Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series; VFW SportClips Help A Hero 200
TRACK: Darlington Raceway
DRIVER: Erik Jones
CAR: No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 713 total points for the season; currently 6th in the driver point standings
· NASCAR’s XFINITY Series traveled to historic Darlington Raceway where the sport once again celebrated its second annual throwback weekend. For Erik Jones, it was his first trip to the track known on the circuit as “Too Tough To Tame” and the rookie didn’t have much practice time to learn the ropes since Hurricane Hermine forced officials to cancel on-track activities for Friday. Jones and his No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ team only had one 55-minute session to shake down the car before the race on Saturday. Jones started from 10th, and despite some handling challenges, went on to earn a sixth-place finish in his first start at the challenging 1.37-mile track.
· The VFW SportClips Help A Hero 200 took the green flag at 3:47 p.m. EST as Jones started from 10th after qualifying was cancelled for the series. Upon the opening lap of the race, the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry improved to eighth as Jones went to work. A few laps later, Jones told crew chief Chris Gabehart that the No. 20 machine was “super tight.” The team told their driver that he was running lap times similar to the race leader, and to use this as an opportunity to learn everything that he can about what lines to run.
· Jones took over seventh before the first caution of the race came at lap 22 after the No. 78 spun on the backstretch. Under the yellow flag, Jones told his team that the No. 20 was free in, as well as tight in the center and off as he was “fighting the back everywhere.” Gabehart called his driver in for service and the team gave the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota four tires, fuel, and adjustments.
· The DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry restarted in sixth as Gabehart reminded his driver to manage his tires at the start of the runs. Shortly after the restart, Jones told the team that he was a little lost in exactly what he needed out of his race car at the time. After further discussions, Jones told the team that the car was much looser at the time than it had been.
· A caution at lap 51 occurred right ahead of Jones, but he was able to avoid getting caught up in the melee. Once again, the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry hit pit road for four tires and fuel, and this time the team went back on the adjustments from the first stop. Jones lined up in eighth for the restart to begin lap 57, and by lap 67, he had jumped up to fifth. As Jones was battling for track position, he earned his first “Darlington stripe” of the afternoon on the right-side of his No. 20 Camry, but thankfully there was no major damage from the contact with the wall.
· Jones only lost one position to drop back to sixth as his team reminded him to “settle in and just race the race track.” Loose-handling continued to challenge Jones over the next run as he told his team that the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry hadn’t been tight at all during the run. Green-flag stops began to cycle around lap 101, and Gabehart made the call to pit on lap 102 for a four-tire stop with adjustments. As Jones was exiting the pits, the caution came out as the leader spun trying to enter pit road.
· Once the field cycled through their remaining stops, Jones lined up in third for the restart, but then got shuffled into sixth as the field battled for position. Jones continued to fight for position, as well as learn about the track on every lap that remained in the race, and in the end, he drove off with a sixth-place finish in his first-career start at the track. Elliott Sadler went on to earn the victory Saturday afternoon while Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez, rounded out the top-three finishers.