Keeping up with Jones
NEWTON – Rookie Erik Jones has made winning look easy in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Jones’ success is even more remarkable given that he’s had to race without his father, who died of cancer just a month ago.
Jones retook the lead from Ty Dillon with 16 laps to go and won Saturday night at Iowa Speedway for his third victory of the season.
Jones led a race-high 154 of 250 laps, but it took a late inside move for Jones to overcome Dillon for his first win since his father Dave died in June at just 53.
“It’s special for me to get back into Victory Lane without him. I know he was riding along with us, and it’s hard not to think that this one was for him,” Jones said. “I know he’s definitely smiling down on us.”
Brad Keselowski was the only Sprint Cup driver in the field, leaving Iowa wide-open for an Xfinity regular to snatch a victory. But Jones remains the only series driver with more than one of those in 2016.
Dillon, seeking his first victory since Indianapolis in 2014, finished second. He’s winless in 66 races.
“I wanted to win so bad and that was all we had,” Dillon said. “Man, my heart has been broken every race since Indy. I want to get in Victory Lane again. We’re close. It’s just that we need to get a little bit better.”
Elliott Sadler was third, followed by Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong.
Keselowski, who will start seventh Sunday in Pocono in Pennsylvania in the Cup race, was eighth.
Daniel Suarez, the series leader entering the race, failed to finish because of damage to the No. 19 car.
Jones came to Iowa with the comfort of knowing that he’s already locked into the inaugural Xfinity Chase later this season.
It was clear from the opening lap that the No. 20 car would be one the field would be chasing.
Suarez won his second pole of the season earlier Saturday. But Jones grabbed the lead before the end of the first turn and dominated the first half of the race.
Three cautions within the space of 10 laps threatened to shake thing up, but Jones quickly jumped back ahead.
Jones couldn’t win all the restarts though, as Dillon caught him with a quick pit stop about 100 laps before the finish. Dillon continued to pad his lead as the laps progressed, but the stress Dillon put on his car proved to be overwhelming.
“I did all I could I to keep him behind me, and it just wore my stuff out a little more than I needed to,” Dillon said.
Jones’ margin of victory was nearly four seconds – and the rest of the field finished at least 10 seconds behind him.
“I was really working as hard as I could to get around Ty. Man, it was tough,” said Jones, who was 27th in the June race at Iowa. “I feel like we deserved to win when he came here earlier this year. We really had a fast car. It’s nice to get some redemption.”