JOLIET, Ill. — Report by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America photo —
What a week to remember for 19-year-old Erik Jones.
The Joe Gibbs Racing development driver won the Battle at Berlin 251 super late model race in Michigan before heading Friday to Iowa Speedway to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Jones finally got the monkey off his back by scoring the victory at Iowa for his first NCWTS win on the season, while Drew Herring shook down the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry Friday for two XFINITY Series practices at Chicagoland Speedway. The car was quick in practice, and it showed Sunday afternoon as Jones added another trophy for JGR in the NXS race.
“It’s pretty awesome to get this Monster Energy Toyota back in victory lane,” Jones said. “It’s two weeks in a row for these guys. That’s three wins this week for me. It was a rough-go for a while, but we came back and we’re back at it now and cool to be back here.”
Jones didn’t turn a single lap at Chicagoland until qualifying Saturday afternoon and put the No. 54 Toyota in the 11th spot. It only took the regular NCWTS competitor 39 laps to take the lead and led a race-high 94 laps during the rain-postponed Owens Corning AttiCat 300.
The win didn’t come easy, as Jones made the winning pass on Ryan Blaney with 11 laps to go. Blaney inherited the lead after 22 cars came down pit road for a stop while the pits were still closed. The red light was on at the entrance and the flagman was still waving the red-and-yellow crossed flag, as Blaney and a few other drivers stayed on the track. The message was relayed to the spotters that the pits were open, but the rule is that NASCAR goes by the lights and the flagman on pit road.
Nevertheless, Blaney tied his season-best finish with a runner-up in Sunday afternoon’s race.
“We struggled with restarts,” Blaney said. “It took about 15, 20 laps to finally get going and I thought we were the best car once we got going. It just took so long to get there and we lose so much ground.”
The Penske Racing driver started in the rear after crashing his primary car during the second round of qualifying Saturday.
“I hurt us real bad wrecking our primary car during qualifying and for them to come out here and pull a back-up out and have a car that had a good chance of winning the race speaks a lot to them,” Blaney added. “Definitely not taking anything away from them. It was all my fault and we’ll just move on from here.”
Only one Cup driver showed up to the stand-alone race at the Illinois track. Austin Dillon returned behind the wheel of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet and started on pole. The two other times he started first at a 1.5 mile track, he came home with the win in dominating fashion. Dillon needed one more adjustment on his car, but salvaged a third-place finish in the end.
“We fought loose all day and we finally got on the tight side, but it hurt our front end,” Dillon said. “The Rheem Chevy was a little bit off today from where we needed to win the race, but with track position, you never know, we probably had it.”
All four Richard Childress Racing cars placed inside the top-10, with Dillon leading the bunch with a third. The younger Dillon brother was on the opposite end of the top-10 spectrum, being the worst of the RCR guys in ninth. Brendan Gaughan (fourth) scored his first top-five finish since a runner-up showing in March at Auto Club Speedway.
Like RCR, all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars finished in top-10. Ross Kenseth made his NXS debut Sunday and went from 16th to sixth in the final 23 laps to record a top-10 finish in his first-ever series race. Kenseth started on outside pole and led the first lap of the race in a No. 20 car that has seen victory lane twice this season.
“I thought these guys did a fantastic job, worked on it all day,” Kenseth said. “The first run, we were so tight. I couldn’t get by anybody and worked on it there. At the end, we were really good. I felt like I had a third or fourth-place car, just a little disappointed we didn’t get that top-five.”
“All these guys worked so hard at it and gave me a great car this weekend.”
Daniel Suarez finished seventh in the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota after pulling double-duty in Saturday’s ARCA race there for Venturini Motorspots.
The race saw seven cautions for 39 laps, including a spin by defending race winner Chase Elliott with 23 laps to go. The defending NXS champ came home 14th, right behind his JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who led 18 laps on the day.
FOX Sports is now done for the year with NXS telecasts, as NBC Sports takes over the remainder of the 2015 season with TV coverage and races will be shown either on NBC or NBC Sports Network. The peacock people return July 4 at the Daytona International Speedway for their first broadcast of one of NASCAR’s top-three series of the NXS race for the first time since the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Live coverage for the Subway Firecracker 250 begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
RESULTS: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Owens Corning AttiCat 300; Chicagoland Speedway; June 21, 2015
1. Erik Jones
2. Ryan Blaney
3. Austin Dillon
4. Brendan Gaughan
5. Chris Buescher
6. Ross Kenseth
7. Daniel Suarez
8. Brian Scott
9. Ty Dillon
10. Darrell Wallace Jr.
11. Elliott Sadler
12. Ryan Reed
13. Regan Smith
14. Chase Elliott
15. Ryan Sieg
16. J.J. Yeley
17. Brennan Poole
18. Ross Chastain
19. Jeremy Clements
20. Cale Conley
21. Ben Rhodes
22. Blake Koch
23. T.J. Bell
24. David Starr
25. Harrison Rhodes
26. Eric McClure
27. Peyton Sellers
28. Dakoda Armstromg
29. Jimmy Weller
30. Martin Roy
31. Joey Gase
32. Mike Harmon
33. Josh Reaume
34. Dylan Lupton
35. Derrike Cope
36. Bobby Gerhart
37. Morgan Shepherd
38. John Jackson
39. Matt Frahm
40. Jeff Green