Erik Jones came back from a pit road speeding penalty to wrestle the lead away from Ryan Blaney late in the going of Saturday’s NACAR Xfinity Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
From there, Jones survived a late challenge from Blaney to score his second straight series victory.
It also marks his second straight series win in the spring race at Bristol, and the eighth Xfinity Series win of his career.
Blaney held the lead with 20 laps to go, but Jones charged to Blaney’s back bumper. Jones nudged the back of Blaney’s Ford, sending him sliding sideways. That allowed Jones to make the pass for the lead.
Despite a late caution that allowed Blaney to close, Jones would not relinquish the top spot the rest of the way.
Jones said on those final restarts, he was “going for it.”
“At that point in the race I think there was less than 20 (laps) to go and you have to do all you can to try to get to the lead,” he said. “I knew clean air was important and we were quite a bit faster than 22 (Blaney) just to fire off and I guess just the track cooled down and we got some speed back in the car and we were able to get around him and get the lead and from there I think everyone was stuck on the bottom and we were able to hold them off. Awesome day and awesome to be in victory lane.”
Jones was able to recover from being penalized for speeding on pit road under caution with around 75 laps to go to contend for the win.
“It’s pretty wild, we’ve worked hard to get our cars better here at JGR and it’s really paid off the last two weeks – two wins now and I’m sad I’m not going to be in the car next week to go for three,” Jones said. “An awesome way to get the year rolling here for us. To have the Reser’s Camry here with a comeback win, I didn’t think we had a car to do it and I didn’t think it was the right day, especially after the speeding penalty. The cards kind of fell our way today and we got the right restarts and we were able to make up some spots and make the most of it.”
For Blaney, it was another near-miss in Xfinity Series competition this season after finishing second earlier this year at both Phoenix and Texas.
As for the contact between with Jones, Blaney said it was “just a racing deal.”
“He got to second there and I knew he was super-fast on short-run speed for 20 laps or so and I felt like I had to protect the bottom the best I could,” said Blaney. “I pinched him into three the corner before that and we kind of messed up our momentum there and it was close getting into turn one. I tried to get in pretty deep and clear myself to try to regain our composure and go back again. He got in there hard as well and we just made contact. That’s hard racing. I knew I pushed the issue. You take a chance of trying to clear somebody right there and sometimes it just doesn’t work out for you. He was committed to being in there, so that’s just a racing incident. I don’t have any hard feelings about it, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Daniel Suarez finished in third, with series points leader Elliott Sadler in fourth.
Daniel Hemric was in contention for the win late in the going after coming back from being a lap down, but in the end settled for a fifth place result. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender had nothing to hang his head about, however, as he was the highest finisher among the four “Dash-4-Cash” eligible drivers, pocketing a $100,000 bonus for his efforts.
Kyle Larson, meanwhile, was left wondering what might have been. Larson dominated much of the race, winning the first two segments of the event. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader appeared to have the race well in hand until the caution flag came out on lap 220.
First, Blaney beat Larson off pit road, earning the preferred restart position on the outside of the front row. Larson then tried to work his way back into contention, but contact with another car on a restart left him with a rapidly deflating tire.
Larson had committed to pit road when another caution flew. He aborted his trip to victory lane, but was hit with a penalty by NASCAR officials for not pitting after passing the commitment line. That sent him to the back of the pack on the restart.
Larson would recover to finish seventh.
The race was twice halted under the red flag. The first came out for rain, which had moved around the area all afternoon, on lap 162, eight laps before the end of the second race segment.
The second came out following a hard crash on lap 260, when Darrell Wallace, Jr. spun as cars slowed ahead of him. Wallace, Jr.’s car was then struck hard by Peachtree City, Georgia’s Garrett Smithley. Both drivers were uninjured, but the race was halted to allow for track cleanup.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Bristol Motor Speedway – Bristol, TN
Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 – April 22, 2017
1. (4) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 300.
2. (9) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 300.
3. (10) Daniel Suarez(i), Toyota, 300.
4. (17) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 300.
5. (8) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 300.
6. (6) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 300.
7. (1) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 300.
8. (13) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 300.
9. (16) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 300.
10. (28) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 300.
11. (30) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 300.
12. (19) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 300.
13. (2) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 300.
14. (5) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 300.
15. (21) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 300.
16. (7) Matt Tifft #, Toyota, 300.
17. (15) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 299.
18. (23) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 298.
19. (31) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 298.
20. (18) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 297.
21. (20) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 295.
22. (32) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 295.
23. (29) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 294.
24. (34) Timmy Hill, Dodge, 294.
25. (37) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 294.
26. (22) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 293.
27. (36) Carl Long, Dodge, 293.
28. (38) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 292.
29. (26) B.J. McLeod, Chevrolet, 292.
30. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 281.
31. (11) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, Accident, 268.
32. (3) Cole Custer #, Ford, Accident, 262.
33. (14) Darrell Wallace, Jr., Ford, Accident, 258.
34. (35) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, Accident, 253.
35. (12) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, Accident, 243.
36. (27) David Starr, Chevrolet, Accident, 227.