Erik Jones Moves Ryan Blaney At Bristol To Win Back-To-Back NASCAR XFINITY Series Racesby Hunter Thomas April 22, 2017 0 comments
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Erik Jones booted Ryan Blaney for the lead and survived a late-race restart to win the FITZGERALD GLIDER KITS 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
Jones took over the lead for the final time with just 21 laps to go in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race after he put the bumper to Blaney. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Reser’s American Classic Toyota was looking to sail away to victory, but an accident between JR Motorsports teammates, Justin Allgaier and William Byron brought the caution out with just seven laps to go. In the final three laps, Jones held off a hard charging Blaney to earn his second victory in-a-row this season. Jones entered the weekend as the defending winner of the race.
“Going for it,” said Jones about his race-winning move. “At that point in the race I think there was less than 20 (laps) to go and you have to do all you can to try to get to the lead. I knew clean air was important and we were quite a bit faster than 22 (Ryan Blaney) just to fire off and I guess just the track cooled down and we got some speed back in the car and we were able to get around him and get the lead and from there I think everyone was stuck on the bottom and we were able to hold them off. Awesome day and awesome to be in victory lane.”
As for Blaney who was able to finish second in the Team Penske. No 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang, he knew that he “pushed the issue” with Jones. Blaney was able to lead 61 laps throughout the afternoon en route to his third top-10 finish this season.
“The 20 and the 18 (Daniel Suarez) were super, super good on short runs and we needed about 25-30 laps and we could really get going and we put a big distance on those guys, but I had to protect,” Blaney said. “We’re the leader and we know the bottom is dominant and I had to protect. I knew I pushed the issue with him. I knew he was close and I don’t blame him for not backing out at that time. You can’t do that, so I took a chance and we had some contact. Fortunately, we were able to get a restart in fourth and get to second and just couldn’t quite get close to make a run at him.”
Finishing third was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez. The driver of the No. 18 Juniper Toyota started 10th and was fast all day long, leading on two occasions for 18 laps. Out of the five NASCAR XFINITY Series races that he has competed at the speedway, Saturday’s result in the FITZGERALD GLIDER KITS 300 marked his fourth top-10 finish.
“It was okay, just the last run there for some reason it was too tight and I didn’t like that a lot on the short run,” Suarez said. “Overall it was a solid race and we were racing the bottom I think 90 percent of the time and I’m not sure that helped us either. We have to get a little bit better.”
Elliott Sadler finished fourth. Fifth-place finisher, Daniel Hemric won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash purse. Rounding out the top-10 was Ty Dillon, Kyle Larson, Brennan Poole, Blake Koch and Michael Annett.
There were 15 lead changes among seven drivers. Kyle Larson led a race high of 180 laps, but late-race contact forced him to pit under caution for a tire issue. The unscheduled pit stop ultimately took Larson out of contention for the win.
Throughout the afternoon, there were also nine cautions for 85 laps. On two occasions, the race was halted by a red flag. Rain brought out the caution on lap 161, and the red flag was displayed for 1 hour, 38 minutes and 52 seconds. The second red flag came out on lap 262 for clean up after Darrell Wallace Jr. and Garrett Smithley crashed.
Elliott Sadler currently leads the NASCAR XFINITY Series point standings. He’s 16 points ahead of William Byron. Justin Allgaier is third, 60 points behind Sadler.
Up next for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, April 29. The race will broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 1 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images