WINCHESTER, Ind. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — ARCA photo —
In perhaps his final late model start for the foreseeable future, Erik Jones went out with a bang.
Jones took the lead for the final time in the crown jewel Super Late Model event on lap 322 of 400 and fended off challenges from both his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Christopher Bell and fellow young gun Cody Coughlin to notch his third-consecutive Winchester 400 victory at the storied half-mile oval on Sunday afternoon and fire the winner’s Winchester rifle in victory lane.
Jones joins Bob Senneker and Mike Cope as the only drivers to have won three consecutive Winchester 400s. Senneker holds the record, with five straight from 1974-1978, and is the all-time winningest driver in the history of the race with seven victories. Jones’ and Cope’s three wins rank second on that list.
“We fought hard for this one today; I think probably harder than either of the other two we won,” Jones admitted. “Starting 16th, you never really know what you’re going to have or what will happen, but fortunately it all worked out for us.”
The afternoon was made even sweeter for the 19-year-old NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader by virtue of the JEGS Super Late Model Triple Crown. By sweeping the RedBud 300 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway, the Battle at Berlin 251 at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway and the 400, Jones earned a bonus of $100,000 from JEGS officials — the first driver in the history of the promotion to accomplish the feat.
“It’s really cool to come out to Winchester [after winning the RedBud and the Battle at Berlin, and running in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night] and finish [the Triple Crown] off. I don’t know how much late model racing I’m going to be doing after this, at least for a while, so I’m glad we were able to get this one.”
For much of the afternoon, it appeared as if Bell would be the driver claiming the spoils of victory, as the sprint car and midget standout grabbed the top spot from polesitter Terry Fisher Jr. on lap 30 of the marathon affair and showed the field the fast way around the ‘World’s Fastest Half Mile.’ He led 182 of the next 183 circuits and between he and Fisher, the duo led all but one of the first 225 trips around the Winchester Speedway.
The second half of the event is when things began to get interesting, however. Southern Super Series regular Donnie Wilson charged around Fisher at lap 226 and held it for 19 laps before Jones came calling for the first time in the race. The Byron, Mich. native showed the way for 49 laps after nudging Wilson back to second, but a caution at lap 291 — sparked when Daniel Hemric met the outside wall in turn two — brought the leaders to the pit road for their money stops and put Bell back out front for a restart with just under 100 laps to go.
Over the next 20 laps, a three-way scrap for the lead and the win would shape up between Bell, Wilson and Jones before the latter finally got the edge for good with 78 circuits left, but moments after Jones took the lead Wilson’s day came to an end in a hard crash with 2015 Montgomery Motor Speedway Pro Late Model track champion Bret Holmes. Fisher was among those collected in the trailing edge of the incident that drew a red flag for cleanup, his day crushed prematurely as well.
After the race resumed, Bell began to close in and with 50 laps to go, he hit the button and attempted to get around his KBM teammate on the high side.
Unfortunately for the Norman, Okla. young gun, he got up too high in turn three and smacked the outside wall — severely damaging his Toyota and ending his shot at a second Winchester victory (the young phenom won the 100-lap World Stock Car Festival at the half-mile in September). Bell declined comment after the incident.
That allowed Jones to pull away over the final stretch from Coughlin, who came up 1.675 seconds shy of his own slice of history at the checkered flag.
“What a day,” said Coughlin. “It feels good [to finish second], but man, I wish I was over there celebrating where Erik is. We were catching him towards the end, but just lost some momentum there and didn’t end up having enough.”
Reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott finished third after a quiet day, followed by 16-year-old Grant Quinlan, who was the top finishing rookie in the race and also wrapped up both the ARCA/CRA Super Series championship and Rookie of the Year titles with his solid fourth-place run.
“This was a wild day — it’s tough to do 400 laps at this place,” Quinlan said. “We came here to contend for the win and we definitely did that. I’m happy with a top five and to wrap up the championship here is pretty sweet. This has really been an amazing year for us. I’m proud of my entire team for helping make this happen.”
Senoia, Ga. ace Bubba Pollard rounded out the top five and was followed by Jack Smith in sixth, the last car on the lead lap.
RESULTS: ARCA/CRA Super Series; 44th annual Winchester 400; Winchester Speedway; October 11, 2015
- Erik Jones
- Cody Coughlin
- Chase Elliott
- Grant Quinlan
- Bubba Pollard
- Jack Smith
- Jeff Fultz
- Rick Tanner
- Anderson Bowen
- Wes Griffith Jr.
- Dalton Armstrong
- Matt Hall
- John Beach
- Christopher Bell
- Donnie Wilson
- Bret Holmes
- Terry Fisher Jr.
- Kody Evans
- Paul Shafer Jr.
- Eddie Van Meter
- Nick Gullatta
- Mark Lambert
- Daniel Hemric
- Garrett Jones
- J.J. Haley
- Travis Braden
- Trevor Noles
- Harrison Burton
- Brandon Oakley
- Scott Whitehouse
- Cole Rouse
- Stephen Nasse
- Jordan Miller
- Trevor Berry
- Mason Mingus
- Dominique Van Wieringen
- Jack Dossey III
- Hunter Baize
- Ross Kenseth (DNS)
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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