Erik Jones Survives Mayhem At Daytona To Win His First NASCAR Cup Series Race


By: Camille Jones/TheFourthTurn.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Erik Jones claimed his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win following a crash-ridden Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

Jones, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 buyatoyota.com Toyota, was able to hold off Martin Truex Jr. to earn his first win in the series, after a second NASCAR Overtime restart bunched the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. The two raced door-to-door before Jones soared out to the lead to take the victory.

“Oh, boy,” Jones said. “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.”

The win locks Jones into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and gives his team a chance to run for the Championship, but earning the first victory of his Cup career was a big step forward, and he was soaking up the moment in Victory Lane. 

“What a day,” Jones said. “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.”

Truex was left to settle for the second-place finish on Saturday night, his 12th top-10 finish of 2018. The runner-up finish marks Truex’s third top-five in a row.

“Man, they destroyed some cars tonight,” Truex said. “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.”

AJ Allmendinger was able to hang on through the melee of the wild event to earn a third-place finish. Allmendinger now has six top-10 finishes in 19 races at Daytona International Speedway. The third-place finish is Allmendinger’s first top-five effort of the season.

“I missed about seven wrecks it felt like,” Allmendinger said. “Anytime you can walk out of here with a decent finish and to have a top five especially both cars in the top five, so great for our whole organization.  It’s one of those things you would like to go get the win, it was close, but top three it was a good day.”

Kasey Kahne and Chris Buescher both claimed top-five finishes on Saturday as they finished fourth and fifth respectively. Ty Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman completed the top-10 in the finishing order.

Many of the heavy-hitters in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series saw their days end early due to two ‘Big Ones’.

On lap 55, the caution came out when leader, William Byron blocked Brad Keselowski on the backstretch. The aggressive move caused Keselowski to lift with Stenhouse on his bumper. Stenhouse then made contact, turning Keselowski and causing a massive chain reaction through the field. Twenty-four cars were involved in the incident.

“Ricky was doing the best he could to give me a good push and had a great run to take the lead and the car in front of me just threw a late, bad block,” Keselowski said. “I made the mistake of lifting instead of just driving through him and that’s my fault. I know better than that. I’ve got to wreck more people and then they’ll stop blocking me late and behind like that. That’s my fault.  I’ll take the credit for my team and we’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”

The next major accident brought out the caution on lap 66, when Stenhouse made contact with Kyle Busch at the front of the pack, sending the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota spinning and collecting seven cars total in the accident.

“Disappointing to get crashed out by the same guy that caused the first crash,” Busch said. “Our Interstate Batteries Camry showed some good speed and patience there in that first stage. We were able to come home second and grab some points there. You always come to Daytona waiting to crash and figure out when or where, and hope you can walk away from it. That’s really frustrating and disappointing to have to race these races like that on the fence or line of when are you going to wreck. But we’ll move on to next week.”

After eight cautions, it appeared as though the race would come to the finish on the scheduled final lap, but another wreck occurred involving Jimmie Johnson, Joey Gase, Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola, as well as a rogue tire that came off of Almirola’s car. The caution flew for the ninth time of the night.

The field lined up for the first NASCAR Overtime attempt, but just before the white flag a ‘Big One’ broke out after Darrell Wallace Jr. made contact with Clint Bowyer, causing another chain reaction that wrecked a total of nine cars. The red flag was displayed for five minutes and a second.

Truex and Jones led the field on the final restart under the second attempt of NASCAR Overtime. Kahne cleared both for the lead momentarily, but it was Jones that got away and took home the trophy after the chaos of 168 laps at Daytona International Speedway.

Following the Coke Zero Sugar 400, Kyle Busch now leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings by 57 points over Kevin Harvick.

The series heads to Kentucky Speedway next weekend for another event under the lights with Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 on Saturday, July 14. Live coverage of the race will broadcast at 7:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN).

 

TheFourthTurn.com is a daily motorsports news outlet based in Florence, South Carolina, concentrating on NASCAR, Verizon IndyCar Series, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws Late Models and much more. On the site, you’ll find unique opinions, original news content, press releases, breathtaking photos and videos. Be sure to like TheFourthTurn on Facebook and follow @TheFourthTurn on Twitter.

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