BRISTOL, Tenn. — Erik Jones came from seemingly nowhere to win the rain-delayed Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Jones was buried deep in the field after a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 230 of the 300-lap event, but had worked his way back up to fourth by a restart with 24 laps to go. Lining up in the outside lane, it did not take Jones long to surge to the front and challenge Ryan Blaney for the lead.
Shortly thereafter, Jones got to Blaney’s bumper and moved him just enough to take the lead. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota then had to survive a final restart with four laps to go.
“Man, we were racing hard. We ended up getting the lead and just held onto it,” Jones said.
On the last restart, Jones was on the outside — alongside his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Daniel Suárez. Jones got the jump on Suárez and then held off Blaney after Blaney mounted a charge to get back up to second.
“That was just hard racing,” Blaney said of being moved by Jones for the win. “I can’t say I would have cut him a break if I could’ve gotten back to him.”
Blaney’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford was declared too low in the left-front, possibly putting his second-place finish in jeopardy. NASCAR officials said they “would have more information on that later this week.”
XFINITY Series rookie Daniel Hemric finished fifth and won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.
Suárez finished third and Elliott Sadler, the series points leader, came home in fourth.
Kyle Larson started from the pole and led 154 of the first 162 laps before rain brought out the red flag.
The rain came after Larson won the first 85-lap stage of the three-segment race and just eight laps short of completion of the second stage. Larson was in the lead then, too, with completion of the first two stages required to make the race results official, had NASCAR been unable to get it restarted after the rain delay.
They were able to get it restarted after a delay of slightly over 1 hour, 38 minutes.
Larson promptly pitted along with several of the other leaders, giving up the lead — and ultimately the Stage 2 win – to Hemric.
That set up a frantic final stage filled with action.
First Darrell Wallace Jr. got into the back of Brendan Gaughan, wrecking Gaughan and ending the day for Gaughan’s No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team.
A few laps later, with 40 to go, Wallace took a hard hit himself from the car of Garrett Smithley after the entire field bunched up behind Brandon Jones and Cole Custer, who got into each other with an assist from Larson.
“We were fighting all day for the Lucky Dog spot (that goes to the first car one lap down), and then I got wrecked from behind,” Wallace said. “It was unfortunate. … I still feel so bad for wrecking Brendan. I didn’t want to do that.”
Larson’s contact with Jones and Custer pretty much ended his chances to win – as it led to a tire going down and initiated a chain of events that took him out of contention. Larson ended up being the last car on the lead lap and had to do all he could just to get back up to seventh by the time the checkered flag flew.
It was the second series win in a row for Jones, who also won at Texas two weeks ago. And it also was a repeat win of the one Jones pulled off in the XFINITY Series in last year’s spring race at Bristol.
“It was a day kind of like last year,” Jones said. “We didn’t really know if we had a winning car or not and to come back from a penalty like that, especially without much green-flag racing, was a lot of fun and it’s a race I won’t forget for a long time.”