The racing gods simply weren’t on Erik Jones' and Justin Allgaier’s side at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday.
Prior to Ray Black Jr.’s wreck with 10 laps remaining in the EcoBoost 300 a showdown was developing between race winner Daniel Suarez, Jones and Allgaier.
When the field lined up for the restart, Chaser Elliott Sadler, who had hit the wall on Lap 151, recovered after a two-tire stop. He was first off of pit road, but behind Cole Whitt, who elected not to pit and gained the lead. Sadler begged the No. 14 team for the outside lane but they refused to relinquish the position. Sadler had to settle for the inside lane. Suarez lined up behind the No. 1 car with Jones and Allgaier restarting behind Whitt.
Chris Gabehart, the crew chief on the No. 20 team was prophetic when he asked, “What on Earth is the 14 car doing here?”
The restart in question
As the green flag waved with three to go, Sadler started to roll with Suarez in tow. But Whitt spun the tires and Jones and Allgaier were blocked in as the inside lane took off. Suarez passed Sadler then extended his lead by .815-seconds lead over Ty Dillon after taking the white flag. Sadler finished third as Allgaier and Jones, who were mired in traffic at the restart, finished sixth and ninth, respectively.
“I would love to hear an explanation from (Whitt) from his crew chief (Bryan Smith),” Jones said. “It just didn’t make any sense staying out there with the top four guys racing for it. I would love to hear exactly what their thoughts were? What happened? Why he didn’t go in the restart box? Yeah, there’s a lot of questions that I would love to have answered.”
Watch the restart HERE.
Allgaier, who finished third in the standings, didn’t feel the blame should be directed entirely on Whitt.
“I know all these guys are racing for points and spots and money,” Allgaier said of Whitt and the TriStar Motorsports team. “And I’m not trying to take anything away from them. I don’t necessarily blame Cole. If he got told to stay out there and stay in the lane he was in, it’s not really any of his doing under the circumstances.
“If he picks the bottom, then it’s a completely different ballgame. I’m still going to start behind him. I was fifth on the restart. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. We’re sitting here, not standing on that stage over there like all of us would have liked to have been.”
Jones, who had four wins and eight poles this season, was one of the favorites entering the Championship 4 Round. He finished fourth — the highest finishing freshman — and won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.
Erik Jones frustrated
But he was still feeling the sting of an opportunity lost on Saturday night.
"I guess he just wanted to stack up the top line," he said upon initially entering the Media Center. "I don't know, maybe he's never started first before. I don't know. It's just kind of insane really. I've never seen anything like it. He didn't even attempt to go. He didn't spin his tires. He just sat there and stacked the top line up. It was pretty disrespectful, really, and I strongly hope that somebody is able to talk to him about that.
"It's a pretty unfortunate thing to happen. You know, you've got four guys running for the championship and they're all up front racing for it, and then you've got one guy that's been running 18th all day that just stacks everybody up. It's just kind of unfortunate."
Jones later elaborated, explaining, “You can’t pass before the start finish line. It would have been one thing if he got up and started rolling, but you can’t go anywhere before the start-finish line. So it’s really frustrating. I don’t mean to bag on the guy so much, but we’re racing for the championship.
“Maybe we don’t win it if he pits and lets us move up. But at least we would have had a fair shot at it. I feel we got robbed of at least our chance to race for it. It’s just unfortunate. It wasn’t a great situation all together."