Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Owens Corning Atticat 300
TRACK: Chicagoland Speedway
DRIVER: Erik Jones
CAR: No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry
LAPS: Completed 200 of 200
RACE WINNER: Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing
- NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week fourteen of the 2015 season at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday for the Owens Corning Atticat 300 race event. After celebrating Tuesday with his first super late model win at Berlin Raceway in Michigan, Jones went to to win his first 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win on Friday night in Iowa then traveled to Joliet, Illinois to qualify and race with the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Although heavy rain postponed the event until Sunday morning, and with limited track time from only a few qualifying laps, Jones took charge of his destiny and from an 11th-place starting spot he turned today’s Chicagoland race start into his second-career XFINITY Series win – accomplishing a SWEEP of sorts winning three of three motorsports events entered consecutively in one race week.
- Two drivers drove the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry this weekend, contributing to the team’s win. While Erik Jones was in Iowa competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Friday, fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Drew Herring practiced the Monster Energy Toyota in two Friday sessions. Ranked as high as third-quick on the speed chart, Herring and spotter confirmed “we’ve got ourselves one hell of a car.” After Jones completed the Truck Series race Friday night, by capturing his first Truck Series WIN of 2015, he flew to Chicago to debrief with the team about their fast Camry. In Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session on the two-mile oval, Jones quickly assimilated to the No. 54 car but determined a few adjustments would be needed once the race would start. Unfortunately, the race teams never had that opportunity to race Saturday night, as heavy thunderstorms rolled into the ‘windy city’ suburb of Joliet and caused the Chicagoland race to be postponed until Sunday morning.
- Sunday’s start was only Jones’ 16th career XFINITY Series race over two seasons and his second attempt at Chicagoland Speedway where he achieved his first series start here one year ago. To date, as a part-time XFINITY series driver in 2015 Jones has now earned two wins, seven top-five finishes, eight top-10 finishes, three poles and 254 laps led. Jones currently averages a 4.5 start and 9.8 finish. While he runs a partial XFINITY Series schedule with Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones also competes full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with team owner Kyle Busch and the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 4 Toyota team. During Friday night’s Iowa Speedway NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race action Jones earned his first season victory of the year in that series, one he has targeted to win the annual driver’s points championship in.
- Finally able to hit the track Sunday morning, with clear skies overhead, everyone on the No. 54 team was excited for the race with Jones after coming off the Joe Gibbs Racing team’s first victory of the XFINITY Series season at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, one week before. While the Michigan victory came at the hand of veteran Monster Energy driver Kyle Busch, the team looked forward to and was confidant the young driver Busch had been mentoring, Jones, could achieve the same goal. At green-flag drop, Jones proved what many had seen, quickly making his way from 11th place at race start to second place by lap 24 when the field saw it’s first caution flag.
- A visit to pit road included a small adjustment to the No. 54 Camry and service for fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco Racing fuel. While Jones parked long in his pit box, there was difficulty maneuvering his pit road exit and Jones dropped to fifth place for race restart but didn’t stay there long. Jones reached the race lead at lap 39, what would ultimately contribute to his 3M Lap Leader Award at race end when he accomplished a race-high 94 laps led. Across five total pit road visits during the race, the team only made small adjustments back and forth, to maintain a good balance for Jones. At one point spotter Al Dirusso confirmed over the radio, “the only place they are making any ground on you Erik is the bottom of turn 3, everywhere else you are the best.” Jones would later reiterate, “my entry into turns 1-2 are so good right now, I have a lot of security in the car.”
- The race didn’t come without hurdles, however, for the 19-year old XFINITY Series rookie. The most controversial moment occurred past the race halfway mark, when a yellow-flag caution waved and Jones, among most other competitors, brought his No. 54 Camry down pit road for service. NASCAR penalized the No. 54 team for visiting pit road when it wasn’t actually open, although there was a lot of ‘discussion’ by several teams to the contrary. Although the spotter heard from NASCAR “pit road open,” in the end NASCAR confirmed the red flag had not exhibited. So in fact 19 teams had incurred the penalty and would be placed further back in the field. While Jones was re-positioned into 9th place from the race lead, the setback didn’t deter him from working back towards the front. There were several on-track battles with fellow competitor Ryan Blaney in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford. The No. 22 and No. 54 swapped lead positions several times through the race, including one pivotal swap at the end of the race, when Jones maneuvered past Blaney in the final eight laps of competition, allowing Jones to catch the checkered flag, a 1.98 second margin of victory.
- Sunday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 118.812mph and saw 23 lead changes across 11 drivers. There were seven caution periods over 39 laps of the 300-mile event.
- With Sunday’s top-10 result the No. 54 Monster Energy team moves up to 8th-place in NASCAR’s Owner Championship Points Standings, now 88 markers behind the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford.
- Next week the NASCAR XFINITY Series takes a hiatus then resumes competition on Saturday, July 4 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway which will be broadcast on NBC Sports at 7:30pm EST.
Erik’s Post-Race Thoughts:
“It’s pretty awesome to get this Monster Energy Toyota back to victory lane. It’s two weeks in a row for these guys. That’s three wins this week for me – that’s pretty awesome. It was a rough go for awhile, but we came back at it now. It’s just cool to be back here – thanks to Kyle Busch Motorsports for Friday, Joe Gibbs Racing for today and Port City Race Cars for Tuesday, XFINITY for doing this for us, the fans and – man, what a day, what a day. Thanks to Drew Herring who shook this thing down for us two days ago (in practice) and got it right and we took it to victory lane today. We’ll bask in this and take it in and get ready for the next one. Just an awesome week and I’m pretty proud of everyone involved."
Chris Gayle (crew chief) Post-Race Thoughts:
“Two back to back victories is really cool, I think I talked last week about how this No. 54 team itself over the last couple of weeks is getting better. It’s assumed the No. 54 car will win with Kyle, and I understand that, Kyle’s great, there’s no comparison of him to most drivers out there. But that’s why I wanted to win one without Kyle to be able to say, guess what, the No. 54 can win with Kyle and without Kyle. It might win more with Kyle than some of the guys but Erik showed you today he can dominate the race and win with the same car."