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NASCAR Cup Series

Erik Jones Fails Federated Auto Parts 400 Post-Race Inspection

If Erik Jones wants to make the second round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, he will need to win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL next weekend.

Following a fourth-place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, Jones’ No. 20 Toyota Camry failed post-race inspection. It was determined that the rear wheel steer was not within the proper compliance.

To keep the playoffs fair, each driver who is qualified goes through the Optical Scanning Station post-race, with the top two finishers in the event being tore down for a full inspection.

As a result, Jones was moved to last in the finishing results from the event. 

“We’ve set the standard early in the year in what we expect, and teams have done a good job reacting to that,” Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series director Jay Fabian said. “I think obviously as the pressure mounts and the season goes on, it doesn’t surprise me to see them pushing a little further and trying to get a little more out of their stuff, and like I say, sometimes it just crosses that line a little bit, and that’s all you need to fail.”

If Jones would have been credited with a fourth-place finish, he could have entered the ROVAL just three points behind William Byron for the final position in the Round of 12. However, he instead will be 45 points behind, requiring a win to advance.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jones Looks To Capitalize In Playoffs

LAS VEGAS — There are not many drivers who can say they have as much momentum heading into the playoffs as Erik Jones does.

He and the No. 20 team have really come alive in the summer months, proving to be a constant threat inside the top-five, and showing that he can finish the job as he did at Darlington Raceway earlier this month, where he won the Southern 500.

While the big talk of the season has been his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates and their four wins, it may be a disservice to not include Jones in the conversation of their dominance.

“We don’t have as many wins as those guys, but we’ve been in contention to win a few more. We just haven’t capitalized on it,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “So, we definitely need to win some races here in the playoffs to really be a contender. For us, I mean, my goal at least, and I think Chris is on the same page, is just to get to that round of eight.

If we can make it through this round and the round of 12, you got an opportunity to go to Homestead. In that round, Texas and Phoenix are two great tracks for me. Martinsville’s a little bit of a struggle sometimes, but Texas and Phoenix are two places I feel like we can go and win a race at those places.”

Now, despite the solid runs, Jones knows he cannot think too far ahead, especially after last season.

In a similar position, the Michigan-native entered the final ten races on a sour note, wrecking and finishing last in the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The end result essentially killed his championship hopes from the get-go, as he was forced into a must-win situation and quickly eliminated.

Heading to Sunday’s South Point 400, Jones now knows how important a solid day in the South Point 400 will be to keep himself alive.

“Yeah, I mean definitely there’s a big emphasis on just having a solid weekend, right? You want to qualify well and race well and if we can come out of here with, I mean obviously the wins the goal,” he said. “But if we can come out with the top five and a good deal of stage points and pick up a couple of spots in the standings and just close that gap to the lead, that’s a solid day.”

While it may be the first race of the playoffs, he also noted how he will be keeping a close eye on the 12th place cutoff.

“We’re fighting for 12th. That’s what we’re looking at here. You’re fighting for that 12th place in points and hopefully getting some playoff points moving forward and just closing that gap up,” Jones said. “You just want to tighten that gap up to lead. Right now we’ve got 40 points to the lead and we need to get that smaller. That’s too much to be in contention to get all the way to homesteads.”

The No. 20 team will enter Sunday as the tenth seed, with additional five playoff points as his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

Erik Jones claims Southern 500 win, but Playoff spots are still up for grabs

DARLINGTON, S.C. – As the clock ticked toward 2 a.m. on Monday, in a race delayed by rain for nearly four hours, Erik Jones claimed the most important victory of his career in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

With his contract status at Joe Gibbs Racing a source of speculation throughout much of the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Jones made an emphatic statement, holding off teammate Kyle Busch and charging Kyle Larson after taking the lead from Larson on Lap 283.

“It was a lot of pressure,” said Jones, who claimed his first victory of the season and the second of his career. “Kyle (Busch) is a great race car driver. I’ve raced him a lot, and obviously you want to beat him to win, right? I was just locked in, man. I stayed focused. I really thought it was our night when we got out front.

“It’s amazing for me to be able to hold off Kyle. It’s really cool, just for the history we have with Kyle giving me my first opportunity in the Truck Series (at Kyle Busch Motorsports). To race him for the win in such a big race, that’s pretty cool and something I’m never going to forget.”

Busch, in fact, got within a car-length of Jones in the closing laps but a late brush with the outside wall ended his chances.

“I killed it,” Busch radioed to his team. Having cut a tire with the contact, Busch hugged the outside wall for the final lap and a half and still managed to finish third after Larson charged past into the runner-up spot.

“When he started to inch out a little bit,” Busch said after the race, “I was trying to save my right front, because I knew my right front wasn’t going to make it the whole rest of the way without me knocking the wall down, and I was right.

“I hit the wall with about four to go and then I hit it again with three to go, and it killed it that time. Luckily, we were able to salvage a third, just dragging the fence for the last two laps.”

Larson had the lead for a restart on Lap 282, after a massive pileup in Turn 4 on lap 275 ruined strong runs by Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin. But Jones grabbed the lead one circuit after the restart and held the top spot after a cycle of green-flag pit stops with 40 laps left.

“Erik did a good job on that last restart to get by me, and I was better than him all throughout that run,” Larson said. “It’s just I couldn’t ever do anything with him, just because the dirty air was really bad. Wore out surface and the groove is already narrow, and it was just extra difficult. I felt like both 18 (Kyle Busch) and I were a little bit better than he was at the end, but couldn’t do nothing with him.”

Kurt Busch was the dominant driver in Stage 1, leading at the competition caution after Lap 35 and posting a convincing win in the first 100-lap stage, but Jimmie Johnson was arguably just as big a winner–temporarily.

Desperate to make the Playoffs, the seven-time series champion finished second to Busch in the stage and scored nine points, doubly significant because none of the three drivers Johnson was chasing for a berth in the postseason—Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez–finished in the top 10.

Excellent work in the pits, however, vastly improved Bowyer’s track position in Stage 2, and though he lost spots in traffic late in the run, he held sixth in the stage and edged Johnson by one spot. Suarez and Newman, on the other hand, tangled on Lap 140, with Suarez turning Newman off Turn 2 to cause the fourth caution of the night.

Neither Suarez nor Newman scored points in the stage, won by Kyle Busch, who was first off pit road after caution for Corey LaJoie’s spin on Lap 157. Brother Kurt was second in the stage after chasing Bowyer for 30 laps and finally grabbing the second position on lap 187.

But both Kurt Busch and Johnson were innocent victims of the multicar crash on Lap 275, and Johnson surrendered most of the margin he had gained over the other “bubble drivers” in the first two stages. Johnson ended the night 18 points out of the final Playoff-eligible position, with Newman (23rd in the Southern 500) and Suarez (11th) tied for the last berth.

Bowyer finished sixth and moved up to 15th in the standings, eight points to the good over Newman and Suarez. With one race left to decide the Playoff grid, Ryan Blaney, Larson, William Byron and Aric Almirola are now locked into the postseason, as is Jones with the victory.

“What a car—just bad luck,” Johnson radioed to his team on the cool-down lap. “Let’s go to Indy (next Sunday’s race) and kick some butt.”

Johnson likely will need a victory to advance to the postseason for the 16th straight season.

Jones, on the other hand, already has the win he needed.

“Is there anything more to say?” Jones asked rhetorically. “There’s been a lot of doubt and speculation. I’ve put my heart and soul into this race team. This is my living and how I want to make a career and what I want to do.

“It doesn’t get any better than this. On my list, this race is really high, and it’s going to look damn good to see my face on that trophy.”

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Erik Jones Deserves A Top Ride

As the summer heats up, so does the silly season rumors in NASCAR, with the focus this year on the future of Erik Jones and Christopher Bell.

Bell has continued to be one of, if not, the most dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and is expected to move up to one of Toyota’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ rides. However, the question is which one, which is where Jones comes into play. The 23-year-old does not have anything secure for the 2020 season, and his lack of wins compared to his JGR teammates has many speculating that he could be replaced by Bell.

Jones’ future is so murky at the moment, that following a second-place finish Sunday at Pocono Raceway, team owner, Joe Gibbs, was still unable to provide any clarity.

“I know people get frustrated because you haven’t made a decision yet on some things. But I just say this: there’s sponsors involved, so many relationships involved, you’re trying to get through all that and work it all out,” Gibbs said. “Yeah, I think honestly that’s part of Erik’s world. It doesn’t go easy sometimes. He knows. I keep him updated; we do. He knows we’re working as hard as we can. Hopefully, it will be one of those things will get put in place here pretty quick.”

The statement continued the on-going trend of leaving the current driver of the No. 20 without a solid plan for the future.

Now, it is very possible Jones, regardless of what happens with the Bell situation, stays inside the Gibbs/Toyota family, with some suggesting that an opening at Leavine Family Racing could be where one of the two drivers ends up.

However, does Jones even deserved to be bumped from his ride? No, he does not, and his numbers prove that.

Now, it’s easy to point to Jones’ win column and say his only win has come at a superspeedway; but, that’s not exactly fair to Jones, especially when you compare him to other drivers that have recently come into the sport.

William Byron, who was dominant in Xfinity, still has not won a race at NASCAR’s highest level.

Ryan Blaney has only won twice, and one of those wins was essentially handed to him thanks to the last-lap chaos at the ROVAL.

Chase Elliott, only started to find his winning ways in his third full-time season, and still has not become a regular fixture upfront yet.

All of these drivers are considered the next big things of the sport, and they all have shown that they need time to develop like Jones, but it’s not just that. Jones has statistically been better than of all of them this season, with more top-five’s and more top-10’s, with only Elliott ahead of him in points.

Yet, for some reason, Jones is being considered a bust by some and has a significant chance of being replaced at season’s end by a driver that would also likely need time to develop before being able to win races on a regular occurrence.

This should not be the case, and it could be argued that if he was able to enter the market, he would be in high demand. Jones is a young driver, that has proven that he can run up front on a weekly basis. What kind of team would not want that?

In fact, if a move to LFR is his only option with the Toyota camp, it could very easily be argued that Jones should weigh his options and maybe see if other teams, like a Stewart-Haas Racing that has aging drivers or a Team Penske who could field a fourth car, would be interested in his services.

This is not to say Bell does not belong in Cup, because he does, but Jones should not be shoved aside so quickly with the potential and promise that he has proven to hold.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jones Looking To Get Back into Playoffs

JOLIET, Illinois — Sunday’s Camping World 400 was a race that left something to be desired for Erik Jones, who ended the day in the seventh position.

The afternoon started with a climb to the front that wasn’t fast enough for the No. 20, who finished Stage 1 in 13th, without any points earned. It would not get any better in Stage 2, as Jones would actually fall two positions to 15th, and again failed to help his effort to make the playoffs.

Stage 3 though would prove to be their best run of the day, as they were finally able to get into the top-10 before seeing a checkered flag to bring a close to his day.

“Yeah, I mean it was up and down,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “We ran up front there at the end, but it took time to get back there. We had a bad run, second to the last run and lost some track position. But overall a good day, overall the Camrys fast, the thing is probably a top five-ish car but just couldn’t quite get back there the last run. So, a solid day for us and felt pretty good overall with it, but just need a little bit more.”

On a positive note for the No. 20 team, the problem-filled day did end with a shorter gap between 17th and the cutoff, as they are currently 15 points outside

“Well you know I think we’ve got to keep improving our stuff,” Jones said. “It looks like the Hendrick cars were really fast this weekend and we’re going to have to keep working to keep up with them. So, you know a different type of race track, a mile and a half wide, Chicago is kind of its own animal and takes it a little bit different race package to run well here. So we just need to keep working on it, and keep getting it better and figure out what we need to do to get up and compete with the top couple guys.”

Next weekend, he will look to repeat as the winner of the Coke Zero Sugar 400, where he will again need to have a strong day and hope for the best as he tries to close that gap to those inside top-16.  With the veteran experience of around the cutoff in Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, Jones will be forced to put off his best in an effort to make a playoff push.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Kevin Harvick Loses Championship 4 Lock with Texas Penalty

Following the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend, NASCAR handed down four separate penalties in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and Camping World Truck Series combined.

The No. 4 Ford of Kevin Harvick was found in violation of Section 20.4.12.a & b of the rule book, which pertains to rear spoiler of the car. The rule states, “vehicle spoiler must conform to the CAD file and drawing. Spoilers must be used exactly as supplied from the manufacturer.” 

As a result, crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $75,000, with both Childers and car chief Robert Smith suspended from the next two Cup Series events. Additionally, they lost 40 driver points and owner points, with the victory at Texas Motor Speedway no longer locking him into the Championship 4 or to be used in a tie-breaking scenario.

“It is not our desire to issue any penalties but will do so when necessary to ensure each race and championship is contested on a level playing field,” NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said.

Harvick will enter the final race of the Round of 8 ranked eighth on the grid, now three points above the cut-off line. 

Stewart-Haas Racing will not appeal the penalty, but rather focus efforts towards the final two races.

“We work tirelessly across every inch of our racecars to create speed and, unfortunately, NASCAR determined we ventured into an area not accommodated by its rule book,” SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli said Wednesday in a statement. “We will not appeal the penalty. Instead, we will direct our immediate focus to this weekend’s event in Phoenix and control our destiny on the race track.”

Additionally, the No. 12 Ford of Ryan Blaney was found in violation of Section 20.4.17.6.b of the rule book, which pertains to the crush panels. The rule states, “all filler panels must remain permanently attached for the entire event.”

As a result, crew chief Jeremy Bullins was fined $50,000, with car chief Kirk Almquist suspended from the next two Cup Series events, and a loss of 20 driver and owner points. 

Additionally, the No. 20 Toyota of Erik Jones was found in violation of Section 20.4.h & 20.4.17.8.b of the rule book, which pertains to the package tray. The rule states, “air cannot pass from one area of the vehicle interior to another. Vehicle package tray must remain flat and straight, front to back, with one break.”

As a result, crew chief Chris Gayle was fined $50,000, with car chief Jason Overstreet suspended from the next two Cup Series events, and a loss of 20 driver and owner points.

Additionally, the No. 35 truck of Brennan Poole was found in violation of Section 20.3.4 of the rule book, which pertains to the Ballast Containers. The rule states, “loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle.”

As a result, crew chief Ryan Bell, truck chief Jerry Kennedy, and mechanic Patrick Magee have been suspended for the next three Truck races, which includes the 2019 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Erik Jones takes The Pole for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoff Opener

LAS VEGAS – Before Friday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series knockout qualifying session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Erik Jones considered himself a sleeper entering the first race of the Playoffs.

That was before the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota announced his presence by winning the pole for Sunday’s opening postseason race, the South Point 400.

Jones toured the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway in 28.705 seconds (188.121 mph) to earn his first Busch Pole Award of the season and the second of his career by .003 seconds over Team Penske driver Joey Logano (188.101 mph).

“I knew we had a good car in practice, but I didn’t know if we’d get the pole,” Jones said. “The track kind of came to us, and I thought I knew what we needed to do adjustment-wise. We got the (car) where it needed to be and put together a really good lap.

“You can’t start them off any better than that. We have a long ways to go this weekend but we got the speed to do it… I feel like we’ve been kind of under the radar. We’ve been running really well, and we’ve just got to put it together for one really good race. I think we can do that. We’re one to watch.”

Jones’ JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, qualified third at 187.624 mph, followed by Kyle Busch (187.402 mph) and Kevin Harvick (187.396 mph), as Playoff drivers claimed the top 11 starting positions. The only interloper to make the final round was Jamie McMurray, who ended up 12th after hard contact with the outside wall on his money lap.

With Playoff driver Brad Keselowski having won the last two races and Logano showing excellent speed in all three qualifying rounds, Logano said he was encouraged by his performance in time trials.

“I feel like the field’s pretty close, and I feel comfortable about my car,” Logano said. “I think the Penske cars are all fairly quick, and we’ll work on it some more (in Saturday’s practice).”

Penske teammate Ryan Blaney was sixth fastest in the final round. Keselowski will start 13th after failing to advance to the final round by .001 seconds. In addition to Keselowski, Playoff drivers who will start outside the top 12 are: Clint Bowyer (15th), Aric Almirola (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Austin Dillon (18th).

Playoff drivers Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson occupy the seventh through 11th positions on the starting grid, respectively. Truex and Kyle Busch each had to make two runs in Round 2 to bump their way into the final 12.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jones Easing into Playoffs with Consistency

LAS VEGAS, Nev — For the first time in his young career, Erik Jones is a part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

A win in July at Daytona International Speedway locked him in the field of 16, a year after coming up short with Furniture Row Racing.

“Playoffs, you know are a big goal for us in the Cup Series, overall just to make it,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “I feel good about it, I’m excited, we’ve been on a good run for the last month and a half, some good consistency, top-10’s, top-five’s, and being in contention for races late. We just got to continue on that path. Definitely excited for the playoffs and, it’s fun to be a part of the championship hunt and have a shot at it.”

While it is Jones’ first time in the playoffs, he may avoid the struggles with inexperience as shown skill in 2018 has legitimized himself with his consistency being an example of the success he is capable of.

Since Michigan in June, the 22-year-old has finished outside the top-10 twice, with his worst being a 16th place finish coming at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Additionally, he has captured five top-five’s in the period, his most recent coming at earlier this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored a runner-up to Brad Keselowski.

Could this recent success be enough to soften the tension of chasing a title?

“I think it does ease the pressure a little bit,” Jones said. “Definitely wouldn’t feel as good if we were coming off a bad month and starting the playoffs off right now. But, having a month and a half of solid runs, running in the top-10 pretty consistently and it’s just rolled. Week to week, race to race, we’ve been able to carry that. We’ve done a good job of growing as a team and fixing and improving things that we needed to work on throughout the year and hopefully we can continue that.”

While it may seem like the odds wouldn’t favor this Joe Gibbs Racing driver, the numbers do. If the consistency can keep going, the No. 20 will be in the hunt for a spot in final four and a championship.

Jones will start his playoff run as the 10th seed, with a two-point advantage over the first-round cutoff. Though, a repeat performance this weekend of his spring run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he qualified ninth and finished eighth, could provide him with some more cushion.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Erik Jones Showing Strength As Playoffs Get Closer

We have seen the dominance of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr, but is there another Toyota driver that can contend for a championship?

In the last seven races, Erik Jones has proven his worth at Joe Gibbs Racing. He has scored six top-10’s which included a fifth this past weekend at Watkins Glen International, and his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Daytona International Speedway.

His average finish in the last six races has been the second-best in the series, only behind Truex. Also in that time span, he has been the third-best regarding starting position.

Yes, the No. 20 has gotten hot during this summer stretch and may be looking at more positives to come. The next three races, Michigan International Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Darlington Raceway, proved to be some of Jones best last season. He finished in the top-five in each of the races, and do not forget contended for the win at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” and leading 250-laps before placing second.

If Jones can repeat the success he had at these places, maybe capture another win and add in a solid run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he will head into his first playoffs with a lot of momentum.

Could he even be a championship contender?

Why not?

While he may not have as many wins as Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex, the Michigan-native has shown that he can hang with the best of the sport on a weekly basis, something not a lot of his competition can say right now.

It is also worth remembering that four drivers get a chance at the title. Meaning, even if the “big three” dominate and win all of the races, there will still be another driver in the fight, and if his consistency keeps up, it could easily be Jones.

Now, the argument could be made that his lack of playoff experience could be his downfall, especially considering the number of veterans who will be in the field of 16.

Fair, however, this is someone driving for one of the best teams in the sport who has the stats that legitimize him as a threat. It would be foolish to think that Jones couldn’t be a sleeper to find a way to succeed.

It is also worth noting that he has shown strength in these types of scenarios before. In his first full season in the Camping World Truck Series, he won the championship. His only experience in the XFINITY Series playoffs earned him a trip to the final four.

Jones has proven himself before, he’s showing his strength now, and while the playoffs are still a ways off, this is a driver that will need to be taken seriously come September.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

WAID’S WORLD: Jones Newest Member Of NASCAR’s Young First-Timers

Erik Jones’ victory in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway broke up a bit of the monopoly and monotony of the 2018 Monster Series NASCAR Cup season.

Four drivers dominated the first 17 races of the season. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer combined to win 15 events. It wasn’t the kind of stuff that rivets fan attention.

But along comes Jones at Daytona. The newcomer to Joe Gibbs racing, and Busch’s teammate, won the first Cup race of his career in his 57th start.

Now, a quick point. The race was indeed a wreck fest and there is the opinion that Jones would not have won if some other drivers – including Busch and Harvick – had not been crippled or sidelined in a couple of major incidents.

Admittedly, that is a logical assumption. But Jones’ victory is not tainted in any way. He was a survivor who put himself in contention for victory.

As the old racing adage goes, “To finish first, first you must finish.”

Another quick point: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was involved in several melees and created two of them, was not a very popular man in the garage area.

 The situation was so intense that Stenhouse Jr., who was a target for ridicule and disdain if we go by social media, received a protective escort out of the track.

Stenhouse Jr. admitted he was the cause of a couple of incidents. But he did not admit guilt to anything. He said it was the unfortunate result of hard racing.

Fair enough. But it’s not likely his popularity is going to rise very soon. As one wag posted, “Stenhouse, table for one!”

Back to Jones: The driver acted like an exuberant kid after his victory. And why not? After all, it was his first career win and he IS an exuberant kid.

Jones was 22 years, one month and seven days old when he won at Daytona. Having such a young winner in a Cup race is not a new thing, but it is rare.

There were very few drivers who won a race before they were 24 years old during the 1950s and 60s, NASCAR’s pioneer days.

But interestingly, two of them went on to enjoy spectacular careers that led to their enshrinement in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Junior Johnson was 23 years old when he won his first career race at Hickory in 1950.

Richard Petty was 22 years and seven months old when he won at the Charlotte Fairgrounds in 1960.

The popular Glen “Fireball” Roberts was just 21 when he won his first race in 1950 at Hillsboro. N.C.

Terry Labonte of Corpus Christi, Tex., was 23 years, nine months old when he won the Southern 500 at Darlington in 1980.

I covered that race and just like all the other members of the media, I knew nothing about Labonte. He was a very quiet sort.

But so was the press box when Labonte zipped past David Pearson to win the race. I mean, it was deathly quiet. Everyone was stunned.

Finally a voice rang out, “Boys I think Terry Labonte just won the race.”

He would win a lot more along with two championships.

Bobby Hillin Jr. was a surprise first-time winner at 22 years of age when he won at Talladega in 1986.

That Gordon won his first race in Charlotte at age 22 years, nine months surprised no one.

In the 21st century NASCAR has seen a sizable handful of drivers who have won their first race at a tender young age. This comes a no surprise, really, given the increased number of youngsters who have received competitive rides.

Kyle Busch was 20 years old when he won for the first timer at Fontana in 2005. So was Trevor Bayne when he was victorious in the Daytona 500 of 2011.

Brian Vickers was 22 when he won at Talladega in 2006. Kurt Busch was only a year older when he won at Bristol in 2002 as was Ryan Blaney when he won at Pocono in 2017 and Chris Buescher when he took the checkered flag, again at Pocono, in 2016.

In 2016 Kyle Larson won at Michigan at age 24.

The youngest winner of them all is Joey Logano, whose first career win came at New Hampshire at age 19 in 2009.

It’s nine years later and Logano is now 28 years old. He still looks 19.

Now, Jones joins the ranks of NASCAR’s youngest winners.

I think he is in pretty darn good company.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.