Hamlin Leads JGR Top Three Sweep at Dover
(DOVER, DE - AUG 22, 2020 - RIS) Denny Hamlin scores sixth 2020 victory at Dover, leading a one-two-three sweep of the top three positions for Joe Gibbs Racing. The win is his 43rd career win and first ever at Dover.
Chase Elliott bounded out to a huge lead at the start but when Kurt Busch got tapped lightly by Erik Jones, sending Busch into the inside wall and out of the race with only six laps. Alex Bowman and Erik Jones got attacked by the Monster Mile when Jones lifted and got hit by Bowman. "What an unfortunate way to have our day end on lap six. Way too early to be racing like that. We didn't even have a chance to get a feel for the car. Just disappointing for all of the guys that work so hard, especially on the doubleheader weekends like this," Busch said.
The caution gave Chase Elliott another jump into the lead ahead of Denny Hamlin. The competition caution came on lap 25 with Joey Logano leading out of the pits with Ryan Blaney following him. Austin Dillon and Matt Kenseth, along with three others, stayed on the track for position and headed the field back to the restart.
Dillon made good use of the outside line to move ahead of Kenseth by nearly three seconds in just twelve laps and a near wreck ensued when Blaney dropped back and Chase Elliott came together with Brad Keselowski in traffic. Denny Hamlin took the lead from Dillon with ten laps left in the first stage, opening the gap by about a half second per lap. Hamlin went on to take the stage points followed by Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex. Jimmie Johnson gained a few points on fellow Hendrick driver William Byron by finishing seventh in the stage while Byron earned no points.
Hamlin's crew got him back on track still in first place, with Truex, Bowyer, Keselowski and Austin Dillon the rest of the top five going to the choose for the restart.
Kevin Harvick's crew pitted him midway through the long stage, with numerous other lead lap cars copying the move with green flag stops. Hamlin repeated the stage win, heading Truex, Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Keselowski over the line. Jimmie Johnson gained more points on Byron finishing seventh again for the stage, while Byron ended the stage in 25th place.
Truex, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin and Bowyer held the top five spots on the restart. After almost a full fuel stint of green flag racing, Kevin Harvick led the rush to pit road, with Hamlin's entry to the pits gaining him about fifteen car lengths on the car in front of him. Austin Dillon delayed his stop, leading for an extended period while Martin Truex chased him. Kyle Busch reported a 'problem' with the right front tire.
Truex easily drove around Dillon to take the lead, with Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the top three positions: Hamlin running second and Kyle Busch third, with 20 laps to run and only twelve cars on the lead lap.
Hamlin kept running a high groove and closed to within a couple of lengths of Truex in ten laps, with traffic alternately helping and hurting the top two cars. With ten laps to go, Hamlin closed to Truex' bumper and took the lead with nine laps left. Truex was fighting a loose-handling car, and could not resist the charge. "I've been running down the leaders these last couple of weeks," commented Hamlin.
In victory lane, at least one lug nut was not tightened on Hamlin's winning car. At the time of this writing, no further information was available but we will update this note when more data are available.
Hamlin commented "I've been running down the leaders these last few weeks, but I haven't been able to get there. We just didn't control that restart there and we just had to battle back. We had to go back and get it. I was able to work the top line there a little bit to get the momentum. It looked like our car was just a little bit better at moving around to different lines. Proud of this whole FedEx Office team. This Camry was fast today. It was just unbelievable how good it was. The pit crew did an amazing job. Have to thank all the partners – Toyota, Coca-Cola, the Jordan Brand, FedEx and all the employees, I appreciate them. Win 43, this is pretty awesome."
What does it mean to finally win at Dover after 29 starts?
"People always ask what your least favorite track is and I say Dover just because I'm not that good. I love the track, I just haven't been very good here. We just have unbelievable cars right now. It seems like we're coming to the race track prepared. I'm putting the work in and we're getting results out of it."
What are you doing to stay on top of your game?
"Just working hard. Working as hard as I ever have. I can't complain about anything right now. It seems like we just have things going. I have faith. I have faith when it comes down to it. On that last run, when he (Chris Gabehart, crew chief) says, 'Go get it,' I just go get it."
What is it like when you're running second and suddenly you're able to track down the leader?
"I just wanted to go everywhere he's (Martin Truex Jr.) not, that's the biggest thing. Our car was able to move around. We were able to make some moves right there on the high side of three and four. That really got us some good momentum going. We just really did a good job of adjusting on the car throughout the day. Our car was not very far off at any point, but we just lost track position there and glad I was able to get it back."
How much did the race track change as the race progressed?
"A little bit. The track definitely changed. It rubbered up quite a bit. The biggest change was from after a yellow flag to 10 or 20 laps in. The track stayed pretty consistent there. I thought I had a loose wheel going, but it seemed like everything was fine. Just grinding our way through it. We were able to move around traffic and we were able to get around them quickly and that allowed us to get to Martin (Truex Jr.)."
What does it mean to win at Dover for the first time?
"It feels good. These tracks are really hard to win at. This has been a difficult track for me throughout the course of my career, but it's not because I dislike the track, I've just never had the technique that's been very good here. It really rewards you charging the corners and that's not really my style of driving. I adapt and this is the results we get."
How do you feel you protected the car for tomorrow's race?
"We have to take car of it for sure. He (Chris Gabehart, crew chief) told me I have to take care of it so we can win tomorrow. We'll see, we'll make some adjustments and there's no doubt this car will be better tomorrow than it was today."
Unofficial Results, Drydene 311, Dover International Speedway, 1 mile concrete
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 2, Denny Hamlin, 11, FedEx Office Toyota, 311, 1, 1, 3, 115, 7, 60, Running
2) 3, Martin Truex Jr., 19, SiriusXM Toyota, 311, 5, 2, 2, 88, , 50, Running
3) 22, Kyle Busch, 18, Interstate Batteries Toyota, 311, , 4, 1, 3, , 41, Running
4) 10, Kevin Harvick, 4, Mobil 1 Ford, 311, 7, 6, , , , 42, Running
5) 1, Chase Elliott, 9, Mountain Dew/Team Rubicon Chevrolet, 311, , 10, 1, 27, , 33, Running
6) 4, Clint Bowyer, 14, Haas Automation Ford, 311, 4, 3, , , , 46, Running
7) 6, Jimmie Johnson, 48, Ally Chevrolet, 311, 8, 7, , , , 37, Running
8) 5, Joey Logano, 22, Shell Pennzoil Ford, 311, 6, 8, , , , 37, Running
9) 7, Brad Keselowski, 2, Wurth Ford, 311, 3, 5, 2, 9, , 42, Running
10) 19, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 47, Kroger Chevrolet, 311, , 9, 1, 1, , 29, Running
11) 21, Cole Custer #, 41, HaasTooling.com/Jacom Co Ford, 311, , , , , , 26, Running
12) 13, Erik Jones, 20, DEWALT Atomic Toyota, 311, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 16, Tyler Reddick #, 8, Cat App Chevrolet, 310, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 20, Ryan Blaney, 12, Advance Auto Parts Ford, 310, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 32, Austin Dillon, 3, Dow/Behr Ultra Scuff Defense Chevrolet, 310, 2, , 3, 49, , 31, Running
16) 12, Chris Buescher, 17, SunnyD Ford, 310, 9, , , , , 23, Running
17) 17, Aric Almirola, 10, Smithfield Hometown Original Ford, 309, 10, , , , , 21, Running
18) 25, Ty Dillon, 13, GEICO Chevrolet, 309, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 23, Ryan Newman, 6, Guaranteed Rate Ford, 309, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 14, Matt DiBenedetto, 21, Menards/Monster Energy Ford, 309, , , 1, 17, , 17, Running
21) 11, Alex Bowman, 88, Acronis Chevrolet, 309, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 18, Christopher Bell #, 95, Rheem Toyota, 309, , , , , , 15, Running
23) 26, Matt Kenseth, 42, Clover Chevrolet, 309, , , 1, 1, , 14, Running
24) 31, John Hunter Nemechek #, 38, ACME Ford, 309, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 27, Ryan Preece, 37, Scott Brand Chevrolet, 309, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 15, Michael McDowell, 34, Digital Ally Shield Cleansers Ford, 308, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 24, Bubba Wallace, 43, Door Dash Chevrolet, 308, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 8, William Byron, 24, Axalta Chevrolet, 308, , , 1, 1, , 9, Running
29) 29, Corey LaJoie, 32, Drydene Ford, 308, , , , , , 8, Running
30) 28, * Daniel Suarez, 96, CommScope Toyota, 306, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 34, JJ Yeley(i), 27, Thriv5 Ford, 302, , , , , , 0, Running
32) 37, Josh Bilicki(i), 53, Chevrolet, 299, , , , , , 0, Running
33) 35, Quin Houff #, 00, Eagle Rock Wealth Chevrolet, 298, , , , , , 4, Running
34) 33, * Timmy Hill(i), 66, Toyota, 298, , , , , , 0, Running
35) 38, Joey Gase(i), 51, Ford, 293, , , , , , 0, Running
36) 30, Brennan Poole #, 15, RememberEveryoneDeployed. Today Chevrolet, 286, , , , , , 1, Rear End
37) 39, * Garrett Smithley(i), 7, Chevrolet, 241, , , , , , 0, Battery
38) 40, * BJ McLeod(i), 78, Chevrolet, 166, , , , , , 0, Handling
39) 36, Reed Sorenson, 77, Spire Motorsports Chevrolet, 83, , , , , , 1, Handling
40) 9, Kurt Busch, 1, GEARWRENCH Chevrolet, 6, , , , , , 1, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Race Length: 311 laps, 311 miles
Time of Race: 2 hr, 30 min, 3 sec.
Average Speed: 124.359 mph
Margin of Victory: 1.179 sec
Stage 1 Top 10: 11, 3, 2, 14, 19, 22, 4, 48, 17, 10
Stage 2 Top 10: 11, 19, 14, 18, 2, 4, 48, 22, 47, 9
Comments: Denny Hamlin won the Drydene 311 at Dover International Speedway, his 43rd victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Prior to the start, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field for the reasons indicated: No. 15 (multiple inspection failures);
Nos. 51, 96 (unapproved adjustments);
No. 7 (impound procedure infraction).
Caution Flags: 4 for 21 laps;
Laps: 8-11 (;
1, 20 incident backstretch );
27-31 (Competition );
72-77 (Stage 1 Conclusion );
187-192 (Stage 2 Conclusion ).
Lead Changes: 15 among 10 drivers;
C. Elliott 1-27;
A. Dillon 28-30;
M. Kenseth 31;
A. Dillon 32-58;
D. Hamlin 59-136;
B. Keselowski 137-138;
K. Busch 139-141;
R. Stenhouse Jr. 142;
M. DiBenedetto 143-159;
W. Byron 160;
D. Hamlin 161-188;
M. Truex Jr. 189-253;
B. Keselowski 254-260;
A. Dillon 261-279;
M. Truex Jr. 280-302;
D. Hamlin 303-311.
Busch Pole Award: Chase Elliott, No. 9
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Cole Custer, No. 41
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang -- "I wasn't very good all day. Overall, our Mobil 1 Mustang just never would turn and then we got it so it wouldn't turn and too loose. We had trouble on pit road and had to come back in at one point, but everybody kept battling and doing everything that they could and wound up with a top five."
IT WAS NOT EASY FOR YOU TODAY TO FINISH FOURTH. "We fought everything all day with our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang. We had a lot of trouble on pit road. We could not get the front of our car to turn up off the corner and at the end it started just sliding the back everywhere and it wouldn't turn off the corner, so we definitely have some work to do. The guys did a great job hanging in there and battling back through all the adversity today, but definitely not where we wanted to be."
YOU CAME THROUGH THE FIELD IN THAT FIRST STAGE. HOW DO YOU KEEP THAT KIND OF SPEED ALL DAY TOMORROW? "I think the first run of the race, even the second run of the race there after we got the penalty, our tight race car was okay when everybody else was really loose and then it kind of swung the other way. Everybody got a little bit tighter and we got even tighter yet than what we started, so we just have to figure out where to start our balance for tomorrow."
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Wurth Ford Mustang -- "It was a decent day. Nothing to write home about, but not bad. We kind of ran solidly in the top 10 all day. We had a really good restart there in the first stage and got us third in stage one and then was just kind of okay from there. We took a little shot at running long in stage two hoping for a yellow and didn't get it -- part of the deal, just trying and ended up ninth. There's not a lot to say other than that. The Gibbs cars were pretty much lights-out faster than everybody and we did the best we could to get what we had out of our day."
WITH THE SHORTENED RACE TODAY AND 750 PACKAGE DID THE RACE PLAY OUT THE WAY YOU EXPECTED? "Yeah, pretty much. Long green flag runs. There were one or two incidents. The tire Goodyear brought was very durable. I didn't see any issues there. I would say it was your atypical Dover race."
THE SECOND RACE WITH THE CHOOSE RULE. HOW DO YOU THINK IT WENT? "I probably liked it here a little better here than other places because at this track there's such a gap between the top and bottom lanes. I thought that was interesting the choices that people made, so it's growing on me for sure."
WHAT KIND OF CHANGES CAN YOU MAKE FOR TOMORROW AT DOVER, WHICH IS MUCH DIFFERENT THAN MICHIGAN AND POCONO? "I'm aware it's different. I think this track is maybe a little bit more sensitive to changes in the car. I know the knobs here are a little more sensitive for sure."
CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Mustang -- "Our No. 14 Haas Automation Ford was great right up there until the final 40 laps or so, but we did what we needed to do today. We put some stage points up on the board and got a good finish. We are getting better each week and this is a great time of the year to do that. That was a lot of fun. Let's do this again tomorrow!"
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Digital Ally Shield Cleansers Ford Mustang -- "There may have been 10 or 12 guys who had really good speed. You didn't see a ton of cars on the lead lap even in a short race. We had good speed, but it was tough to pass for everyone. So, we just had to work track position and strategy. We'll have to do the same tomorrow. But, I think we can take some notes to get some good adjustments into the Digital Ally Shield Cleanser Ford Mustang. We'll need to have a good start and just grind to stay up there. We're close, the result doesn't show it, but I think we can have a good run on Sunday with just a few adjustments."
John Hunter Nemechek: "It was a tough day for our No. 38 ACME Markets team. We didn't roll off the way we wanted to, so it was an uphill battle for most of the race. I didn't have a whole lot of grip going through the corner, so the front tires kept sliding, which obviously hurts your momentum. We've made notes for what to work on tomorrow and that's the nice thing about these doubleheader weekends – you get another chance to improve. We'll shake it off overnight and come back ready tomorrow."
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 MOUNTAIN DEW/TEAM RUBICON CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 5th - "I think we had a decent Mountain Dew Chevrolet. We were off there to start and then had to take some extra time on pit road. Luckily, we got it close after we messed with it a good bit and made some adjustments, which helped. I was proud to be able to drive from the back, back to the front. We had some really good pit stops that put us in a decent position there too. I think we just needed a little more to run with Denny (Hamlin), Kevin (Harvick) and those guys so we will try to get a little better for tomorrow."
"We started too far off there at the beginning and then had to come in and make an extended pit stop there to get things right, but I feel like our Mountain Dew team did a really good job to get things close after that. We just got a little too far behind, I think, to run with those guys and we still probably needed a little bit to run with Martin (Truex Jr.) and Denny (Hamlin). Just got behind and took the rest of the day to get back to where we did. I think we have a little work to do over night. Looking forward to getting our NAPA Camaro on track tomorrow and trying to improve. I think we were in the ballpark, we just still needed a little bit to run with the leaders."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 7th - "Solid day for this Ally Chevy team, we have some work to do but we will go to work tonight and get it right. Everyone did a great job, we have something to build on tonight and we will come back tomorrow and have something left for them. Bittersweet day tomorrow for me – my final Dover race."
RICKY STENHOUSE JR., NO. 47 KROGER CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 10th - "That was a fun race in our No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet to mark off another top-10 finish. We were really tight at the start of the race, but Brian Pattie made some really good adjustments throughout the race to help us get faster and faster. Our cars this year have been some of the best I've had in my career, and this gives us a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow's race. We learned a lot today and I'm excited for tomorrow to continue tuning this up tonight and have an even better day tomorrow at Dover."
TYLER REDDICK, NO. 8 CAT APP CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 13th. "Today was a good start to our doubleheader weekend at Dover International Speedway. Our No. 8 Cat App Chevrolet was fast from the start and just needed some tweaking on handling. The track built really tight at first today, but changed over the course of the race. I struggled with being too loose in the rear of our Camaro for the second half of today, which prevented me from trying a couple different lines on the track, so that's something we'll need to adjust on for tomorrow's race. But the good news is we get a second shot to finish even better tomorrow and we definitely have a solid Cat App Chevrolet to work with. This is the best start to a doubleheader weekend that we've had this year, so I'm looking forward to getting back after it tomorrow."
AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 DOW/BEHR ULTRA SCUFF DEFENSE CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 15th - "We had a fast Dow Coatings Chevrolet today and it felt good to race at Dover International Speedway with plenty of speed. We just need to work on the handling a little. I feel like I covered every inch of this place, experimenting and looking for the best line around the track for our tight-handling condition. We opted to stay out for the competition caution in Stage 1 and our gamble paid off with the race lead. Clean air was everything. We had a commanding lead early in Stage 1 but I just got too tight to hold the lead for the end of the Stage. When we pitted at the end of Stage 2, we were issued a speeding penalty and had to restart at the tail end of the longest line. That mistake is on me. We ran long before pitting at the end of the race but a caution didn't fall the way we hoped it would and we ended up finishing 15th. I'm sure we could have finished a few positions higher if more things would have gone our way today, but that's the beauty of having another race at Dover International Speedway tomorrow. We're going to work on it overnight and get it dialed in for tomorrow. Our Dow Coatings Chevrolet has plenty of speed. We just have to get the handling right."
TY DILLON, NO. 13 GEICO CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 18th - "My GEICO-Germain Racing guys did a good job today and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race. Dover is a very physically demanding track. I've been working really hard on my physical shape this season, so I'm excited to put it to the test. We have been really strong in the doubleheaders this season. The Sunday races have been our stronger race each time, which we will try to do again. We came out of the gate strong today and will look to translate that momentum into another solid finish tomorrow."
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 ACRONIS CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 21st - "This isn't how we wanted to start off the doubleheader weekend. Getting that damage early on really affected how our car handled. The guys did all they could on pit road, but we were playing the cards we were dealt. Not the first outing we wanted for Acronis, but we will make adjustments and changes tonight and be prepared for tomorrow's race."
BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 DOOR DASH CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Finished 27th. - "Not the best effort today for our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 DoorDash Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE team. I thought we were going to have a decent day, and then we kind of lost it the second-half of the race. We lost the handling on our Chevrolet Camaro and just could not really gain it back. Our DoorDash team tried to pull some strategy to salvage a decent day and it did not go our way. We have another shot at it tomorrow with our partner Columbia for their first race, so we are excited about that. Dover (International Speedway) is one of the best tracks we go to. We still have a lot of work to do. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
KURT BUSCH, NO 1. GEARWRENCH CAMARO ZL1 1LE – Sidelined by damage sustained in an accident on lap 6; Finished 40th - "What an unfortunate way to have our day end on lap six. Way too early to be racing like that. We didn't even have a chance to get a feel for the car. Just disappointing for all of the guys that work so hard, especially on the doubleheader weekends like this. Hopefully we can turn our luck around tomorrow and have a strong run for the GEARWRENCH Chevy".
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 1st - What was it like to find the line to beat your teammates this afternoon? “I’ve been running down the leaders these last few weeks, but I haven’t been able to get there. We just didn’t control that restart there and we just had to battle back. We had to go back and get it. I was able to work the top line there a little bit to get the momentum. It looked like our car was just a little bit better at moving around to different lines. Proud of this whole FedEx Office team. This Camry was fast today. It was just unbelievable how good it was. The pit crew did an amazing job. Have to thank all the partners – Toyota, Coca-Cola, the Jordan Brand, FedEx and all the employees, I appreciate them. Win 43, this is pretty awesome.”
What does it mean to finally win at Dover after 29 starts? - “People always ask what your least favorite track is and I say Dover just because I’m not that good. I love the track; I just haven’t been very good here. We just have unbelievable cars right now. It seems like we’re coming to the race track prepared. I’m putting the work in and we’re getting results out of it.”
What are you doing to stay on top of your game? “Just working hard. Working as hard as I ever have. I can’t complain about anything right now. It seems like we just have things going. I have faith. I have faith when it comes down to it. On that last run, when he (Chris Gabehart, crew chief) says, ‘Go get it,’ I just go get it.”
What is it like when you’re running second and suddenly you’re able to track down the leader? “I just wanted to go everywhere he’s (Martin Truex Jr.) not, that’s the biggest thing. Our car was able to move around. We were able to make some moves right there on the high side of three and four. That really got us some good momentum going. We just really did a good job of adjusting on the car throughout the day. Our car was not very far off at any point, but we just lost track position there and glad I was able to get it back.”
How much did the race track change as the race progressed? “A little bit. The track definitely changed. It rubbered up quite a bit. The biggest change was from after a yellow flag to 10 or 20 laps in. The track stayed pretty consistent there. I thought I had a loose wheel going, but it seemed like everything was fine. Just grinding our way through it. We were able to move around traffic and we were able to get around them quickly and that allowed us to get to Martin (Truex Jr.).”
What does it mean to win at Dover for the first time? “It feels good. These tracks are really hard to win at. This has been a difficult track for me throughout the course of my career, but it’s not because I dislike the track, I’ve just never had the technique that’s been very good here. It really rewards you charging the corners and that’s not really my style of driving. I adapt and this is the results we get.”
How do you feel you protected the car for tomorrow’s race? “We have to take care of it for sure. He (Chris Gabehart, crew chief) told me I have to take care of it so we can win tomorrow. We’ll see, we’ll make some adjustments and there’s no doubt this car will be better tomorrow than it was today.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 SiriusXM Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 2nd - What more did you need to hold off Denny Hamlin in the closing laps? “Really, I think of the 10 (Aric Almirola) car just wasn’t pinning me on the bottom and running me up, it would have been fine. Every time I tried to move up and get some air on my car, he would just slide up in front of me like an idiot. He’s the reason we lost the lead, but at the end we just weren’t good enough. I thought the 11 (Denny Hamlin) was better than us all day long. We got the lead there in the pits and was able to use clean air to our advantage. I was never happy with the car all day long. The SiriusXM Camry was fast, but the balance was all over the place. It was firing off tight and getting loose on long runs. At the end, just nothing I could do. It was out of control, sideways.”
How do you fix the car for tomorrow’s race? “I know we can definitely make it better. I hate to say we can’t. It was pretty far off from what all I hear. We’ll keep working on it, but overall a solid day again.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 3rd - How was the race for you overall today and are you pleased with the third-place result? “Top-three – the Interstate Batteries Camry was strong there. I was following (Martin) Truex Jr. there for a little while on that last restart and we kept fading. Kept fading loose and then we came in for our final pit stop and the damn car went four numbers tight. Just crazy. The flip-flop of balance that we had, it was so bad. I don’t think we changed a whole lot. I have to get with Adam (Stevens, crew chief) on that, but overall, we got really good there the previous time we put tires on under green and I was driving through a few people and getting to the front. I was optimistic about putting tires on it and going, but then it just went stupid tight. I don’t know. Thanks to Interstate Batteries, M&M’s – it’s good to get a solid top-three. Hopefully, we can make a few changes tonight. We were close. We had some speed so try to work on it.”
What happened on the last run? “I don’t know what happened, we have to figure that out. We had a pretty fast Interstate Batteries Camry and we made it all the way up front. Did a good job there. The time that we put tires on under green, the car was really fast, really good. I was optimistic keeping up with (Martin) Truex that once we got tires on it, I could maybe keep up or be faster and it just was so tight at the end. It went from being four or five numbers loose to four or five numbers tight. That’s a 10 number swing in just putting tires on. Crazy how that happens. Come home with a good, solid third-place. Got two good teammates here with a notebook that they’ve got to lean on and hopefully we can work on some things tonight and get ourselves better and come out here and win tomorrow.”
How tough is this race track when your car is as difficult to balance as your car was? “You don’t know what to adjust. The beginning of the race, we were loose. We tightened it up and we were plowing tight the next run. Then we freed it up a little bit and it was loose the next run. We put tires on it under green and it was fine. Every single run it was back-and-forth, it was crazy. There was just no keeping up with it there. Try to do what you can and the best you can with what you’ve got and that’s all we had.”
ERIK JONES, No. 20 DeWalt Atomic Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 12th - How did the damage change your day? “I mean, it hurt it. First off, I want to apologize to Kurt (Busch) and the whole 1 team. I got into him on lap 1 or 2. That’s my mistake. I got tight and it ended their day really quick. I feel bad. I’ve raced with Kurt now awhile, and we have never had an issue and raced really well, so I want to say sorry to him first. Our day was kind of tough from then on, we had to cut the left rear quarter-panel off after that and I think that hurt our balance a little bit. I mean, it’s not like night or day, but it definitely didn’t help. The DeWalt Camry went back and forth. It was mostly loose all day. We tightened it up, but never seemed to be able to make a difference on it. Hopefully, we can use the same car and come back tomorrow.”
What are your initial thoughts on if you are going to be able to run this car tomorrow or have to go to a backup? “Yeah, it’s kind of a 50/50 shot. The other three don’t have any damage, so hopefully, we can put all of our hands on our car and get a left rear snapped on it. I guess I’m going to go find out in the next couple minutes, but hopefully, we can get it patched up and not have to start from the back.”
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.