalled.

“I got to the gas and it shut off,” Busch said. “Both restarts I had today were absolutely horrendous. Both times I would go to the throttle and the thing would shut off. Those guys were gone by then. I couldn’t even keep a nose on their left rear fender. Being on that inside lane you’re already at a disadvantage and then when your car can’t restart you’re even more at a disadvantage.”

Busch’s faltering Toyota allowed Jones to snare second, dogging Larson on his rear bumper. Coming to the white flag, Jones made his move.

“Erik did a really good job taking off on that restart,” Larson said. “He took off with me and kinda juked left into (turn) one and it got me to run lower. He got a run on me, I got him back and then I ran probably half a groove too low through (turns) three and four and he got to my outside. I was put in a good spot; just did a bad job.”  

Busch sailed past Larson as they took the white flag, but was unable to pass Jones.

“You can’t pass here,” Busch said. “Used to be a race track you could race around, three wide, pass, work traffic really well and have some fun. Now it’s just frustrating, aggravating.”

Jones was one of four Xfinity Series drivers in contention for the Dash 4 Cash bonus. The other three – Justin Allgaier, Suarez and Ty Dillon – finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.

Next weekend’s race at Richmond will be the second of four Dash 4 Cash events. The third is at Dover in May and the final one at Indianapolis in July.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tennessee
Saturday, April 16, 2016

  1. (1) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 200.
  2. (5) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200.
  3. (3) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  4. (2) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  5. (7) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
  6. (8) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 200.
  7. (4) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
  8. (10) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 200.
  9. (6) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 200.
  10. (12) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 200.
  11. (9) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 199.
  12. (14) Jeb Burton, Ford, 199.
  13. (19) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 199.
  14. (20) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 199.
  15. (15) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 199.
  16. (11) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 198.
  17. (24) David Starr, Toyota, 198.
  18. (27) Brandon Gdovic, Chevrolet, 197.
  19. (26) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 197.
  20. (36) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 197.
  21. (17) Ryan Reed, Ford, 197.
  22. (21) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 197.
  23. (25) Matt Tifft(i), Toyota, 197.
  24. (22) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 197.
  25. (13) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 196.
  26. (29) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 196.
  27. (23) Jeff Green, Ford, 196.
  28. (28) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 196.
  29. (30) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 195.
  30. (31) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 195.
  31. (33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 193.
  32. (37) Timmy Hill(i), Dodge, 193.
  33. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Ignition, 192.
  34. (34) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 192.
  35. (32) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 187.
  36. (35) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 182.
  37. (16) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 133.
  38. (38) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Electrical, 74.
  39. (40) Josh Wise(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 21.
  40. (39) Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, Vibration, 4.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  93.829 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 08 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.418 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  3 for 23 laps.

Lead Changes:  10 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   E. Jones # 1-40; J. Green 41; E. Jones # 42-60; K. Larson(i) 61-62; K. Busch(i) 63-102; K. Larson(i) 103-126; K. Busch(i) 127; K. Larson(i) 128-194; K. Busch(i) 195-196; K. Larson(i) 197; E. Jones # 198-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Larson(i) 4 times for 94 laps; E. Jones # 3 times for 62 laps; K. Busch(i) 3 times for 43 laps; J. Green 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 10 in Points: D. Suarez – 242; E. Jones # – 236; J. Allgaier – 234; E. Sadler – 232; B. Jones # – 223; T. Dillon – 221; B. Gaughan – 208; B. Poole # – 180; R. Reed – 180; D. Wallace Jr – 176.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2016
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