Erik Jones, at the age of 18, is a NASCAR XFINITY race-winner.
Eighteen-year-old Erik Jones claimed his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win Friday night when he took the checkered flag in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. He did so by holding off Brad Keselowski on a restart with 26 laps remaining, fighting hard on the bottom to maintain the top spot.
"It's really surreal. It's going to take a minute for this to sink in. This is probably the biggest win of my career," Jones said. "I honestly can't wait to get back to the race track now."
Smith tops regulars
Regan Smith was the highest-finishing championship-eligible driver, placing fourth.
"We're happy for the Xfinity Series points, but I want to win again. It's been awhile," Smith said.
Smith was the only series regular inside top-five at the finish, with former series champion Austin Dillon rounding out the top-five.
Jones started on the pole and led 79 laps, while Keselowski led 56. Jones ran at or near the front the entire race, while Keselowski had to race from the back to the front and then race from the back to the top-10 late in the race.
BradK fights back
Keselowski claimed the other front-row starting spot in qualifying earlier Friday evening, but dropped to the back at the start of the race because of unapproved work on his car's fuel pump before the race. He got to the front by lap 48 and pulled away before a lap 63 debris caution.
Keselowski had to make an additional pit stop during a lap 127 caution to remedy and overheating issue caused by tape added to his grille during the previous stop and a slight accumulation of grass. He restarted the race ninth, but moved up to third in just a few laps after the restart. Keselowski then got off pit road second during the final caution but was unable to get by leader Jones in the remaining laps.
"It was just up and down," Keselowski said. "Not quite where we wanted to be at the end of the race. We wanted to win."
Earnhardt in contention
Jones led the first five laps of the race before losing the lead for the first time to Earnhardt on lap six. Whenever Jones would lose the lead on the track, though, he would retake the lead on pit road throughout the six cautions in the race, taking advantage of fast pit stops and the first pit stop.
Jones led a race-high 79 laps, with Keselowski leading 56 laps. Other drivers leading significant laps included Brian Scott, who led 26, and Earnhardt with 25 laps led.
For Jones, the highlight of the race was his battle with Earnhardt for the lead following the lap 127 caution. Earnhardt took the lead from Jones on the restart, but Jones would let him go and battled the NASCAR veteran until finally retaking the lead with 50 laps to go.
"That's one I can't wait to go back and watch," Jones said. "I hope we put on a great show. It was a blast."
Finishing sixth through 10th were Darrell Wallace Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher and Scott.