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MENCS: Jones snags first victory in thrilling fashion

(MRN) Erik Jones crashed the season-long party being hosted by NASCAR’s so-called “Big Three” on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, smoothly executing a last-lap pass of Martin Truex Junior to notch the first Cup Series win in his fifty seven starts. Jones qualified twenty-ninth in the forty-car field, finished outside the top ten in each of the first two stages and led only the final lap of the race. But he was in position to zip past Truex after managing two overtime restarts that carried the race eight laps past its scheduled distance. Jones is only the second driver not named “Truex, Busch or Harvick” to win a Cup Series race in the last ten weeks. That trio of Truex, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick had combined to win thirteen of the year’s first seventeen races. Jones’ win this weekend will, at least temporarily, change the narrative as the 2018 Monster Energy Series heads into its second half.

While Truex came home in second place on Saturday, Harvick and Busch were victimized by two of the ten yellow flags that left just half of the field running at the finish. Busch was sidelined in a seven-car crash during the second stage that left him with a thirty-third-place finish. Harvick was caught up in a nine-car melee in overtime that produced the final caution period of the night and saddled him with a nineteenth-place finish.

The carnage yielded a number of names that do not regularly fill the top ten: A-J Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman.

NASCAR CUP SERIES

Top 10 Finishers in the Coke Zero Sugar 400

DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED

1. Erik Jones (29) 1

2. Martin Truex Jr. (13) 20

3. A-J Allmendinger (24) 1

4. Kasey Kahne (28) 17

5. Chris Buescher (25) —

6. Ty Dillon (19) 3

7. Matt DiBenedetto (31) —

8. Ryan Newman (7) 1

9. Austin Dillon (10) —

10. Alex Bowman (2) 1

RACE NOTES …

Both Monster Energy Series races run at Daytona International Speedway this season ended with a last-lap pass for victory and in each case, the winning driver led only the final lap. In February, Austin Dillon bumped Aric Almirola out of the way to claim victory and on Saturday night, it was Erik Jones making a clean pass of Martin Truex Junior to post his first series win … Ricky Stenhouse Junior was involved in a number of the on-track incidents Saturday that led to ten yellow flags. As a result, NASCAR reportedly arranged a security detail for Stenhouse as he moved through the garage area after the race – in which he finished seventeenth after leading a race-high fifty-one laps.

NASCAR CUP SERIES Playoff Push After 18 Races

1. Kyle Busch 5 Wins and 30 Playoff Points

2. Kevin Harvick 5 Wins and 27 Playoff Points

3. M. Truex Jr. 3 Wins and 18 Playoff Points

4. Clint Bowyer 2 Wins and 10 Playoff Points

5. Joey Logano 1 Win and 7 Playoff Points

6. Austin Dillon 1 Win and 5 Playoff Points

7. Erik Jones 1 Win and 5 Playoff Points

WINLESS DRIVERS POINTS

8. Brad Keselowski 596

9. Kurt Busch 566

10. Kyle Larson 544

11. Denny Hamlin 538

12. Aric Almirola 503

13. Ryan Blaney 496

14. Jimmie Johnson 461

15. Chase Elliott 444

16. Alex Bowman 426

****

17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -19

18. Paul Menard -55

19. Ryan Newman -94

20. Daniel Suarez -108

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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