It looked like Ty Dillon’s winless drought would finally end. For 83 laps Dillon led the field. That was until Erik Jones flashed the brilliance that has many predicting big things for the Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver..
Jones led a race-high 154 laps in the No. 20 DeWalt Toyota en route to victory lane on Saturday night in the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. Jones passed Dillon with 15 laps remaining to retake the lead for the final time of the night and beat Dillon’s No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet to the checkered flag by 3.533 seconds.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series victory was the third of the season for Jones and the fifth of his career in his 45th XFINITY start. Having one of the most impressive Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaigns in recent memory, Jones has 11 top-five and 12 top-10 results in 19 starts this season.
“It’s a great day. We had a great car. One that definitely deserved to win the race,” Jones said in victory lane. “The fastest car I feel like won tonight, which is always a good feeling. It was an awesome day for us.
“I feel like we deserved to win when we came here earlier this year, we had a really fast car. It was nice to get some redemption for that one.”
Jones qualified second but passed his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez on the first lap. While several teams flew in Sprint Cup pit crews from Pocono, the Joe Gibbs Racing teams did not. Despite dropping spots after pitting, Jones would quickly regain them when the field returned to green.
When the caution flew at Lap 150 as Brandon McReynolds made hard contact with the Turn 1 wall, teams hit pit road for fresh tires and fuel. Dillon’s pit crew had the quickest stop to give Dillon the lead for the first time of the night at Lap 152.
When the field returned to green, Dillon was able to put some distance between his No. 3 Chevrolet and Jones. Dillon would lead the next 83 laps before Jones drove to the bottom and made the final pass on Dillon at Lap 235.
“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 (site of Dillon’s last win in 2014). I want to get in victory lane again. We’re close; we just have to get a little better.”
Brad Keselowski, the only Sprint Cup regular to make the trip from Pocono Raceway, finished eighth in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford.
Daniel Suarez won the Coors Light Pole Award on Saturday afternoon and ran second to his teammate Jones for the first-half of the race. On the restart for McReynolds’ accident, Suarez was running seventh and when Josh Berry’s No. 88 didn’t go, Suarez’s No. 19 ARRIS Toyota plowed into it, suffering heavy front-end damage. Suarez would remain on track for several laps before hitting pit road. Unable to continue, Suarez finished 30th and lost the lead in the championship standings to Elliott Sadler.
Check out the unofficial results of the U.S. Cellular 250.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!