Erik Jones Wins at Chicagoland Speedway Earning His Fourth Trip to Victory Lane in 2016

Box Score Info

RACE:  NASCAR XFINITY Series – Drive for Safety 300

TRACK:  Chicagoland Speedway

DRIVER:  Erik Jones  

CAR:  No. 20 Hisense USA Toyota Camry 

START: 5th

FINISH: 1st

LAPS: 200/200

LAPS LED: Two Times for 10 Laps

CHASE STANDINGS: 1st; 2012 points

 

Post-Race Highlights:

·        Unloading at Chicagoland Speedway for the final regular season race to set the field for the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Hisense USA team qualified in the fifth position and led 10 laps on the way to capturing their fourth win of the season.

·        Rolling off the grid in the fifth position, Jones quickly slipped to ninth on the opening laps and reported to the team that he was too tight and didn’t have the speed he needed on the straightaways.

·        The first caution waved on lap five for the 70 car and the team opted to stay on track. The race restarted on lap 10 with Jones ninth. NASCAR waved a Competition Caution on lap 25 due to rain moving through the area over night and Crew Chief Chris Gabehart called Jones to pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to help with the tight-handling conditions. With a solid stop on pit road, the race restarted on lap 31 with Jones in the sixth position.

·        Focused on the leaders and with coaching from Gabehart and spotter Chris Lambert, Jones was able to move up to fifth on lap 42 where he remained when the field started making green-flag stops on lap 80. Gabehart called Jones to pit road from the second position on lap 81 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. As the field cycled through stops, a competitor spun on the track to bring out the caution. Jones remained on the track and restarted the race on lap 88 from the fifth position. Following multiple cautions, Jones worked his way up to second on lap 117.

·        As the race continued under green-flag conditions, teams were forced to make a second round of green-flag stops.  Jones reported that he was happier with the handling of the No. 20 Camry and made his green-flag stop on lap 154 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Once the field cycled through stops, Jones returned to the second position with his focus on leader Busch as he began closing the gap between first and second.

·        With two more late-race cautions, including one involving leader Busch, Jones was able to take the lead for the final time on lap 191 and hold off a hard charging Kyle Larson to secure his second win at Chicagoland Speedway in just his third start at the track.

·        Jones was followed across the finish line by Larson, Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez and Justin Allgaier.

·        With the field reset for the 2016 Chase, Jones sits first with four wins this season.

·        Up next is the first race of the 2016 Chase, the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, September 24. The race can be viewed on NBCSN at 8:00 p.m. ET.

 

Erik Jones’ Post-Race Thoughts:

How were you able to bring home a victory at Chicagoland Speedway?

“It was tough. I knew we were in a good spot on tires, but we were pretty far back – think we restarted sixth there. I didn’t know if the Hisense Camry was going to have enough time to get back up to the front, but we had a really good restart and got clear to third and then just had to go chase Elliott (Sadler) down. It was a matter of time before we got around him. What an awesome day. Get a win before the Chase, this is a great momentum for us. I’m really excited – this is our second win at Chicago, but couldn’t do it without GameStop, DEWALT FLEXVOLT, Interstate Batteries, Toyota, JGR Engines and XFINITY for putting this all together for us.”

 

What does this win mean as you begin the Chase next week?

“It’s a lot of momentum. I wish this was our first round right here. We’ll go into Kentucky, definitely with a full head of steam and are due for another win there. Our mile-and-a-half program is great – it’s been great all year. To finally get a first mile-and-a-half win of the year – just looking forward to getting to Kentucky next weekend and try to chase down another one.”

 

How were you able to hold off Kyle Larson for the win?

“I thought we were just going to be on the bottom the rest of the race. I thought it would take a little bit longer for the top to come back in, but I guess the sun baking the track all day, the bottom was wore out and I thought we were making a lot of speed in our Hisense Camry, but it was just a matter of time before Kyle (Larson) was going to get there and we tried to stay on the bottom as long as we could and minimize the risk of air on top. Finally I saw him coming and we moved up top. I saw we still had the good speed up there and if I didn’t hit the wall, he wouldn’t be able to get us. Great day for us. What a way to get into the Chase and get some momentum for next weekend.”

 

How much does this win mean heading into the Chase?

“At that moment I just wanted to win the race. It is nice to have the extra bonus points, it gives us a chance to try to point our way through the first round if we aren’t able to get a win in the next three. I think we have a shot at the next three, but it’s a matter of getting through these races. We’re going to work hard and I’m really excited to get to Kentucky. It was really good for us and I feel like we had a win there back in the summer, but I made a mistake.”

 

Are there any wild card races coming up in the Chase?

“That’s a good question. I was talking to someone about that in victory lane. We don’t have Talladega and Martinsville, it’s fairly smooth sailing. It’s not easy by any means, but those two wild cards are out and those two tracks are definitely not good for me. I think really all the tracks we are going to go to are going to be really good for us. It’s hard to pick one out that will be a wild card, but Kentucky, you never know with the repave what will happen. If anything, I think maybe Kentucky will be. I was going to say Phoenix actually, just because it’s still a short track and there’s a lot of things that can happen, I actually got caught up in a wreck last year chasing the Truck championship, so there are things that can happen at Phoenix or Kentucky.”

 

Would you consider yourself or Elliott Sadler the favorite heading into the Chase?

“I think honestly, if it wouldn’t have been a Chase format, I would have went about this year totally different. I saw the Chase format coming and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s take advantage of it.’ We will go for wins every week and that’s exactly what we’ve done and how I’ve drove all year. There’s no reason not to – there’s no penalty for wrecking out of a race. If you get a win – you’re locked in. We charge for a win every week and that’s what we’ve done. I think Elliott (Sadler) has been strong, he’s gotten a lot better here over the last month or so, I think he’s become a real competitor and he emerged as a competitor, so I think him and Justin (Allgaier) will be as well.”

 

How do you not beat yourself in the Chase?

“I tend to do that every once in a while along the way. I think a lot of it is just settling in and finding your groove and not trying to overdo it. There’s times where I think I try to get too much and I think we did a really good job today of not doing that. When it was time to go, it was time to go, but we were riding and taking what we could get and never tried to force the issue all day. If we can do that in every race in the Chase then we’ll be in good shape.”

 

What are you excited and nervous about in the Chase?

“I’m excited about the fact that it is the Chase and I’m excited about the opportunity to make it to Homestead and have a shot at the championship. It’s almost the same thing I’m leery about, there’s no way to give yourself a cushion going into Homestead. There’s no way like we did last year in the Truck Series where we had a 30 point lead or something going into Homestead and we had to finish like 24th or better so it’s hey, we go to Homestead, we get our stuff decent and ride around all day, we take our finish and we win. This year, that’s not there. You have to go to Homestead with the mentality that we’re probably going to have to win the race and that’s not a bad thing, that’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Do you feel pressure as the top seed in the Chase?

“No pressure from that, we have really fast stuff and that comes along with it. Everybody wants to beat you and that’s a good feeling, it’s a compliment to JGR and it’s a complement to our team. Other than that, I think the biggest pressure if obviously advancing to the next round. Whether that comes upon me or not, I don’t know, I’ve never done the Chase format before. We’ll have to see how it goes. I haven’t felt any Chase pressure yet, I feel good. I figure if we come down to Charlotte and we’re not moving onto the next round and we need a win then I’m sure we’ll feel some pressure.”

 

What has the last year been like with the Truck championship, now the top seed in the XFINITY Chase and having a full time Cup ride for next season?

“Exciting and unbelievable at times really. It was only three years ago that I made my first NASCAR start in a truck at Martinsville and got our first win that year and it’s just been a rapid rise. I just got fortunate with Kyle (Busch) over there and Kyle Busch Motorsports and he’s been such a mentor and a supporter of me from the start and it’s something I never would have dreamed of or thought would have happened. I never thought I would even have an opportunity in equipment like this in NASCAR. Just to really have that and advance through the ranks as fast as we have and be in such good equipment all along the way, it’s a dream come true for me and it’s something I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to do.”