Race Weekend Central

Highs and Lows Clash for Joe Gibbs Racing in Michigan

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” reads the opening to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

For Joe Gibbs Racing‘s NASCAR XFINITY Series program, no statement could be truer after a hot Saturday in the Irish Hills.

On one side, second-year NXS driver Daniel Suarez overcame an early speeding penalty and overtook Kyle Busch on the final lap of Saturday’s Menards 250 Presented by Valvoline to claim his first NXS victory, as well as the first for a Mexican national driver in the series.

20 times over the least two seasons Suarez found himself inside of the top five, coming just short of victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series.

19 times he watched from behind as his teammates earned victories in races he competed in.

Suarez needed 19 NCWTS starts and 48 NXS starts to claim the victory, but on a hot Saturday in the Irish Hills of Michigan, the NXS points leader finally found victory lane, overcoming his mentor – Busch – in the process.

“For so many races, we’ve been super strong, but for whatever reason we just didn’t have it in the end,” said Suarez. ”

“Kyle has been helpful to me, not just in the [NXS], but in the [NCWTS]. Since last year, he has started to support me a lot, to give me information and advice,” said Suarez. “But today, a lot of things went out way, we were able to be super strong.

“He’s just been a good friend, so for me to be able to have to opportunity to go out there and race him hard… he went to victory lane and told me he was very proud of the way I did it, clean and aggressive.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Erik Jones finished fourth in the first race since the passing of his father, Dave Jones.

While the news wasn’t announced until Saturday, Jones lost his father to a battle with cancer on Tuesday, June 7. Jones broke the news with a heartfelt tribute shortly before Saturday’s race.

Given the circumstances, Jones wouldn’t have been blamed for skipping Saturday’s race, but the Byron, Michigan native continued on with the support of the NASCAR community.

An emotional Jones honored his father at his home track, placing the name “Dave” where Erik’s name would typically sit above the cockpit. Jones embraced his mother before the race, attempting to control his emotions, and then sat behind the wheel for what had to be a difficult 250 miles.

Starting second, Jones overtook pole sitter Alex Bowman on lap 12 and proceeded to lead 18 laps throughout the event before finishing fourth behind his JGR teammates and Paul Menard.

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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