|Erik Jones celebrates in Victory Lane at Iowa|
|Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images|
NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Erik Jones added another milestone to his remarkable season on Saturday night, winning the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway third victory of the year.
Jones ran down race leader Ty Dillon with 15 laps to go and then stretched his fuel for the final laps to secure his fifth-career Xfinity Series victory and spoil Dillon's chance to end his nearly two-year winless streak.
Elliott Sadler finished in third place, followed by Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong.
Saturday's victory give Jones a stranglehold on the Xfinity Series Chase standings, giving him sole possession of the number one seed with seven races remaining before the seven-race playoff for the title begins.
"Just a really great race car….so cool to get these guys to victory lane and just a great day for us. It was a great race car," said Jones. "I was working pretty hard the last 60 lap or so and trying to get that spot back, you know? We got back in traffic on that last restart and just couldn't get it back.
"We needed a little momentum to go our way. We were long overdue like I said for a win and this is what we want to do a little bit more up here before the Chase starts and when the Chase starts as well, so I know we can do it. We've got a great race team. Just a matter of putting all the pieces together every week."
Having last pitted more than 90 laps from the finish, fuel mileage was foremost on Jones' mind after his disastrous finish at Iowa back in June, where a fuel pick-up problem relegated him to a 27th– place finish.
"I don't think we were too close," said Jones about his fuel. "I don't know how many more we could have gone, but we definitely had enough – fuel pressure wasn't starting to move at all and I was saving for the last 10 or so just to make sure we were on the side of it that we needed to be, but I felt good about it. Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) felt good about it, but thanks to these guys.
"I feel like we deserve to win here when we came here earlier this year – we had a really fast car – and nice to kind of get some redemption for that one."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Jones started the race second behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez but quickly took over the top spot before the opening lap was complete.
Jones would eventually lead four times for a race-high 154 laps before losing the lead to Dillon following a round of yellow-flag pit stops with about 100 laps to go.
Dillon, who came into the pits in the third spot, won the race off pit road with a four-tire stop, beating out Sadler and Jones.
Once back under green Jones quickly made his way past Sadler onto second place and began chasing down Dillon.
With not a caution flag in sight over the next 93 laps, Jones continued to wear down Dillon until he finally pulled even on lap 235 and made the pass for the lead. Once out in front, Jones pulled out to a two-second lead.
With both drivers running nearly on fumes, both Jones and Dillon sweated it out through the final laps while the rest of the field waited to see if either would stumble before the finish, but both managed to stretch their fuel enough to go the distance, with Jones crossing the finish line more than three seconds ahead of Dillon.
Dillon's runner-up finish with his sixth top-five of the season, but just added another digit to his increasingly disappointing 65-race winless drought, his last win coming more than two years ago at Indianapolis.
I want the win so bad," said Dillon, whose drought extended to 66 races. "That was all I had. They (Joe Gibbs Racing) are good right now. That was all I had.
"I'm proud of my guys. They gave us a great opportunity tonight. My heart's been broken every race since Indy. I want to get in victory lane again. We're close; we just have to get a little better."
The third-place finish for Sadler moved him into the top spot in the Xfinity Series points standing after Suarez was forced to the garage following a crash with Josh Berry on the final restart. Suarez dropped to second in the standings, followed by Dillon, Jones and Justin Allgaier.
Jones leads the Chase standings now with three wins, while Sadler and Suarez both have a single win apiece.
ERIK JONES, No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
What was the difference between this win and your last race at Iowa Speedway?
“Well, we didn’t have a fuel issue – a fuel pickup issue – which was nice. Just a really great race car, DEWALT FLEXVOLT Camry, so cool to get these guys to victory lane and just a great day for us. It was a great race car. Felt really good about it yesterday – what we had in practice – and it carried over in the race today, so just really happy to be here, really happy to get another win for these guys and we deserve many more and we were long overdue for one and just feels good to get it for them."
How hard were you working during those restarts?
“I was working pretty hard the last 60 lap or so and trying to get that spot back, you know? We got back in traffic on that last restart and just couldn’t get it back. He (Ty Dillon) did a good job playing aero games and getting us behind and I was working hard trying everything I could and finally I got a really good run when he got hung up with the lap car and was able to get clear of him. I don’t know if that lap car – if I would have been able to get around him straight up – but once you got in clear air I felt really good about it. I was just taking it easy and smooth sailing from there."
Can you build upon this win?
“I think so for sure. We needed a little momentum to go our way. We were long overdue like I said for a win and this is what we want to do a little bit more up here before the Chase starts and when the Chase starts as well, so I know we can do it. We’ve got a great race team. Just a matter of putting all the pieces together every week."
Were you saving your tires at the end?
“No, I wasn’t saving much. I was really working as hard as I could to get around Ty (Dillon) and it was tough, man. Aero – the air game was pretty tough. Just needed to get clean air for a long time and burned a lot of tire off the DEWALT FLEXVOLT Camry there at the start, but it’s a great day. We had a great car – one that definitely deserved to win the race. The fastest car I feel like won tonight, which is always a good feeling, but just want to say thanks to GameStop, Reser’s, Hisense, Interstate Batteries, Toyota, XFINITY, NASCAR, the fans and JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) Engines for getting us to victory lane. An awesome day for us."
How close were you to running out of fuel?
“I don’t think we were too close. I don’t know how many more we could have gone, but we definitely had enough – fuel pressure wasn’t starting to move at all and I was saving for the last 10 or so just to make sure we were on the side of it that we needed to be, but I felt good about it. Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) felt good about it, but thanks to these guys. It’s just a great race car we’ve prepared. I feel like we deserve to win here when we came here earlier this year – we had a really fast car – and nice to kind of get some redemption for that one."
|6||2||Sam Hornish Jr||Chevy||7||250||0||Running||35|
|20||07||Ray Black Jr||Chevy||22||247||0||Running||21|
|23||78||B J McLeod||Ford||32||245||0||Running||18|
|27||6||Darrell Wallace Jr||Ford||10||239||0||Running||14|
|35||97||Matt Waltz||Chevy||38||95||0||Rear Gear||6|