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NASCAR Xfinity: Erik Jones scores second-straight series win at Bristol

Erik Jones celebrates in victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 on April 22, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Erik Jones celebrates in victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 on April 22, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Erik Jones aggressively took the race lead from Ryan Blaney in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway on Saturday with 20 laps remaining in the 300-lap event and drove on to claim his second-consecutive series win and his second-straight win in the annual sprint race at Bristol.
“It’s pretty wild; we’ve worked hard to get our cars better, here, at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), 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. An awesome way to get the year rolling, here for us.”
The win came after a pit-road speeding penalty during a caution with about 80 laps remaining.
“It was a day kind of like last year,” Jones said. “We didn’t really know if we had a winning car or not, and to come back from a penalty like that, especially without much green-flag racing was a lot of fun, and it’s a race I won’t forget for a long time.”
Blaney dropped back to fourth because of the contact from Jones that cost him the lead, but he recovered to finish second. Blaney’s car, though, was too low during post-race inspections. Resulting penalties are expected to be announced later in the week.
Daniel Hemric claimed the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus with a fifth-place finish. He also was the winner of the second race stage.
“This whole day is just a testament to everyone on the No. 21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet team, and everyone at Richard Childress Racing,” Hemric said. “I was hoping we could get up there and earn the overall victory, but to take home the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize and win stage two of the race is big for this group.”
Other drivers battling for the Bristol bonus because of being the top-two among Xfinity Series regulars in one of the first two stages of the race included Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer and Brendan Gaughan. The battle for the second Dash 4 Cash bonus of the season became a race of survival, as Custer and Gaughan retired from the race early, Custer for a mechanical issue and Gaughan after getting caught up in a wreck.
“We had a really fast Haas Automation Ford Mustang, and we were going forward,” Custer said. “I think we could’ve definitely won the Dash 4 Cash and maybe had a shot at the win. It just sucks. We’ve had a couple instances like this, and it’s like we just can’t do anything about this year. We’ll move on. We’ve got fast cars, and we’ll try to get some solid finishes.”
Allgaier was involved in a late-race incident with JR Motorsports teammate William Byron, but continued to finish the race 14th.
Other top-five race finishers included Daniel Suarez in third and Elliott Sader in fourth.
Rainy weather didn’t prevent a prompt green flag to start the race, but it interfered near the end of stage two, resulting in a red flag of more than an hour-and-a-half. There was another, shorter, red-flag period later in the race for track clean-up after an accordion-type wreck involving Darrell Wallace Jr. and Garrett Smithly on a restart on lap 261.
During the weather-related red fag, tempers reached a fever pitch between Ross Chastain and Jeremy Clements. After drivers climbed from their cars during the race stoppage, Clements grabbed Chastain from behind. Chastain responded by punching Clements in the face. As a result, Clements was treated and released from the track’s infield care center with a swollen left eye. NASCAR called both drivers to the sanctioning body’s hauler for a post-race meeting.
Larson dominated the race prior to the rain delay, leading all but seven laps of the first 75-lap stage and taking the opening-stage win and then leading the second stage until pit strategy just after the rain red flag. In all, he led 180 laps. A late-race pit stop for a flag tire relegated him to a seventh-place finish.
There was more parity up front when the race restarted after the lengthy rain delay. Blaney was up front for 61 laps; the only driver up front for more than 20 laps was Jones with 29 laps-led.
Other top-10 finishers included Ty Dillon in sixth, Brennan Poole in eighth, Blake Koch ninth and Michael Annett in 10th.
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @Auto Racing Daily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on April 23, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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