Date: May 17, 2015
Event: 3M 250 (Round 10 of 33)
Series: NASCAR XFINITY Series
Location: Iowa Speedway (.875-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 1st/3rd (Running, completed 250 of 250 laps)
Winner: Chris Buescher of Roush Fenway Racing (Ford)
Erik Jones, driver of the No. 20 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), showed yet again why he is one of the hottest young drivers in NASCAR, as he rocketed from the rear of the field to bring home a solid third-place finish in Sunday’s 3M 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway in Newton.
“Not a bad day,” said Jones, who earned his sixth top-five and nine top-10 finish in 10 XFINITY Series starts thus far this season. “We had a good Interstate All Battery Center Camry. It just wasn’t good enough to run with the 60 (Chris Buescher) or the 9 (Chase Elliott), on long green-flag runs especially. A long day coming from the back really hinders your ability to adjust on the car like you want to, so I spent most of the day trying to get the car where I wanted it. It ended alright and we’ll get it better for next time.”
Jones, an 18-year old Byron, Michigan native, rolled off the grid first for the 250-lap race. However, Jones spent the day Saturday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on standby for Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race and Drew Herring was behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for practice and qualifying at the 7/8-mile oval. Herring not only did a solid job setting up the Interstate All Battery Center Toyota, but earned the pole position for good measure. With the driver change, Jones was required to drop to the rear of the field prior to taking the green flag per the NASCAR rulebook.
When the green flag dropped, Jones was up to the task, rocketing past several cars and picked up 11 spots within the first two laps. After settling into the top-10 at lap 49, he was able to get a feel for the car’s handling while racing with several of the frontrunners.
Jones’ primary feedback to crew chief Mike Wheeler was that the car was too tight in the center of the turns, especially in first two corners. During a competition caution on lap 60, the team changed four tires, added fuel and made adjustments to try to improve handling. He picked up four spots on pit road and restarted sixth when green-flag racing resumed on lap 66.
Running third on lap 74, Jones noted the car still needed some improvements. He was shuffled back to the seventh position during a restart on lap 88, but fought hard in race traffic to return to third by lap 132. The Interstate All Battery Center team made another round of adjustments during a caution on lap 141.
Jones continued to battle an ill-handling racecar throughout the second half of race. The young driver’s impressive skill showed after he brushed the wall on lap 174 and was able to maintain control of the car.
With Jones sitting in fourth late in the race with just two laps to go, a caution waved which set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. Jones came to pit road for right-side tires and more adjustments, and restarted fourth when the race resumed.
Spotter Tony Hirschman was able to guide Jones to the high line with one lap to go, which allowed him to advance to third before taking the checkered flag.
“We gave ourselves a shot,” said Jones of the two-lap shootout to decide the 3M 350. “I thought the top would be the way to go on that last restart and unfortunately the bottom line just rolled and the 60 was able to get to the bottom and pass everybody and get clean air, which was pretty big all day. Just a tough race here. Everybody moves up to the top and it’s hard to pass. We worked hard to get ourselves in a good position.
Jones’s Team Interstate teammates – Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry, and Boris Said, driver of the No. 54 Toyota Camry, – finished 18th and 26th, respectively.
Chris Buescher led 94 laps en route to winning the 3M 250. It was his second career XFINITY Series victory, his first of the season and his first at Iowa. Chase Elliott, Jones, Brian Scott and Ryan Blaney completed the top-five. Darrell Wallace Jr., Ben Rhodes, Brandon Jones, Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 54 laps.
The next event on the XFINITY Series schedule is the May 23 Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by Fox beginning with its pre-race show at 2 p.m.