Erik Jones takes Xfinity win and $100,000 bonus with late pass
Erik Jones became the first NASCAR Xfinity Series regular to win a race this season and in the process picked up a $100,000 bonus.
Jones utilized a slow restart by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to get behind leader Kyle Larson and passed him with one of 200 laps remaining in Saturday’s Fitzgerald 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway to earn his first victory of the season.
“We had a really good restart and Kyle just left the top (lane) open,” Jones said from Victory Lane.
"We went up there and he worked pretty hard to keep him behind us. We just kept digging and it worked out. Just an awesome feeling. I never thought we’d get our first win here at Bristol this year. Couldn’t be happier. It's a really young team, but we’re getting better every week and it’s cool to see it pay off here in Victory Lane.”
Asked what it meant to beat two talented Cup drivers for the win, Jones said, "I figured at some point in the year we could get a win when those guys weren’t in the field, but it would be a tall task with them in the field. Here at Bristol for those two guys, this is one of their best tracks. "
I’m just so excited and you can tell, I’m out of breath. I wasn’t working that hard. Just so excited about the win and to be here in victory lane and beat those guys. This is a really big day for us.”
Busch ended up second, Larson third, Austin Dillon was fourth and Justin Allgaier completed the top-five.
In the 20 laps previous to the final caution, Larson had been working furiously to hold off Busch, who had won the past three series races.
The sprint to the checkered flag
A wreck involving Ryan Reed and Mario Gosselin brought out a caution with 12 to go. The cleanup took an unusually long time as Jeremy Clements’ car ended up coming to a stop on the track while the race was under yellow.
Busch, who lined up second, had trouble getting up to speed, allowing Jones to dive up and around him and into position to challenge Larson for the win.
“When I went to the gas on the last two restarts, it just didn’t accelerate,” Busch said after the race. “I lost all my acceleration and those guys were just gone. I didn’t even have a chance. Jones cleared me by the time we got to Turn 1 – that’s how bad it was.”
Larson said he wasn’t surprised he ended up battling Jones for the win, but was disappointed in his own performance on the restart.
“I ran too low for a lap and Erik got to my outside. I tried to slide him into (Turn) 1 and I was hoping he’d make a mistake and I’d get another shot at him in (Turn) 3, but I just ran into the side of him.
“I did a really poor job the last two laps and I just blame myself.”
Earlier in the day, Jones, Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Daniel Suarez had qualified for the series’ $100,000 Dash4Cash bonus through a pair of 50-lap heat races. With Jones winning the race and being the highest of the four qualifiers, he also took home the bonus.
The victory is the third series win of Jones’ career.
Should any Xfinity regular be the top series regular in at least two of the four Dash4Cash races, that driver automatically advances to the Chase, with a chance to compete for the series championship this season.
Austin Dillon left little drama in the second 50-lap heat race, getting a big jump at the start and leading flag to flag to claim the second starting spot in the main event.
Ty Dillon, who finished second, and Suarez, who held off a furious challenge from Kevin Harvick to finish fourth, were the two drivers to who qualified for the Dash4Cash bonus in the main race.
“We just need to make the right changes and adjustments to get ready for the main race now,” Suarez said after the heat race.
Jones, who won the pole in regular qualifying earlier Saturday, led all 50 laps of the first heat, which were being used to set the starting order of the 200-lap main event.
“We did everything we needed to right there. It was good and it was actually a little bit better than I thought it would be,” Jones said. “When we kind of got moved up to the top, I was pretty happy with it overall. Just need a little bit of forward drive, but we rolled the center, which is what kept us out front.”
Jones and Allgaier, who finished fourth, were the two drivers who qualified for the Dash4Cash $100,000 bonus in the main race.
The top two Xfinity Series regulars in each heat race qualified for the bonus, with the highest finisher of the four in the main event earning the $100,000.
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