By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – In racing, sometimes you have to take a gamble as Brandon Jones and his team did. Jones fought hard trying to score his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, but it was not meant to be.
On the final restart, Jones restarted on the outside in the No. 19 Menards / Turtle Wax Toyota Camry. His crew chief, Chris Gabehart elected to put on just left-side tires, leaving the 127-lap old right-side tires on the car. Jones fought hard with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and eventual race winner, Ryan Preece. After just two laps, he broke loose and fell backwards. By the time the checkered and yellow flags waved, Jones was in the sixth position.
Prior to the caution on lap 284, Jones was dominating the longest green flag run of the race. In the end, he led a career high 106 laps in a single race. Jones’ late-race dominance was in spite of an incident on lap 102. Jones clipped Justin Allgaier as the field attempted to check up for a different incident. However, the damage to both cars was minimal.
“That caution on right there on that long run just killed me and I just put my head down when I saw it ‘cause I knew we were so much better than the 18 (Ryan Preece) up off the corner,” Jones said, “but all in all such a phenomenal day for Toyota, for Menards and for everybody at (Joe Gibbs Racing) JGR right now. Also, Turtle Wax is on board with us this weekend as well. Can’t say enough about the guys that support us the most and we are just so close right now. It breaks my heart just to see that, but we had a gamble right there at the end. We had to take the two tires to try to see what we could do. Just too much wheel-spinning on the restart to make anything of it.”
The sixth-place finish was the 20thtop-10 of Jones’ career and third this season. It also moves him up to the ninth position in the Championship Points Standings. Jones now sits 68-points behind points leader Elliott Sadler, and 30-points ahead of Ross Chastain, who holds the Playoff cutoff.
The sixth-place finish was initially one position shy of qualifying Jones for the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash at Richmond Raceway. However, Daniel Hemric’s No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro SS failed post-race technical inspection, elevating Jones into the Dash 4 Cash.
Now Jones, Gabehart, and the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team will look to carry this momentum into Richmond Raceway as they battle for $100,000 in the ToyotaCare 250 on April 20.