Erik Jones Wins Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300
The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway featured a new format this year with a pair of 50-lap heat races setting the lineup for a 200-lap main for the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
The heat races came and went without caution, or a lead change, but the main came down to the closing laps and produced a riveting dash to the finish.
Erik Jones passed leader Kyle Larson on a restart with three laps to go and crossed the finish line 0.419 of a second ahead of Kyle Busch for his first XFINITY Series victory on the high-banked half mile and third career in the series.
As an added bonus, the victory also earned the 19-year-old driver for Joe Gibbs Racing an extra $100,000 as the top finisher among the four series regulars eligible for the Dash 4 Cash program on Saturday.
"If you would have asked me with 20 (laps) to go where we'd finish I probably would have said third or fourth," said Jones, who led three times for 62 laps in the No. 20. "But on the last restart all the holes opened up that we needed to. I was able to take advantage of them and make something out of it.
"This is a pretty cool day, probably one of the coolest finishes that I've ever been a part of. To come out on the good end of it that also makes it a little bit cooler."
Larson and Busch each led three times for a combined 137 laps.
A caution on Lap 188 of 200 set up the decisive restart. As the leader, Larson had his pick of the outside lane or the inside lane. He chose the outside, which put Busch on the inside, and got a good jump on the restart.
Jones restarted fourth and shot past Busch into second place. Larson led 94 laps and finished third after Jones passed his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the outside in Turn 4.
"I just did a really bad job on that restart," Larson said. "I just ran too low for a lap and was too tight and had to slow down. Erik got to my outside and tried to slide him into Turn 1, knew I wouldn't clear him, was hoping he would make a mistake and I could maybe get another shot at him in (Turn) 3‚Ä¶.I just did a really poor job the last few laps. I'm disappointed in myself. I'm probably not going to forget about this one for quite a while."
Busch's second place finish in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota dashed his hopes for a third consecutive weekend sweep and a ninth career XFINITY Series victory at Bristol.
"It's a great day for Erik Jones," Busch said. "He got a lucky break on the last restart to win the race. Sometimes your breaks go that way and sometimes your races go that way. He certainly stole one today."
Jones and Austin Dillon had the fastest cars in qualifying earlier in the day and that set the lineup for the two heat races. Jones and the other odd-numbered qualifiers competed in the first heat race while Dillon and the other even-numbered qualifiers comprised the field for the second heat.
Neither heat race produced a caution, or a lead change, as Jones and Dillon cruised to victories.
By winning his heat, Jones assured himself the pole position for the main and a spot as one of four XFINITY Series regulars eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus in the main.
The highest-finishing series regulars from each heat race were eligible for a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus in the main.
Justin Allgaier finished fourth in the first heat and with Jones qualified for the bonus. Ty Dillon (second) and series points leader Daniel Suarez (fourth) qualified out of the second heat.
Allgaier finished fifth behind Austin Dillon in the main while Suarez finished sixth and Ty Dillon finished seventh.