Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Hisense 250
TRACK: Atlanta Motor Speedway
DRIVER: Erik Jones
CAR: No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry
LAPS: 161 of 163 laps
- NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week two of the 2015 season at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday for the 251-mile Hisense 250 race event. Eighteen-year old Erik Jones and the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota team started from a 12th-place qualifying position at 181.592mph and ran between there and 18th throughout the day, to come home in the 13th position.
- Jones entered the race weekend as a substitute driver for regular season veteran Kyle Busch who sustained a compound fracture of the right lower leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in an accident during last Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. No specific timetable has been announced for Busch’s return to the racetrack, but he will be out of a racecar for at least the next several weeks.
- Although this was Jones’ first attempt on the 1.5-mile Atlanta Speedway, the rookie learned quickly through two NASCAR XFINITY Series Friday practice sessions and additional track time as the No. 4 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver of the Kyle Busch Motorsports’ entry competing later in the day on Saturday.
- Upon taking the green flag Jones communicated that the No. 54 Toyota Camry was tight handling and in early circuits of the scheduled 163-lap event, tapped the wall scuffing the GoodYear and right-rear quarter panel area of his black machine. Unfortunately this type of damage tends to ‘snug’ the car up further and Jones fought the unbalanced condition throughout the remainder of the race.
- The Joe Gibbs Racing team visited pit road two times at laps 50 and 88 to loosen up their Camry, and were making progress until the lap 88 pit stop incurred a penalty for crew members jumping over the wall too soon. One lap down, crew chief Chris Gayle mentored the 18-year old to focus on grabbing positions in the second half of the race. The No. 54’s handling had improved and Jones used it to his advantage. With speeds faster than six lapped cars ahead of him, Jones picked off four spots to 13th and felt confidant they would continue their forward progress.
- At lap 133 the No. 54 team planned to visit pit road and began to work towards it when the race caution exhibited, which caused the Monster Energy team to go down another lap. Because of the position two laps down, the team took their time on pit road and crew members checked the rear wheel well as the Camry’s side skirt was pretty ‘chewed up.’ Jones was recorded in 14th at the time and ultimately gained one more position in waning laps to finish his first NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a top-15 finish.
- Saturday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 149.813mph and saw four lead changes across three drivers. There were three caution periods over 12 laps.
- The No. 54 Monster Energy team sits 17th in NASCAR’s Owner’s Points Standings, 32 markers behind the No. 60 of Roush Fenway Racing.
- Next week’s NASCAR XFINITY Series competes in the Boyd Gaming 300 on Saturday, March 7 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at 4:00pm EST.
Erik Jones’ Post-Race Thoughts:
"It was just a long day overall with a lot of factors that went into it – really just started too tight. The Monster Energy Camry was good at the end. I just wish we could have been on the lead lap and in contention, so just unfortunate the way it worked out. I wish we could have been up there. I felt like we had a better car than that, but just a lot of things that weren't going for us today. You can't always have a great day at the race track, but we'll come back and be better and be stronger next time."
Crew Chief Chris Gayle Post-Race Thoughts:
“Erik did a good job with the car we set up for him today. He fought a tight-handling car all day but that’s also good experience for us, gave us a baseline to grow from.”