By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Brandon Jones ended his two-race skid since the NASCAR Xfinity Series season resumed two weeks ago with a third-place run in Monday’s Cheddar’s 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, earning him a shot at the Dash 4 Cash at Atlanta Motor Speedway June 6.
Jones’ effort improved him from eighth in the regular season standings to seventh going into the Dash 4 Cash race which will also consist of race winner Noah Gragson, runner-up Chase Briscoe and fourth-place Harrison Burton.
His finish at Bristol brought tremendous confidence on a season that’s been an improvement in terms of race pace from his No. 19 Menards/Pelonis Toyota Supra and experience.
“This was fun and very different from any other Bristol race I’ve been a part of,” said Jones. “One thing that was really interesting was obviously the racing on the bottom never really got moved up to the top. I tried multiple times to get that groove going, but not one would really follow you so it was hard to get that section to rubber up.
“The biggest thing is that everyone at JGR brings really, really fast Supras to the race track every week. I knew we were going to be quick to get going. It was interesting, we would be really fast to start off the run. Middle of the run we would fall back really quick – everything that I would build up, I would lose and then it would come to me again at the end of the run.
“Then we would be just as fast if not better than the leaders.”
While Jones had a relatively quiet day in comparison to many drivers, Jones tried a two-tire strategy following Stage 1 that led to a stellar fifth in Stage 2.
“We were kind of thinking it was actually going to help our balance compared to what we were fighting. We were pretty tight,” said Jones. “We were thinking if we put the lefts on, it would loosen the car up some and it did for a few laps. I got pretty sideways a couple times and almost lost it a few.
“Definitely got loose, but at the same time, kind of came back around to me and I was running pretty good lap times. I think it did help us some at the end of the day kind of having a little more laying there in the pits. I think that was a pretty decent call.”
During the final stage, Jones was in solid position for a positive night. This was definitely the case following the contact by JR Motorsports teammates Gragson and Justin Allgaier, Jones had one more shot at a possible third career Xfinity Series win.
When asked about his take on the ordeal between the two drivers that led to Allgaier’s night being cut short, Jones wasn’t focusing on their business as his eyes was on his Joe Gibbs Racing machine getting a third top-five of 2020.
“There’s ways to win races without doing it and there’s ways to win races doing it too. If that’s the approach you want to take, I’m sure there will be a lot of burnt bridges there,” Jones on whether or not Gragson pushed too hard.
“That’s not our team and that’s not really my area to talk. I haven’t had that done to me yet, knock on wood. I think we all race really hard together and really clean at JGR so I’m pretty proud of that.”
In overtime, the 23-year-old found an opening at the exit of Turn 1, trying to squeeze into the middle of Gragson and Chase Briscoe, but the two tightened things up which led to Jones unable to battle for the win. Gragson went on to win his second race of 2020.
“I thought at the very end, I could split the 98 (Briscoe) and the 9 (Gragson),” Jones on the overtime run. “The 98 took that away from me a little bit so that was kind of difficult. All in all, it was pretty good. We’re qualified for ‘Dash For Cash’ and we can go on to the next race and compete for that so that will be fun.”
Live coverage of the Echo Park 250 at Atlanta will follow the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race with FOX’s telecast slated to commence at 4:30 pm EST.
Jones scored a personal best fourth last February at the 1.5-mile circuit and with better tools, expectations should be much higher.
“Atlanta, we finished I think fourth last year and that was with limited tools,” Jones on last year’s top-five.
“Now we have a version of SMT, I think I’ve really been a lot better at starting these races by studying my film. You combine all of that, we’re going to be really strong when we come back to Atlanta.”