NXS: Jones Collects In Chicago; Takes XFINITY Win In Regular-Season Finale

Jacob Seelman Featured, NASCAR, XFINITY 0 Comments

Erik Jones celebrates his fourth NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday. (Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

Erik Jones celebrates his fourth NASCAR XFINITY Series win of the season at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday.
(Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

JOLIET, Ill. – On a day at Chicagoland Speedway when it appeared that his teammate Kyle Busch would cruise to another dominating NASCAR XFINITY Series victory, Chase Grid leader Erik Jones proved that the championship regulars could still get it done.

Taking advantage of a flat right rear tire that took Busch out of contention while leading, Jones used the aid of four fresh tires to storm forward following the final restart, ultimately passing regular season points leader Elliott Sadler by way of an over-under pass entering turn three with nine laps left to take the top spot for good.

Though Kyle Larson closed on Jones with three laps to go, trying everything to get by, the Byron, Michigan rookie cruised home to the victory in the Drive for Safety 300 by .392 of a second, after Larson brushed the outside wall in turn two on the final lap.

“Man, that was tough at the end,” Jones admitted. “I knew we were in a good spot on tires, but we were pretty far back. We restarted sixth and I didn’t think we were going to have enough time to get all the way back to the front.”

“When we got that really good restart, though, and got clear for third I knew we’d have a go at it. I just had to chase Elliott (Sadler) down and that’s what I did. I knew with the (fresher) tires it’d only be a matter of time before I got around him.”

The win for Jones is the sixth of his career and his fourth of the season.

It also gives him the number one seed entering the Chase and a six-point advantage over Sadler going into Kentucky Speedway next Saturday night.

“What an awesome day, to get a win right before the start of the Chase,” Jones added. “This is some great momentum for us and I’m just really excited. I wish this was our first round (race) right her, but we’ll go onto Kentucky with a full head of steam and try to get another one there. Our program’s great right now and I think it’s definitely showing.”

Busch started from the pole and led 154 of the 200 laps, but tagged the wall inside of 40 laps to go and ultimately lost the right rear tire in turn one as a result with 19 laps to go, spinning down to the apron and drawing the event’s eighth and final caution flag.

The incident sent all the leaders down pit lane, with Paul Menard taking two tires to lead the field off pit road but the JR Motorsports duo of Clint Bowyer and Sadler staying out to lead the field back to the green flag.

On the restart with 14 laps to go, the field fanned out four-wide behind the front row as Sadler stormed to the lead around Bowyer on the bottom of the race track. By the time they got back to turn one, Jones was second and looking for more.

He trailed in Sadler’s tire tracks for five laps before making the winning move with nine to go, but Larson was not set to be denied after leading nine laps in his own right earlier on in the day – rallying from a speeding penalty during his final green flag pit stop with 45 laps left.

Larson passed Sadler on the backstretch with six laps to go and was on Jones’ back bumper three laps later, trying to charge the bottom lane in turn three to make a slide job pass work for the win as Jones took his line away on the top side.

Though Larson returned to the outside to try and get a run, he got a shade too high in turn two at the white flag and faded just enough for Jones to get back to the line unchallenged.

Sadler, Daniel Suarez and Justin Allgaier completed the top five, ahead of Bowyer, Joey Logano, Brendan Gaughan, Menard and Brandon Jones.

Busch came back from the tail of the field to finish 13th.

10 drivers – Erik Jones, Sadler, Suarez, Ty Dillon, Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Jr., Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Ryan Reed and Brandon Jones – had already secured their playoff berths entering the afternoon, but the final two positions were determined by points at the end of the 300-mile affair.

Ryan Sieg and Blake Koch, who finished 12th and 15th respectively, were the final two drivers to punch their Chase Grid tickets with solid runs – holding on to the positions they ran in entering the day.

JGL Racing’s Dakoda Armstrong was the first driver below the Chase cutoff line, falling 30 points shy of the playoffs after coming home 22nd.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series begins their seven-race run to the championship with the Chase opener on Sept. 24 at Kentucky Speedway, the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

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