By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
DOVER, Del. – NASCAR’s new Dash 4 Cash format agrees with Erik Jones – even when his No. 20 Toyota is running on older tires.
Despite staying out on used rubber for a restart with five laps left in Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200 at Dover International Speedway, Jones pulled away to beat runner-up Darrell Wallace Jr. to the finish line by 1.434 seconds.
The victory was Jones second of the year, both on concrete tracks (Bristol and Dover). He has now won two of the three NASCAR XFINITY Series races held under the new Dash 4 Cash format, which features two heat races and a main event.
Since his car was blessed with short-run speed, Jones and crew chief Chris Gabehart liked their chances at the front of the field on older tires, even though others came to the pits for fresh rubber before a restart on Lap 116 of 120.
Driving a stock car for the first time in seven months, Alex Bowman came home third after leading 33 laps, a run that was broken by a debris caution on Lap 71. The top three finishers – Jones, Wallace and Bowman – are all alumni of NASCAR Next, an industry initiative that spotlights the sport’s rising stars.
Justin Allgaier ran fourth, followed by Ty Dillon and series leader Elliott Sadler, who holds a three-point edge in the standings over ninth-place finisher Daniel Suárez.
“I couldn’t see how many came to pit road, so I wasn’t too sure,” Jones said of the decision to stay out under the final caution. “I was a little anxious to see how many came and how many stayed out. Fortunately enough stayed out to make it viable for us to still get the win here.”
After seven months away from racing, except for an appearance at the Chili Bowl in January in a midget car, Bowman made steady progress throughout the weekend in the first of nine scheduled rides with JR Motorsports, the next of which will come at Pocono in early June.
“I was a little worried, being so rusty,” Bowman said. “Obviously, you can’t just take a car to the race track and go test anymore (because of NASCAR rules). I think Friday morning (before practice), I was probably the most nervous I’ve been in years, as far as getting in the race car.
“This is one of the toughest places we come. ‘Can I still do this? Am I going to mess up, make stupid mistakes?’… I haven’t given feedback on a race car in seven months either. I didn’t really do a good job of that throughout practice, but I think (crew chief) Dave (Elenz) overcame it and gave me a really good piece for the race.”
Wallace posted the highest XFINITY Series finish ever for an African-American driver, improving on his own record of third (twice), and he did it in a backup car, necessitated by a crash in Friday’s practice.
“I keep saying it, we never give up,” Wallace said. “It’s really a credit to my guys right here for really thrashing this thing. It’s unfortunate when you do have to bring the backup car out, (but) we never give up and we work really hard to get some speed in this baby.”
But the day – and the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus – belonged to Jones, who thought the tracks that stage the Dash 4 Cash races had more to do with his success than the format itself.
“The tracks that they’re at are tracks that I’ve had historically good runs at,” Jones said. “It just kind of worked out that way. The heat race format gives us a chance to go out and adjust on our stuff. I think our ability to adjust and maintain and get better throughout the race is one of the best in the garage, and having the opportunity to do that in the heat race gives us that little bit of an edge.”
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200
1. (3) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 120.
2. (11) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 120.
3. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 120.
4. (1) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 120.
5. (2) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 120.
6. (32) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 120.
7. (7) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 120.
8. (8) Matt Tifft(i), Toyota, 120.
9. (4) Daniel Suárez, Toyota, 120.
10. (13) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 120.
11. (17) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 120.
12. (19) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 120.
13. (14) Jeb Burton, Ford, 119.
14. (21) Drew Herring, Toyota, 119.
15. (12) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 119.
16. (6) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 118.
17. (20) Ray Black Jr #, Chevrolet, 117.
18. (15) Ryan Reed, Ford, 117.
19. (30) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 117.
20. (16) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 117.
21. (22) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 117.
22. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 117.
23. (28) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 117.
24. (27) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 116.
25. (10) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 116.
26. (33) Timmy Hill(i), Dodge, 115.
27. (29) Alex Guenette, Chevrolet, 115.
28. (25) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 113.
29. (9) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 112.
30. (24) Travis Kvapil(i), Ford, 109.
31. (26) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 87.
32. (39) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 81.
33. (23) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 66.
34. (36) Carl Long, Toyota, Vibration, 32.
35. (35) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 28.
36. (38) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Suspension, 15.
37. (40) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, Suspension, 5.
38. (37) Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, Vibration, 4.
39. (31) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, Vibration, 1.
40. (34) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, Accident, 0.
Image: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images