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Erik Jones Survives Daytona to Score First Cup Victory

by Pete McCole
Saturday, July 7, 2018

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Erik Jones (20) beats out Martin Truex, Jr. (78) to win at Daytona
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Winning a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race oftentimes takes skill, determination and horsepower. But sometimes, it also takes being able to keep your car in one piece until the end of the race.

For Erik Jones, surviving Saturday night's wild crashfest at Daytona International Speedway until the end earned him his first-career Cup Series victory in his 57th-career start, beating out defending Cup Series Champion Martin Truex, Jr. in a double-overtime finish in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Jones restarted on the outside of Truex, Jr. for the final three-lap green-white-checkered dash to the finish and surged ahead on the outside on the final lap to secure the victory.

Truex, Jr. came home second, followed by A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Chris Buescher.

Jones led just one lap – the final lap – and managed to bring his No. 20 Toyota Camry to victory lane mostly intact despite getting caught up in the two biggest crashes of the night.

"How about that race, boys and girls? That was something else," said Jones. "I thought that we were out of it and we were right back in it. Took the lead and ran away. Wow, what an awesome race. To have buyatoyota.com on here and my first win at Daytona. My first superspeedway win. What an awesome day. I am out of breath. Too much smoke in the car from that burnout. I can barely breathe. What an awesome finish."

Jones first-career Cup Series win comes just a little over year after he lost his father and mentor, Dave Jones, who died of cancer last June at the age of 53.

"I was thinking about my mom and dad after the checkered," said Jones. "My mom stayed home from this one. She missed my first Cup Series win. So, hi, mom. My dad would have been so proud of the work we did to get here. It's just an awesome day for us."

Four multi-car wrecks, lots of sparks, sheet metal flying around, a red flag – Saturday night's race had it all. In other words - a typical restrictor-plate race.

And in typical restrictor-plate fashion, most of the top contenders were already being towed back to the garage before the race hit the halfway point.

The first multi-car crash of the night broke out on lap 55 and collected 24 cars
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

The first melee broke out just ten laps into the second stage on lap 55 when Brad Keselowski got turned off the bumper of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. while battling for third, touching off a crash that wiped out nearly half the field including Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and polesitter Chase Elliott.

Barely ten laps later, Stenhouse set off another crash when he tangled with Kyle Busch – this time battling for third – which took out Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and race leader William Byron.

In all, there were 10 caution flags thrown during the course of the race – and Stenhouse was involved in four of them.

On lap 125, Kyle Larson cut a right-rear tire, sending Larson's No. 42 Chevrolet down the banking and into the path of Stenhouse, who suffered damage to his Ford Fusion. Finally, on lap 151, Stenhouse blew a left-rear tire that sent him spinning through the infield grass and mercifully ended his night.

By the time the race entered the final 10 laps there were 25 cars left running when another crash involving Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola sent the race into overtime.

Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick led the field to the green flag for the first overtime attempt, but the outside line got the jump with Jones and Kahne pushing Truex to the front while Harvick got shuffled back.

Just 100 yards from the white flag, Darrell Wallace got into the back of Clint Bowyer in the tri-oval, causing the final wreck of the evening – this one swallowing up 10 cars including Harvick, Johnson, Alex Bowman and Trevor Bayne and bringing out the red flag.

After the cleanup, the field  - now with just 13 cars left on the lead lap - lined up for a second attempt with Jones and Truex on the front row. After initially getting muscled out of position, Jones fought back on the outside and took Truex and Kahne three wide on the backstretch to move out in front but couldn't clear Truex.

Finally, after nearly a full lap battling side by side, Jones edged ahead of Truex with a push from Buescher and slid down in front of Truex as the field exited the backstretch and then held off Truex through the final quarter-mile to take the checkered flag.

Martin Truex, Jr, (78) battles Erik Jones for the lead at Daytona
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Truex's second-place finish was his second runner-up at Daytona, and whole he's still searching for his first restrictor-plate victory, he was happy to make it through to the end.

"Man, they destroyed some cars tonight. That was insane," said Truex, Jr. "Cool to get to the end. I wish I could have done a better job for my team. I had a really fast car. I have to get better at the blocking. It never has been my strong suite. Without a question, I struggled a bit seeing the runs coming. Me and my team are trying to figure that out together. It was a good run and we came up a little short."

Kahne, who looked to have his best shot getting back into victory lane Saturday night, scored his first top-10 of the season and his best finish since coming home 17th at Texas.

"I knew I had a shot (at winning).  I knew I had a car capable," said Kahne. "Once we got going in the second stage I knew my car was capable of winning it was just a matter of where I put it and the places I put it in and we ended up fourth, so not good enough.

"We ran, I think, fourth and fourth in the final two stages there, so that is great for our team.  We were great in Sonoma, good here, we keep fighting and the guys do their job we just need to keep getting more consistent, but we are getting there slowly, but surely."  

Despite posting a 33rd-place finish, Kyle Busch leaves Daytona still the points leader, holding the top spot by 57 points over Harvick.  

ERIK JONES, No. 20 buyatoyota.com Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

Erik, how do you feel buddy?

“Oh, boy. How about that race, boys and girls? That was something else. I thought that we were out of it and we were right back in it. Took the lead and ran away. Wow, what an awesome race. To have buyatoyota.com on here and my first win at Daytona. My first superspeedway win. What an awesome day. I am out of breath. Too much smoke in the car from that burnout. I can barely breathe. What an awesome finish.”

What do you want to say to the fans?

“Thank you. Thank you, so much. A lot of hard work to be here. I was thinking about my mom and dad after the checkered. My mom stayed home from this one. She missed my first Cup Series win. So, hi, mom. My dad would have been so proud of the work we did to get here. It’s just an awesome day for us.”

You’re locked into the Playoffs with this win, how does it feel to get your first at Daytona?

“What a day. I didn’t think we were going to have a shot to win this one about halfway. Got ourselves back into contention and our guys did a great job getting this thing fixed up and getting the buyatoyota.com into Victory Lane. I’ve never been that good on superspeedways and never thought this was our shot to win. But to get here tonight, that’s pretty awesome. It’s our first win and not much that has felt better than this one.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing

Finishing Position: 2nd

Did luck turn around for you here at Daytona?

“I think it had to have. Man, they destroyed some cars tonight. That was insane. Cool to get to the end. I wish I could have done a better job for my team. I had a really fast car. I have to get better at the blocking. It never has been my strong suite. Without a question, I struggled a bit seeing the runs coming. Me and my team are trying to figure that out together. It was a good run and we came up a little short. Congrats to Erik (Jones). His first win. I can’t imagine what it feels like. I remember mine vividly. Congrats to him and his team. It’s pretty cool to see. I wish it was us. But if you’re going to lose to someone, a first-time winner and Erik is a good one to lose to. Especially in your worst track and your worst race. Thanks to everyone at Toyota and 5-hour ENERGY, Bass Pro Shops and everyone who makes this possible. Wish I could have got it tonight.”

What could you have done different about the last restart?

“I think if I just blocked the 95, I control the race from there. We got two-wide and it got behind us. I just messed up there. Just sleeping I guess. I knew he was coming. I just didn’t block fast enough. Me and my spotters have to be better but this is the first time we had a car that strong. I feel like we have something we can build on.”

RACE RESULTS

Finish Start # Driver Sponsor/Make Laps Led Points Status
1 29 20 Erik Jones buyatoyota.com Toyota 168 1 40 Running
2 13 78 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota 168 20 35 Running
3 24 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet 168 1 34 Running
4 28 95 Kasey Kahne Thorne Wellness Chevrolet 168 17 40 Running
5 25 37 Chris Buescher Kleenex Wet Wipes Chevrolet 168 0 32 Running
6 19 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Military Chevrolet 168 3 37 Running
7 31 32 Matt DiBenedetto Zynga Poker Ford 168 0 30 Running
8 7 31 Ryan Newman Bass Pro Shops/Cabela's Chevrolet 168 1 34 Running
9 10 3 Austin Dillon American Ethanol e15 Chevrolet 168 0 33 Running
10 2 88 Alex Bowman Axalta Chevrolet 168 1 36 Running
11 34 7 Jeffrey Earnhardt Nine Line Foundation Chevrolet 168 0 26 Running
12 16 62 Brendan Gaughan South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet
168 0 25 Running
13 35 96 DJ Kennington Lordco/Castrol/Spectra Premium Toyota 168 0 24 Running
14 22 43 Bubba Wallace
U.S. Air Force Chevrolet 167 0 23 Running
15 21 38 David Ragan Shriners Hospital For Children Ford 167 0 22 Running
16 39 51 Ray Black II Prefund Capital/Jacob Companies Chevrolet 167 0 0 Running
17 6 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Bank Ford 167 51 40 Running
18 40 23 JJ Yeley Steakhouse Elite Toyota 166 0 0 Running
19 5 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Kickin' Ranch Ford 162 8 18 Accident
20 20 6 Trevor Bayne Performance Plus Ford 162 0 19 Accident
21 33 15 Ross Chastain Caddy's Beach Bar Restaurants Chevrolet 162 0 0 Accident
22 9 14 Clint Bowyer Rush Truck Centers Ford 162 2 15 Accident
23 4 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet 162 10 19 Accident
24 37 99 Landon Cassill Star Com Fiber Chevrolet 162 0 13 Running
25 36 0 Joey Gase Sparks Inc. Chevrolet 161 0 0 Accident
26 8 34 Michael McDowell K-LOVE Radio Ford 155 20 20 Accident
27 26 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 155 0 10 Accident
28 30 21 Paul Menard Menards/Moen Ford 152 0 9 Running
29 14 42 Kyle Larson Credit One Bank Chevrolet 123 0 20 Accident
30 27 1 Jamie McMurray DC Solar Chevrolet 68 0 7 Accident
31 38 72 Corey LaJoie Dragonchain Chevrolet 65 0 6 Accident
32 18 24 William Byron
Liberty University Chevrolet 64 12 12 Accident
33 15 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota 64 1 13 Accident
34 1 9 Chase Elliott Hooters Chevrolet 54 11 9 Accident
35 32 19 Daniel Suarez ARRIS Toyota 54 0 2 Accident
36 3 2 Brad Keselowski Stars Stripes and Lites Ford 53 9 4 Accident
37 23 41 Kurt Busch Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford 53 0 6 Accident
38 17 11 Denny Hamlin FexEx Cares Toyota 53 0 1 Accident
39 11 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 53 0 1 Accident
40 12 12 Ryan Blaney BodyArmor Ford 53 0 1 Accident

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