Erik Jones Finishes Fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Advance to the “Round of 8” in Inaugural XFINITY Series Chase

Box Score Info

RACE:  NASCAR XFINITY Series – Drive for the Cure 300

TRACK:  Charlotte Motor Speedway

DRIVER:  Erik Jones  

CAR:  No. 20 GameStop NBA 2K17 Toyota Camry 

START: 2nd – Set by Rule Book after Rain Cancelled Qualifying

FINISH: 5th

LAPS: 200/200

LAPS LED: Four Times for 21 Laps

CHASE STANDINGS: 4th; Points Reset at 3,000 for “Round of 8”

 

Post-Race Highlights:

·        For the final race of the first round of the 2016 Chase, rain again played havoc to the race weekend as Hurricane Matthew hit the East Coast. NASCAR cancelled all on-track activities on Friday and Saturday, creating a double header on Sundayat Charlotte Motor Speedway with the NASCAR XFINITY Series completing the Driver for the Cure 300 following the Bank of America 500. Erik Jones and the No. 20 GameStop NBA 2K17 team started the race from the second position after the field was set based on the rulebook and practice speeds. Jones led 21 laps and finished the race fifth with enough points to advance to the second round of the Chase and the “Round of 8.”

·        With the race underway late Sunday afternoon for 200 laps around the 1.5-mile track, Jones slipped to third in the opening laps before moving back up to second prior to the caution coming out on lap 24 for a car spinning in turn two. The caution served as the Competition Caution and Crew Chief Chris Gabehart called Jones to pit road for four tires and fuel. The race restarted on lap 30 with Jones fourth.

·        Running lap times as fast as leader Kyle Larson, Jones was able to move up to second and take over the lead for the first time on lap 49. Continuing to battle Larson for the lead, Jones moved back to second on lap 51. Both Gabehart and spotter Chris Lambert continued to coach Jones and remind him to be patient, find his rhythm and focus on the big picture of advancing to the next round of the Chase.

·        Debris brought out the caution on lap 64 with Jones reporting that his car was pretty good. Pitting from the second position, the No. 20 Toyota team changed four tires, fuel and made a round of adjustments. A solid stop on pit road allowed Jones to maintain his position to restart the race in second on lap 69.

·        Jones radioed the team on lap 83 that his temps were rising, leading the team to believe he had debris on the grill. Jones was able to tuck in behind a lapped car to remove the debris and by lap 89, the temps began to fall to normal numbers.

·        At the halfway mark and with the sun setting, Jones continued to run second behind Larson.

·        The field was forced to make green-flag stops with the 20 team opting to pit on lap 120 for four tires, fuel and another air-pressure adjustment. Once the field cycled through stops, Jones returned to second place, six seconds behind Larson and 11 seconds between Jones and the third-place car of Joey Logano. Only seven cars were scored on the lead lap.

·        With 40 laps remaining in the race, the field again began making green-flag stops with only four cars on the lead lap.

·        Jones made his final stop of the race on lap 175 for four tires and fuel. Unfortunately, a tire got away from the team on pit road and brought out the caution as Jones returned to the track. The team was penalized and had to restart the race at the tail end of the field. With several cars taking the wave around to return to the lead lap, Jones was scored ninth on the lap 182 restart.

·        The race was immediately put back under caution on lap 183 for a wreck. Several leaders pitted under the caution and Jones was able to restart the race from sixth with 12 laps remaining.

·        Focused on a strong finish, Jones crossed the finish line in the fifth position.

·        Logano won the race followed by Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Larson and Jones.

·        The XFINITY Series Points have now been reset at 3,000 with Jones seeded fourth for the second round of the 2016 Chase, the “Round of 8.”

·        Up next is the first race of the “Round of 8” of the 2016 Chase, the Kansas Lottery 300, at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, October 15. The race can be viewed on NBC at 4:00 p.m. ET.

 

Erik Jones’ Post Race Thoughts:

How does it feel to make it to the ‘Round of 8’?

“Good. We did what we needed to do today and got into the next round, you know? Just ran a smart race, stayed up front all day, stayed out of trouble – only had one mistake that got us back a little bit, but got a caution right away – got a lucky break and finished where we needed to. I think we had a car that probably could have went up and contended with Kyle (Larson), but we were just taking it pretty easy for the most part and doing what we needed to do today. We knew what we needed to do. We just needed to execute and be the team we are and got a fresh slate going into the next three here at Kansas, Texas and Phoenix, which are all great race tracks for us, so pretty excited to get it going on in those.”

 

Could you have made this round any more stressful?

“Yeah, I don’t think so. I don’t know if there’s a way to make it more stressful, more dramatic than that. I thought we were in really good shape all day and then we got the penalty there late with about 20 to go and I didn’t know what shape we were in and I hadn’t asked all day and finally when that happened I asked Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) what we needed to do and fortunately we had lapped so many cars we were in a good spot no matter what, but the caution got us caught back up, got outside of traffic and just kind of let us race for the end, but a good day overall. Really fast car. Just never really got to show its full potential just riding it out and making sure we got a good finish and finished where we needed to.”