NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Erik Jones Earns 1st Career Victory in Chaotic Coke Zero Sugar 400

Erik Jones held off Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap of a wild Coke Zero Sugar 400 to take his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win. The No. 20 Toyota outlasted a Survivor-type race that had fans asking one simple question for the final NASCAR Overtime.

Who was left?

Just 20 of 40 cars were still running at the end of a Daytona International Speedway demolition derby. Multiple Big Ones, beginning on lap 54 collected all but a handful of cars, leaving multiple contenders sitting inside the garage area. Winner Jones was in one of those wrecks, losing a lap at one point during the race.

KOELLE: TWO WRECKS COLLECT 32 CARS BEFORE END OF STAGE TWO

As contenders fell down, that left Truex seemingly in control, the No. 78 team positioned for their first restrictor plate victory. But during the final restart, a resurgent Jones was able to push ahead of Truex. He then held off AJ Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne to earn the first MENCS win of his career.

“Today was not a day that I necessarily thought was going to be our day,” Jones said. “I just didn’t.  We were laying back and dropping back and at one point, we had to repair quite a bit of damage and went a lap down.  I didn’t give up at that point, but thought, OK, we’ve really got to do our best to salvage a solid day.

“But as the race started winding down, we just kind of kept bumping up.  We were 15th, then we were 12th, then we were seventh, then we were fourth and then we were second. It kind of kept inching forward, and on the last restart, I was like, we’ve got a legitimate shot at this point.

“It was just one of those days when you don’t think you have a shot to win and you end up winning, the excitement level is just 100 times higher than the days where you have dominated and feel like you should win the race.”

Truex held off challengers for his second runner-up Daytona finish. It was another heartbreaker two-plus years after losing by inches to Denny Hamlin in the Daytona 500.

“I have to get better at the blocking,” he admitted. “It never has been my strong suit. Without question, I struggled a bit seeing the runs coming. Me and my team are trying to figure that out together.”

Allmendinger, Kahne and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-five finishers. Ty Dillon earned his first career top 10 in sixth, followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Newman, Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman. A “Who’s That” of drivers were 11th, 12th & 13th: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Brendan Gaughan and DJ Kennington.

Those drivers held on in what became a game of survival. At first, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would continue to show his dominance on superspeedways, blowing by pole sitter Chase Elliott and winning a wreck-free first stage.

But for Stenhouse, his eventful night was just beginning… and the crashes dragged along right with it.

On lap 54, Stenhouse, Brad Keselowski and William Byron entered Turn 3 racing for the lead. Byron was leading while Stenhouse was pushing Keselowski and when a car gets pushed at just the tiniest of spots, it spins.

That wreck came at the front of the field, collecting a whopping 26 cars. Contenders like pole sitter Elliott, Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin were all out of the race before they were able to earn stage points.

Keselowski felt rookie Byron caused the wreck by coming down into his line on the backstretch, causing him to lift.

“I made the mistake of lifting instead of just driving through him and that’s my fault,” he said. “I know better than that. I’ve got to wreck more people and then they’ll stop blocking me late and behind like that. We’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”

When the race went back to green, aggression continued to boil over into wrecks. Stenhouse hooked Kyle Busch into Byron in the middle of Turns 3 and 4. Busch hit the outside wall hard while Byron got turned by Jamie McMurray. The incident would take out Busch, Byron, McMurray and Corey LaJoie, all before the end of stage two.

“You always come to Daytona waiting to crash and figure out when or where, and hope you can walk away from it,” Busch said. “That’s really frustrating and disappointing to have to race these races like that.”

With a majority of the field on the hook or with damage from those two accidents, Stenhouse’s bumper cleared his major competition. The No. 17 Ford won the second stage with ease.

But Lady Luck would finally catch up to last year’s Daytona winner. After green-flag pit stops had almost cycled through, Kyle Larson lost a tire in Turns 3 and 4. As Larson spun, Stenhouse had nowhere to go and ended up also spinning with Larson. The No. 17 would receive minimal damage, continuing on but the loss of track position was costly.

That left the race wide open. Underdogs like Kahne took their turn up front with Cinderella stories like Michael McDowell and Kennington driving inside the top five. At one point, the part-timer Kennington was a potential contender for victory before spinning down the backstretch and causing a caution with 15 laps left.

On the restart, Stenhouse made contact with Aric Almirola in the pack, causing a tire rub that was a ticking time bomb. His car finally gave way on the frontstretch, spinning down the track and into the grass. From this point, Stenhouse couldn’t rebound and he’d finish a disappointing 17th.

Next, there was a wreck that caused NASCAR Overtime and knocked out a number of underdogs. Joey Gase got loose in the entrance of Turn 3, causing McDowell and Almirola to sandwich the wall. McDowell led a career-high 20 laps but would be relegated to 26th in the final rundown.

KOELLE: McDOWELL HAS BEST RACE OF CUP CAREER AT DAYTONA

Then, as the field was coming to the white flag, Clint Bowyer would get hooked by Darrell Wallace Jr. as Bowyer was running fifth. The crash took out Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Wallace, Trevor Bayne and others.

The red flag would be displayed for a total of five minutes and one second, ultimately setting up the second overtime finish.

With the field depleted, the race came down to who could get the best push in the end. Jones took off with the lead, besting Truex and that was all she wrote from there.

“When we got clear of the 78, I knew we were in a pretty good spot because he didn’t have a lot of help after that,” he said. “Everybody had strung out a little bit from what I could see from my seat and watching it back.  You know, once we got off Turn 4, I felt like there was — it was highly unlikely unless we had a pretty severe failure that we were going to get passed. That was pretty exciting at that moment and pretty cool to come down and close it out.”

It was the youngster’s first victory in his 57th start and the first in the No. 20 Toyota. Jones took the ride with high expectations after replacing Matt Kenseth but has had an inconsistent season to this point.

“You feel the pressure,” he said. “I definitely feel like this race, this win has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders.”

COKE ZERO SUGAR 400 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Kentucky Speedway next weekend for the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart. Truex is the defending race winner for the event, slated to go live on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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kb

….Attrition thanks to Stinkhouse, primarily and other factors. Now the blah, blah, blah about ERIK will commence this week how great he was. LOL. Let is see what awaits the rest of the season…ERIK WHO? The race was a horror show.

David Edwards

The only thing that made last night the least interesting were the wrecks. And I went to sleep on the couch before the end so had no idea how it ended. Those two sentences sum up Nascar in 2018.

SmarterThanYo

Then you must have been mightily entertained because the wrecks happened so frequently thanks to the incompetent drivers up front. But that’s what NASCAR wants – demo derbies instead of races, no-talent drivers determining the outcome of races and championships. There was a lot of criticism when the JGR cars ran their own little draft at the back of the field a few years ago, but that seems like the only strategy that the top drivers can employ to avoid the mayhem that morons like Stenhouse and Byron and Wallace caused.

David Edwards

No I don’t find them entertaining which is why I went to sleep on the couch. Just round and round waiting for the wreck.
There is a reason even soccer fans get more excited than Nascar fans.

Midasmicah

Nice evening for a demolition derby. Another plate race, another wreck fest. The race was won by default.

Carl D.

Keep in mind it’s not Nascar’s assets that are being destroyed. The race teams are contractors for hire. Nascar doesn’t lose a dime when a driver tears up a car, they just get footage to use to promote the next RP race.

Bobby DK

Watched the last few laps and caught the highlights, but these races are ridiculous. Being self employed myself, tell me what other company in the world is so willing to throw assets and money away like that? To risk the health and safety of their employees? Does the purse even come close to the cost of the destruction? The gate revenue?

Mike

In what sane world was that racing? In what sane world was it entertaining?

Bill B

The race was a joke (as all restrictor plate races are) but if the goal is to have people watch, you know what they say about train wrecks.

We have 4 RP races a year and they are bearable and even interesting because of their scarcity. I can’t fathom how things will be if they go ahead with the plan to use RPs at 1.5 mile tracks. It will be pointless to watch crapshoot, wreckfest races if they become the norm. I don’t want t see back marker drivers winning by default. I want to see the best win because they are the best.

Carl D.

Amen, Bill.

rg72

I wonder at what point you see teams that have won races and therefore qualified for the hokey playoffs start and park in these events to keep car and driver healthy.

SmarterThanYo

Or running their own little draft at the back of the pack like the JGR drivers did a few years ago. That was widely criticized, but now it seems like the smartest thing for the top teams and drivers to do. This is what you get with “parity,” incompetent drivers at the front of the field driving like drunken cowboys and getting away with it.

Yeah, put the plates on for more races and pretty soon, you not only will have no fans, you will have no drivers except the backmarkers either. I keep saying it, but the backmarkers are in inferior equipment because they are inferior drivers. Saturday night proved my point once again. Are you listening, Amy?

Ricardo

The team fabricators love the wreckfests. Come Monday morning they have lots of job security building more cars.

DoninAjax

At least it wasn’t just Bubba’s fault alone.

DoninAjax

Every time I tuned I found it hilarious. Just what Brian wants.Everybody knew it would be a GWC with more cars destroyed.

Could someone explain to me how a nineteen car draft runs 192 MPH and Truex running five seconds back runs 195? And catches the field in two laps and gets halfway through the field until he realizes how questionable it is and stops going forward for a while? And try to convince me he didn’t let Jones win!

SmarterThanYo

Yeah, last night not only showcased the incompetence of some NASCAR drivers, but raised the question – again – of just how fixed this sport really is! But hey, give us parity at all costs!

DoninAjax

And Erik got a free pass.

SmarterThanYo

One of my favorite series of commercials featured actor Dean Winter as MAYHEM to advertise All-State Insurance. All-State should quickly sign Ricky Stenhouse up for the part and get him out of the race car before he kills somebody – or somebody kills him in retaliation.

Bobby DK

Hey NASCAR ! Here’s a thought for all future plate tracks. Give every team the same V6 engine block, min/ max weight of vehicle, and let them go hog wild! They will all catch up to anyone that becomes too dominate. And a pox on NBC if they use videos of these ” Big Ones” to promote future races. Grinds my gears.

kb

I wonder the final fincaincil carnage to the Teams pocketbook caused by Stinkhouse? That was just awful.

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