Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series – Heads Up Georgia 250
TRACK: Atlanta Motor Speedway
DRIVER: Erik Jones
CAR: No. 20 Hisense USA Toyota Camry
- Ready to take on the unique 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Hisense USA Toyota Camry team qualified second for the Heads Up Georgia 250, with teammate and eventual winner Kyle Busch sitting on the pole and teammate Daniel Suarez rounding out the Joe Gibbs Racing camp with a third-place starting position.
- With the green flag in the air and the race under way for 163 laps, NASCAR penalized the No. 20 team for jumping the initial start after teammate Busch spun his tires on the restart and Jones was being pushed by another competitor. Jones pitted on lap five to serve a pass through penalty. Deep in the field, scored in the 39th position, Jones caught a break on lap eight when the caution flag waved. The team opted to leave Jones on the track as teams started to utilize various pit strategies. Jones restarted the race from the 27th position on lap 12.
- With a fast car and ready for the challenge to get back to the front of the field, spotter Chris Lambert helped navigate the No. 20 Camry, battling three-wide and two-wide passes to gain positions. The caution was again displayed on lap 14 with Jones in the 19th spot. Choosing to stay out under the caution, Jones and the Hisense USA team restarted the race on lap 18 in 10th place.
- Focused on the leaders, Jones made his way up to fifth before teams with fresher tires began passing the No. 20 Toyota Camry. Slipping back to 11th, Jones radioed crew chief Chris Gabehart that his Camry was “pretty neutral, just used up the tires working through the field.” Gabehart called Jones to pit road on lap 46 for a scheduled green-flag stop. Changing four tires and adding fuel, Jones returned to the track, but the caution flag waved on lap 49 before teams completed green-flag stops. Gabehart instructed Jones to stay out and take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. The race restarted on lap 54 with Jones in 18th place.
- With coaching from Gabehart and Lambert, Jones began making his way to the front and moved in to the top 10 on lap 64 and cracked the top five on lap 86. Initially reporting the car was too tight, Jones updated the team that his Camry came around as the run continued and he only needed a small change during the next stop to help with handling.
- With a second round of green-flag stops starting on lap 95, Jones pitted with the leaders on lap 100 from the third position. The team changed four tires, fuel and made a small adjustment. Returning to the track in third place behind leaders Busch and Kyle Larson, Jones immediately radioed the team that his Camry was “way better.”
- The caution waved on lap 122 and Jones again hit pit road for four tires and fuel. The race restarted on lap 127 with the No. 20 Hisense USA team in the fourth position. The caution immediately waved on lap 128. With only 10 cars on the lead laps, Gabehart took a gamble and called Jones to pit road from the fifth position for four fresh tires and fuel. Jones restarted the race on lap 134 from the ninth position. With fresh tires, Jones was able to move back in to the top five on lap 137 and took over third on lap 150.
- As the race continued under green, Jones maintained his position and crossed the finish line in third place behind Busch and Larson. Paul Menard finished fourth and Ty Dillon rounded out the top five. Jones was the top finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Race.
- With his third-place finish, Jones moved up 11 positions in the XFINITY Series point standings to 11th place, 22 points behind the leader.
Erik Jones’ Post-Race Thoughts:
How difficult was it to recover from the early penalty? “It just made the day a lot longer. I knew we had the car to do it, but it was just a matter of not burning the tires off while we were doing it and trying to get back up there. Just made it a long day for the Hisence Camry, but overall a good day, a nice rebound from Daytona and a good way to get the season on track and get headed in the right direction.”
What did you learn about tire management? “I think for me, we had a really good long run car. I burnt the tires off it coming back through the pack after the penalty, but after that never really had any issues with tire fall off and thought we were really one of the best cars on the long runs, so that was nice to see and an uplifting feeling, but just needed to be a little bit better.”