Erik Jones pushed Martin Truex Jr. to the lead on the race’s penultimate restart. He took the lead from Truex after the race’s final restart and pulled away to win his first career Cup Series race Saturday night at Daytona.
Jones, Truex and others were survivors of a serious race of attrition. Four massive wrecks marred the race and just 13 of the 40 cars that started the race finished on the lead lap.
Hell, Jones’ car barely survived. His car had serious damage on the right rear.
“I thought we were out of it and we were right back in it.” Jones, 22, said after the race.
One of the big wrecks in the race came to set up Jones’ pass of Truex. The 2017 champion was clear of the field heading to the white flag when Clint Bowyer’s car got hooked into the wall. That set off a multi-car accident and caused another overtime finish.
How Jones got the win
Jones had pushed Truex to that lead on the restart a lap before the crash. Bowyer couldn’t get hooked up with race leader Kevin Harvick — who had a beat-up car himself — and Jones pushed Truex clear of the two Fords on the inside line.
Jones then restarted alongside Truex on the race’s final restart. Kasey Kahne made a daring move for the lead on turns 1 and 2 after the restart but Jones got a push from Chris Buescher down the backstretch and whipped around Kahne and Truex for the win.
Jones is in his second season in the Cup Series and his first with Joe Gibbs Racing. He moved to Cup up from JGR’s Xfinity Series team in 2016 and sent the 2017 season as a teammate to Truex. JGR then replaced Matt Kenseth with Jones in the No. 20 car for 2018.
Jones is now in the playoffs
The victory means Jones is the seventh different winner in 18 races in 2018 and the seventh different driver to lock up a playoff berth. Jones was probably safe on points to make the playoffs had he not gotten a win, but he now doesn’t have to worry about that.
Race went 8 laps long thanks to wrecks
Jones’ win came after the second overtime attempt. The first attempt ended with Bowyer’s crash and was set up by a four-car wreck on lap 155. That wreck involving Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Gase was the seventh wreck or spin of the evening.
The biggest crash of the night happened in the middle of stage 2 on lap 54 when Brad Keselowski got turned off the bumper of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when Keselowski went to pass William Byron for the lead.
Keselowski called Byron’s move a “late, bad block” and laid the sarcasm on thick after the crash.
“I made the mistake of lifting instead of just driving through him and that’s my fault,” Keselowski 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. That’s my fault. I’ll take the credit for my team and we’ll go to Talladega and we’ll wreck everybody that throws a bad block like that.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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