Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Erik Jones Dips & Dives to 1st Career Victory at Daytona

Who’s in the headline

Erik Jones survived the carnage Saturday night (July 7) at Daytona International Speedway. That included eight cautions in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 which involved incidents, including one that gave him damage. But Jones came back from a lap down, breezing through the draft and scored his first career win.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the first two stages before ultimately getting caught up in two separate incidents. His bumper also started the Big One that involved over half the field on lap 54. Darrell Wallace Jr. persevered to a Rookie of the Race honor while 16 leaders swapped the lead 25 times.

For the second time this year at Daytona in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the race winner led only one lap – the last one.

What happened

Hendrick Motorsports once again flashed qualifying speed with Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman sharing the race’s front row. Elliott led the first 10 laps of the event before he and Stenhouse battled side-by-side for two laps, trading the lead three times. Stenhouse held on after the third time and led 30 laps through the conclusion of stage one.

At the beginning of stage two, Paul Menard went around off of the front of Jimmie Johnson‘s car and slid into the backstretch infield. As his car turned backward, Menard’s hood ripped all but off his car. The No. 38 of David Ragan hit Menard as he slid backwards and received some damage but was able to continue.

But the devastation was far from over. Three laps after the restart, Stenhouse hit Brad Keselowski at an odd angle at the end of the backstretch. Keselowski spun from second, caught Kurt Busch who was on the outside in third and started a Big One that sucked in some 26 cars.

After seven laps of cleanup, the race went back green only for another caution to come four laps later. Stenhouse tried to side draft Kyle Busch but hit his left rear, turning him down into the leader, William Byron. That also sent both cars hard into the wall. Seven cars were involved in that caution, which was the last of the stage.


With most top contenders eliminated, Stenhouse ultimately held on to win the second stage as well. Michael McDowell was a suprising second while Alex Bowman and Kasey Kahne cracked the top five.

In the third stage, there were a handful of leaders over the first 35 laps, the most surprising of which was McDowell, who led 19 straight. Pandemonium broke out on lap 124 which saw the first of five caution flags to fly over the remainder of the stage. The first saw Stenhouse’s night and hopes of winning severely hindered.

In all, there were yellow flags on laps 124, 133, 150, 156 and 162 that involved anywhere from one to nine cars. The last of those was the Big One coming to the white flag on the first of two NASCAR Overtime attempts.

Those additional wrecks whittled the field and appeared to put Martin Truex Jr. in control of the race. Indeed, Truex brought the field to the white but it was Jones powering past him. The 22-year-old hung on from there to earn the first win of his young career.


Why you should care

The fact Jones is a Joe Gibbs Racing driver puts the team on par with Stewart-Haas Racing in terms of cars automatically making the playoffs. Both have two in the field with Kyle Busch joining Jones from the JGR stable.

Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch both have the potential to win from each team, respectively but whether they will is yet to be seen. The fact that two teams have four of the seven playoff spots currently locked up is a big deal with only eight races left.

Note that only one playoff spot is locked up by Chevrolet. The manufacturer is making steps in the right direction but they may run out of time.

What your friends are talking about

Friday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race saw Justin Haley disqualified over a yellow line violation coming to the checkered flag. Haley made a bold move from the top to the bottom to pass Elliott Sadler and Kyle Larson. As he cleared them to take the lead, even though there was a car width between Haley and Sadler, his car dipped below the double yellow line. NASCAR almost immediately called it illegal and handed the win to Larson.

Feelings were split among fans. Some felt it was a dumb call since he didn’t have to go down there; he just let the car drive through an opening. The other half felt NASCAR needs big, bad rules and they are glad it was enforced.

Don’t look now but here comes the Supra. Toyota announced at Daytona that, in the XFINITY Series next season, its famous sports car will be the vehicle for all of its teams. Similar to the latest version of the Camry used in Cup, the Toyota Racing Development arm worked with people on the corporate side to meld the racing and production models to best benefit stock car teams going forward. Expect to also see the Supra in Cup within three years.

704games is bringing NASCAR Heat 3 to the masses September 7, 2018 in the United States. The latest version of the popular video game will have all four drivers from the Hendrick Motorsports stable on the cover. The game will also have several expanded features including more racetracks and a deeper career mode.

Tony Stewart will be part of the 2019 class of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. The list of inductees was revealed in Daytona on Friday, July 6. Stewart will join Dario Franchitti, Augie Dusenberg, Kevin Schwantz, Phil Remington, Don Schumacher and Linda Vaughan. The inductees will be enshrined at the annual black tie gala in March 2019 at a yet-to-be-determined location.

Steve Waid will be the recipient of the Squier-Hall Award during the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions in 2019. The longtime NASCAR writer, who has bounced around at several gigs since “retiring,” has been in the garage for half of a century. Waid remains one of the most trusted names in the coverage of the sport.

Who is mad

While most everyone in the world of stock car racing is mad at Stenhouse, he ought to be mad, too. The defending Daytona champ had a dominant car but was taken out when someone else had a mechanical issue and sucked him into it. Stenhouse realizes that his chances at making the playoffs shrank dramatically Saturday night. At this point, he has to hope for a miracle at Bristol.

McDowell has almost zero opportunity to lead a race with underdog team Front Row Motorsports. Saturday, he not only led but was on the precipice of winning the event. He was out front twice for 20 laps and was working back there until getting pulled into someone else’s mess. McDowell got hosed out of a ride with Leavine Family Racing and is now doing the best he can with FRM. The team has always been good at Daytona and McDowell is a great plate racer. He has to be ticked about losing this shot.

Who is happy

AJ Allmendinger has been close at Daytona twice before and did it again Saturday night. A solid top-five effort all night was rewarded with a third-place finish. After the disappointment of Sonoma, this weekend has to be an uplifting turn of events for Allmendinger. The JTG-Daugherty organization in general has to be thrilled with two cars in the top five (Chris Buescher).

Ty Dillon came close to pulling off the same unexpected result at Daytona that brother Austin did this spring. However, it would have been far more improbable based on the history of the No. 13 in NASCAR. The number has one win and nine top fives in 560 career starts for the car. Instead, a sixth-place effort was still one of the 13 best finishes in history for the number. It was also the best result of Dillon’s MENCS career.

When the checkered flag flew

  • Erik Jones won his first career MENCS race in his 57th career start. It’s Jones’ first career win at Daytona and his first win of 2018.
  • On NASCAR’s all-time list, Jones is tied with 61 other drivers for 128th with one win.
  • Martin Truex Jr. came home in the runner-up slot for the second time in his career at Daytona. It’s Truex’s sixth top-two finish of 2018.
  • For his career, Truex has finished second 15 times, which ties him with Speedy Thompson for 54th on NASCAR’s all-time list.
  • Crossing the line third to finish out the podium was AJ Allmendinger. It was Allmendinger’s first top-three performance of the season.
  • Allmendinger has finished on the podium three times at Daytona, all in the third position.
  • In his 353 career starts, Allmendinger has six top-three finishes. That ties him for 130th on the all-time list with Parnelli Jones, Paul Menard and David Ragan, among others.
  • Darrell Wallace Jr. was the Rookie of the Race, finishing 14th. Wallace has won Rookie of the Race eight times this year. William Byron has won it ten times.

Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Erik Jones are the seven race winners in 18 races thus far in 2018. At this point, it is impossible for there to be more than 16 unique winners in the regular season. That means all winners are locked into the playoffs based on winning a race, assuming they attempt the remaining regular season events.

Here are the drivers who would qualify for the playoffs and their associated playoff points.

(Race winners are bolded)

1) Kyle Busch30

2) Kevin Harvick – 27

3) Martin Truex Jr. – 18

4) Joey Logano – 7

5) Brad Keselowski – 4

6) Clint Bowyer10

7) Kurt Busch – 2

8) Kyle Larson – 0

9) Denny Hamlin – 2

10) Aric Almirola – 1

11) Ryan Blaney – 4

12) Jimmie Johnson – 0

13) Erik Jones – 5

14) Chase Elliott – 0

15) Alex Bowman – 0

18) Austin Dillon – 5

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

[poll id=”29″]

If you hate plate racing, you think this race was a one. If you love plate racing, you think it was a six. In the end, it was a first-time win with drama all of the way to the checkered flag. There was carnage for those who enjoy wrecks and some great racing for those who don’t. I give it five ice cold Daytona Beachin’ Summer Ales from Daytona Beach Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week

After the chaos of the last two weeks, we head to another track that provides some crazy racing, even though the surface isn’t that aged. Coverage from Kentucky Speedway begins Saturday night, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart can be seen on NBCSN and streamed on the NBC Sports app. It can also be heard on your local PRN affiliate, www.goprn.com, and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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so is toyota going to start selling the supra at dealerships this fall?

still no help for bowties….are we going to go all year with just toyota and ford winning?

na$car should be happy that no one got seriously injured saturday night.

AF LtCol

Question 1: yes
Question 2: if Chevy had built a better car… that’s what the Chevy fans say when they’re dominant
As to your closing comment, I totally agree


I don’t blame Stenhouse. I blame the buffoons who insist that the 30-some year “temporary” measure remain in place. My heart skipped a beat when I saw Bowyer T-bone the wall. Thank God nascrap insists on HANS and SAFER.

Other than Martinsville, the Firecracker 400 is the first time I’ve watched a race end-to-end this year. And that’s only because our local short track fell victim to the rain storms blowing through the Heart of Dixie.

To borrow a mathematical term, nascar is asymptotically approaching zero. They never quite get there but are darn close.


The demolition derby (aka, plate tracks) continues. With 18 cars left on the track at the end of regulation, whose gonna care? I root for Pendle. With all three taken out early. My interest waned soon. I watched baseball. Every time I checked on the race it was under caution. As usual, NASCAR could care less about what fabs think.


At least you got the event under caution. I usually get a commercial. Then they come back to a caution and then more commercials.


Pendle, that is.


That was not a race; it was a demolition derby and another black eye for NASCAR. Fans love to bash Cup drivers who race in the lower series, but I am offended when incompetent drivers race at the Cup level. And that includes Stenhouse, Byron and Wallace, who combined to take out most of the field and cause a million dollars of damage in the process. NASCAR needs to die and be replaced with a series with real cars, no plates, and far fewer drivers. Kinda like Indy has ended up to be after their disaster with CART and IRL.

It is unfortunate that NASCAR is only asymptotically approaching zero. It needs to reach absolute zero before a stock car series can be put in place that features competent drivers in real cars with NO GIMMICKS. There are probably no more than 15 drivers competent to drive in the “premier series” and I only hope I live long enough to see that come to reality. And I will gladly wave good-bye to Stenhouse, McDowell, Earnhardt, Wallace, Byron, Yeley, Kahne, Suraez, the Dillons, Newman, Bayne, Menard and their peers.

And anyone who defends Stenhouse is as big a moron as he is.


Why with all of your knowledge, why aren’t you racing in cup? Wallace is at times a filling chicane but that’s the equipment. The crash he caused looked to me like he got a shove from DiBenedetto so I can’t hold him totally to blame.


Wallace isn’t hopeless, he just isn’t ready for Cup racing. Same holds true for Byron and Suarez. And knowledge is different from skill. I can barely back out of my driveway without hitting something, but I know good driving when I see it and bad driving when I see it. You are probably right about DiBenedetto. And he will never get any better.

Of the young guns, Blaney and Elliott are competent at the Cup level. And now I have to include Jones, especially since he has the best mentor in the sport in Kyle Busch. That gives Jones a huge advantage over the other young guys who have no one to help them hone their skills.


Jones would hone his skills better if he followed Kyle in the Busch series to see how he dominates in a car that usually can’t pass post-event inspection.


Is it possible, just possible, Wallace is being hindered by the equipment he’s in? Roush has not been the top tier program it once was for a good number of years (in either cup or xfinity) and RPM, well as much as i’m a lifelong Petty fan, we all know he isn’t providing the top level of equipment.


Not that it matters but “BUBBA” did drive for JESUS JOE in the kiddie series and he was the same…So I don’t believe it is the equipment. BUBBA like Ricky are wrecking machines..and both are no producers over the long hall.


I stated when Bubba was picked as the driver that he would give the body shop lots of work. He hasn’t disappointed.


And, of the crashes he’s been involved in, how many were his fault? Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin crashes his car at the start finish line. Coke Zero Sugar 400, he was crashed early on in an accident, not of his making and the late race crash APPEARS to have been started after he was hit from behind the 32 car of DiBennedetto so… not entirely his fault. So, KB and DoninAjax, how many cup cars have you raced? Can you do better? I doubt it.

Tom B

I noticed no driver or announcer used the term “plate racing” before or after the race. Was there an edict put out by NASCAR?

Al Torney

I’ll go along with Brad on the first big wreck. He and Ricky had a run. Byron blocked, Brad checked up. Simple as that. Ricky didn’t have a split second ro slow down at that speed.
No doubt Ricky nailed Kyle and caused that wreck.
Larsen spun in front of him without any help from anyone.
The race was a disaster. Erik did a great job on the final lap to win.
I have never seen a race in over 65 years where that many of the top drivers failed to finish. Why the car owners don’t demand something be done to get rid of plates is beyond me. With sponsorship dollars going away you’d think they would be pissed at the cost of The carnage Saturday night.

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