DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2017) – The Daytona 500 ended just past the halfway point for Erik Jones when the car directly in front of his No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry spun out.
“There was no place to go,” said Jones, who was competing in his first Daytona 500.
Hard contact with the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch created substantial damage to the Furniture Row Racing entry and had to be retired on lap 103 of 200. Jones was credited with the 39th finishing position in his first NASCAR Cup Series point race at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s hard to say [what happened] without talking to Kyle [Busch],” said Jones. “I don’t know if he cut a tire or had an issue but obviously got turned around there in [turn] three and I just got in the side of him. There was nowhere for me to really go, unfortunately, and we just all kind of got caught up.”
Jones started the 59th running of the Great American Race from the 34th position and picked up three spots in the first lap. Daytona is known for shuffling the pack almost constantly and Jones, still getting comfortable in the first race of his rookie NASCAR Cup Series season, moved up and down between 31st and 40th in the opening laps.
Coming down pit road for a scheduled stop under green on Lap 18, the car ahead of Jones wavered on which pit box it was headed to which forced Jones to miss his. Time lost backing up into the designated area required additional time on pit road and Jones was 37th when returning to action a lap later.
The 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry made a second green-flag stop two laps shy of the conclusion of the 60-lap first stage and another on lap 80. With teams running different strategies, Jones found himself a lap down on Lap 90 but running with the leaders, including the Toyotas of Busch and Kenseth. The pack was headed into Turn 3 on lap 104 when Busch spun in front of Jones.
“I learned a lot,” said Jones. “It’s just nice settling in with everybody on the team, my spotter Rick Carelli, working more with Chris [Gayle, crew chief] and into the role with these cars. I was trying to figure it all out and thought we were in a good spot to cycle out toward the front. I was just getting to the point where I thought we were going to get to start racing and [the wreck] happened.”
Kurt Busch became the first Daytona 500 winner to lead only the final lap, finishing 0.228-of-a-second ahead of Ryan Blaney. The rest of the top 10 finishers in order were AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Matt DiBenedetto, and Trevor Bayne. There were 37 lead changes among 18 drivers, eight cautions for 40 laps and a 17-minute red flag.
The second race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season is the March 5 Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.