Erik Jones tames the Monster Mile for XFINITY Series victory
After finishing second in his XFINITY Series heat race earlier Saturday at Dover International Raceway, Erik Jones was not all that optimistic about his chances of winning the Ollie's Bargain Outlet 200 main event that followed.
As it turned out, he need not have worried.
Jones ended up pulling away from the field on the final restart with five laps to go to and won by 1.434 seconds over Darrell Wallace Jr.
Jones did so despite being one of only a handful of cars that decided to stay on the track, foregoing the chance for a final pit stop after Brendan Gaughan's car spun and brought out the last caution with 11 laps to go.
"At first I couldn't see how many came to pit road, so I wasn't too sure. I was a little anxious to see how many came and how many stayed out," Jones told FOX Sports in Victory Lane. "Fortunately, enough stayed out to make it viable for us to still get the win."
The 120-lap main event followed two heat races, which were won by Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon, respectively. Those victories in the 40-lap heat races earned the pair starting spots on the front row, but guaranteed nothing more.
So on the final restart with five laps to go, it was Jones who took off with the lead in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, leaving Allgaier, who started second on the restart in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, in his exhaust fumes.
Pretty much the exact opposite occurred in the closing laps of the heat race involving Allgaier and Jones, with Allgaier leaving Jones in his wake for the preliminary win.
In the long run, that meant far less than the win scored by Jones in the main.
"I wasn't too sure about it after the heat race," Jones admitted of his winning car. "But it turned out to be all right."
It was Jones' second victory of the XFINITY Series season, and he also claimed the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus in the process. It was the second time this season Jones has claimed the $100,000 bonus.
Jones led a race-high 76 laps. His toughest competitor over the last third of the race was Alex Bowman, who led 33 laps and ended up finishing third in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevy.
It an impressive run for Bowman in his first start of the season in the series. But as good as he was on long runs, he was not up to matching the speed of Jones on short runs like the one that decided the race -- although he did move up from sixth to third following the final restart.
Asked afterward by FOX Sports if he thought a third-place finish was possible in his first race since last November, a smiling Bowman replied: "I knew that if I did my job, it was. These race cars have proven that they can run like that. Everybody at JR Motorsports does such a good job bringing cars to the racetrack."
Darrell Wallace Jr. surged on the final restart to claim second, scoring the best XFINITY finish of the season in a backup car after he wrecked his primary during practice. Allgaier ended up fourth and Ty Dillon fifth.