NASCAR Xfinity: Erik Jones dominates, wins at Texas Motor Speedway
Erik Jones takes the checkered flag in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2017
By AMANDA VINCENT
Erik Jones dominated the My Bariatric Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth on Saturday and became the sixth different winner in the first six races of the 2017 season. It was Jones’ seventh-career win, his second at TMS.
“The first time I came here, it’s funny, it really wasn’t that good to me, but after that, it just kind of clicked, and I felt really good here ever since,” Jones said. “The repave was really treacherous to start the weekend, and this is a nice way to bounce back for myself after going to a backup car the other day in the Cup car.”
Ryan Blaney finished second, Kevin Harvick was third, and Austin Dillon finished fourth. Cole Custer was the highest-finishing Xfinity Series championship-eligible driver, rounding out the top-five.
Darrell Wallace Jr., meanwhile, continued his string of sixth-place finishes, finishing sixth for the fifth-consecutive week.
“What a blast out here today,” Wallace said. “Texas is tough now. Giving up that bottom groove is like pulling teeth. I really fought hard, there, and did look with about nine laps to go where I was and got mixed up between us and the 9 (William Byron), and we were sixth. Unreal.”
After Joey Logano started on the pole and led the first 19 laps of the race, Jones took the lead on lap 20 and ran up front for 112 laps of the 200 that made up the race and also claiming the first stage win.
“I think we just had to look at what the track was doing over the race and kind of how the track changed what our car did,” Jones said. “We really didn’t make any adjustments. (Crew chief Chris) Gabehart did a great job last night, trying to get the car freed up for today.”
Logano retired from the race inside the final 60 laps, heading to the garage with an engine issue.
“I think we dropped a valve or something like that,” Logano, driving a second car for Team Penske, said. “We lost a cylinder. It is just a matter of time before it was going to make a big explosion and wreck our race car. This car doesn’t race for points, so it is win or nothing for us.”
Jones lost the lead to Blaney with 70 laps remaining, but during a cycle of green-flag pit stops with just under 60 laps to go, Jones cycled back to the lead and ran up front for the remainder of the race.
Aside from the two cautions that divided stage one from stage two and stage two from stage three, the yellow flag waved four other times, all for spins in the first two stages and the first half of the race. The third stage, made up of the final 110 laps of the race, ran caution-free.
A yellow flag on lap 83 for a Garrett Smithley spin resulted in a variation in pit strategies. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars, not worried at stage wins, along with a few Xfinity Series regulars, including Wallace, pitted during the caution just before the end of the second 45-lap stage. Series regulars, including William Byron, Ryan Reed, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Blake Koch, stayed out with hopes of claiming the stage win. Byron won the second stage of the race, making him the first series-regular first or second stage winner since JR Motorsports teammate Sadler won the first two stages in the season-opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February.
After pitting during the lap-83 caution, Jones and others stayed out during the yellow flag at the end of the second stage at lap 90 and restarted with the lead. Wallace restarted next to him on the front row, but when the race returned to green, Wallace fell back several positions.
Finishing seventh through 10th were Byron, Ty Dillon, Matt Tifft and Sadler.