Jones had dominated the event, leading 186 laps, including holding the top spot following the final round of pit stops. Though as the laps closed down, the gap between himself and Bell had shrunk, and with four to go, Bell was right there on Jones’ bumper.
Going into turn three with four to go, Bell dived beneath Jones, sliding up in front of him off the corner. As Bell got out of the gas to avoid hitting the wall, Jones got into the back of him, before both Toyota Camrys bounced off the wall. Bell was able to hold on and win the event, while Jones limped to a 15th-place finish.
“Well, I mean it’s not dirt racing, you know,” Jones said. “He’s not clear. I can’t just stop on the top. I mean he was – I didn’t expect him just to drive in on the bottom so far, he wouldn’t be able to hold his lane. It’s unfortunate. The Reser’s Camry was really good, and I thought we were going to race for the win, and unfortunately it wasn’t much of a race. It was more of a wreck. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll just have to move on.”
Bell stated in victory lane that he is going to apologize to Jones for his part in the contact.
“I tried to drive in deep into turn three and clear him and get back to the top, but I hate that we didn’t get to race it out and he didn’t get to finish,” he added. “But it’s my first XFINITY win, and it’s something I’m proud of and proud of all these guys who have given me this JBL Camry.”
It’s not the first time Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have disagreed in the series, with Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers in 2009 when they argued post-race about whether Vickers should have let Busch go so he could chase down the leader for the win. Then a year later, Brad Coleman and Matt DiBenedetto got together at Gateway Motorsports Park.
This time around, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Executive Vice President of XFINITY and Development Steve DeSouza says it was just a product of hard racing.
“I was kind of surprised and I’m sure Erik (Jones) was more surprised at the closing rate he had when Christopher slid up there, but that’s just part of racing, and I thought maybe he was going to try to cut down and go to the inside there,” he said. “That’s a tough one there when you see two guys racing their guts out all day long, and it’s your two cars. That’s probably the worst case scenario for us, but it’s also the pleasure of seeing the young guys and how hard they race and sometimes those things are going to happen – that’s racing, that’s competition, and that’s the sport we’re in.
“We’ll lift up the guys that didn’t have a great day and we’ll go back at it again with them and today we’re celebrating Christopher’s first win.”
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