Date: February 9, 2020
Event: Busch Clash (non-points race)
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile superspeedway)
Format: 75 laps
Race Winner: Erik Jones
- For the first race of the 2020 season, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry team started the Busch Clash from the 12th position and with only bragging rights on the line, survived the crash-filled event to win at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday afternoon.
- With the race underway, Jones worked his way in to the top five early in the race before making a green-flag pit stop on lap 25 for right-side tires and fuel. The scheduled caution flag waved on lap 25 with Jones in the 14th position. Happy with the handling of the No. 20 Sport Clips Camry, Jones stayed out under the caution and cycled to third for the lap 30 restart.
- With the field single file, crew chief Chris Gayle called Jones to pit road on lap 46 for a green-flag stop with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. Unfortunately, Jones slid through the pit stall and the team made the decision to switch from fuel only to a four tire stop. The extended stay on pit road caused the team to fall off the lead lap and out of the draft.
- With the race closing in on the scheduled distance, things heated up and the first multi-car accident happened on lap 66 involving the leaders. Jones was able to receive the “Lucky Dog” to return to the lead lap and restarted the race on lap 72 from 14th. The field didn’t complete the restart lap before another multi-car accident involving the leaders forced the caution flag to be displayed again. With damage to the nose of the Sport Clips Camry, Jones pitted for fresh tires and to repair the damage. The race restarted on lap 77 with the No. 20 team scored 11th.
- The caution was displayed again on lap 78 with Jones making his way through the debris field to advance to third. With more nose damage, Jones pitted before NASCAR displayed the red flag for cleanup. With no restrictions on working on the car under the red flag, the team continued to work on the nose and restarted the race from fifth on lap 82.
- Surviving one final caution, Jones was able to contend for the lead and with a push from teammate Denny Hamlin on the last lap, cross the finish line with his first Busch Clash victory.
ERIK JONES, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How would you describe this day?
“Well, not what I would’ve thought we’d want. It was an awesome race. I’ve got to give a huge thanks to Denny (Hamlin) there in the 11. He stuck with us there that whole last lap. This thing wasn’t the fastest car, I don’t think, left in the race, but we brought it home. I owe him one for that one for sure. Really cool though. I mean Busch Clash first year back, to win that, that feels good and with Sport Clips again. These guys have been really loyal to me the last few years, so it’s cool to get them another win and hopefully next Sunday, we cap off another one right here.”
Could you have a game plan with so few cars left on that last restart?
“I was hoping I could get pushing the 6 (Ryan Newman) and get up front and then hopefully, then Denny was going to help us. That didn’t exactly work out. Everybody was slicing with that few of cars. He just locked on and we stuck together. I think honestly my car was so draggy, it wasn’t too much for him to stay connected and he was able to push us home. Feels good to start off with another win. It’s a really cool race. One that I grew up watching and then to have it back with its original namesake feels pretty good.”
You could write a book on this win. Take us through those last two laps.
“Well, I have to thank Denny (Hamlin) off the bat. He pushed us really good there in the end. He got us the lead and got us up front. It was wild. We got in a few wrecks and tore the car up pretty bad. I didn’t know how rough it was. I knew it was still holding water and oil, so we were in okay shape. The Sport Clips Camry took the win, so it feels good. What a way to start the year – in victory lane. I hope we can keep it going from there and keep adding them up.”
You said a few wrecks – I counted at least three. Can you talk about the repairs that your team did?
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad, but the Camry kept running strong. We came down and didn’t really know what we were trying to fix. I couldn’t see it, but could tell the hood was pretty torn up, and the right front was as well. I didn’t know it was that bad to be honest with you until now, but it sure feels good to come out of here with a win, especially in a race with perseverance like that. You don’t want to give up and when it pays off in the end, it makes it extra special.”
How was the handling of your Camry?
“It was dragging the front a lot. We were dragging some of the splitter bar pretty hard. There was a lot of contact. It felt a little dragging compared to how we started the race, but with Denny being able to stay locked on there for the last lap – I was trying to find him and see where he was and get a push, and finally we got locked up there getting into (turn) one, and he was able to stay on me. Definitely, it didn’t start as good as we started the day.”