*THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED TO NOTE THAT BRANDON JONES WON’T BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE DASH 4 CASH NEXT WEEK AT RICHMOND RACEWAY, DUE TO NASCAR’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT DANIEL HEMRIC’S POST-RACE INSPECTION FAILURE DIDN’T RISE TO THE LEVEL WORTHY OF A PENALTY.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Brandon Jones maintained a smile as he spoke to Regan Smith of FOX Sports 1, but the disappointment of such a strong run resulting in a sixth-place finish seeped through as the interview progressed.
“That caution on right there on that long run just killed me and I just put my head down when I saw it ‘cause I knew we were so much better than the 18 (Ryan Preece) up off the corner, but all in all such a phenomenal day for Toyota, for Menards and for everybody at (Joe Gibbs Racing) JGR right now. Also, Turtle Wax is on board with us this weekend as well. Can’t say enough about the guys that support us the most and we are just so close right now. It breaks my heart just to see that, but we had a gamble right there at the end. We had to take the two tires to try to see what we could do. Just too much wheel-spinning on the restart to make anything of it.”
During a nearly 100-lap stretch of green flag racing, from Lap 184 to 27 laps to go (Lap 273), Jones had the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 in check. While Ryan Preece got within a car length of him around 40 to go, he couldn’t work his way around Jones.
But when Shane Lee hit the wall in Turn 2, everybody ducked onto pit road for fresh tires. Jones opted for strategy and took only left-side tires, while Preece took four.
The end result was rather predictable. When Preece’s tires came up to temperature, he passed Jones going into Turn 1 with 12 laps to go and scored the victory. Jones, meanwhile, sank through the field. But the short amount of laps combined with the field clicking them off in 15-second intervals prevented him from falling further than sixth.
“Well, you have to gamble when you’re leading like that,” Jones said. “Sometimes you have to play a mind game with some of the other guys that are behind you. Our game just didn’t work out too well for us. It was just way too loose on the restart there to make anything of it, but enjoyed racing (Ryan) Preece there at the end. That was pretty cool. I did everything but try to wreck him, so I think that I raced pretty good as a teammate there with him. I just wish that caution wouldn’t have come out. I kind of put my head down when I saw it and was just like man, if this thing would’ve kept going, we’re in the catbird seat really really good. I can’t say enough about the day though. All weekend we were top three in practice throughout the whole day yesterday. Qualified really really well and was getting ready to possibly go to Victory Lane.”
While Jones didn’t earn any stage points, his Top-10 finish moved him up to ninth in points. He also admitted that leading the most laps (106) was a confidence-boost.
“Texas was big for me even though we kind of crashed out early there, we still were really really fast there. I think that’s kind of what led to this,” Jones said. “Myself and Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) have had a lot of conversation of you know, don’t think about it, just do it. That’s kind of the momentum I’m on right now. I’m going to stick to that and it’s going to work out for us eventually.”
The day ended on a bright note for Jones. An hour after the XFINITY Grand National Series race concluded, NASCAR announced that Daniel Hemric failed post-race inspection. As a result, Jones was Dash 4 Cash eligible next weekend at Richmond Raceway. But less than 24 hours later, NASCAR announced that Hemric’s penalty, one side of the rear wheel-toe alignment was off, didn’t rise to the level of a penalty. Because in the XFINITY Grand National Series, both sides of the rear wheel-toe must be off to constitute a violation. As a result, Hemric was put back into the Dash 4 Cash hunt at Richmond.