Byron’s Erik Jones in search of breakthrough win
Bristol, Tenn. — Second-year Cup Series driver Erik Jones may be on the verge of a getting a breakthrough win at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Jones (Byron, Mich.) is coming off a fourth-place finish last week at Texas and has finished in the top 11 five times in seven Cup races this season. He also has a history of running well at Bristol, earning the pole last August and leading a race-high 260 laps before finishing second to current teammate Kyle Busch.
Add in that the 21-year-old had the top 10-lap average in the first practice Saturday and there are the makings of a first career Cup win.
“Winning my first Cup race is something that I really want to get done,” Jones said. “I feel like if we can get one knocked out of the way that more is kind of going to come with that, so we’re going to continue to push this weekend.”
Jones won at Bristol in 2016 and 2017 in the Xfinity Series, so he certainly knows his way around the half-mile track.
“It’s good to come back to a place where your team is fast, where you’re comfortable and the car unloads good,” Jones said. “We’ve had a good weekend so far, we just need to keep it heading that way.”
Things to watch at Bristol Motor Speedway:
NASCAR has moved the start of the race to 1 p.m. EDT due to the threat of heavy rains and thunderstorms in the area. But it may not matter as rain is predicted beginning in the morning and is expected to last all day and well into the night.
If the race is postponed, it will be run on Monday.
Busch crashes late
Kurt Busch was scheduled to start on the outside of the front row, but now is headed to the back of the field after a crash late in the final practice on Saturday.
Busch was in the midst of a late run when his No. 41 got into the inside wall and suffered significant damage. The team has gone to a backup car, which means Busch will need to start at the rear of the 39-car field.
Better late than never
Brad Keselowski (Rochester Hills) was in his trailer Friday afternoon when he heard the roar of cars running around the track. He wondered to himself, “What’s that?” It turns out nobody had informed Keselowski that the practice session had been moved up 30 minutes.
Keselowski hustled to his car and got in to drive a few laps.
“That was different,” he said with a laugh. “I guess they changed the scheduling and we didn’t know. I found out the fun way. Better that than the race.”
It didn’t seem to hurt Keselowski, who wound up qualifying third.
Reece wins Xfinity race
Ryan Preece won the Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway and took home the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus prize.
The 27-year-old Preece became the seventh different winner this year in the Xfinity Series in as many races, beating Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric to the finish line.
Elliott Sadler finished fourth and Spencer Gallagher was fifth.
Brandon Jones gambled and took only two tires under caution with 10 laps to go and Preece was able to take him on the restart in his No. 18 Toyota. He pulled away for an easy victory.
Preece was competing with pole sitter Cole Custer, Christopher Bell and Hemric for the $100,000 prize. Bell, one of the pre-race favorites and the stage one winner, crashed just near the midway point of the race when he couldn’t avoid a collision between Vinnie Miller and Cody Ware.
Vettel has pole for Chinese GP
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, where the German will be going for his third straight victory to open the Formula One season.
Vettel and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start on the first row in Shanghai. Mercedes, which has dominated the last four seasons, will start on the second row with Valtteri Bottas ahead of No. 4 Lewis Hamilton – the defending and four-time series champion.
The famous Italian team has not won a season title in 11 years with Kimi Raikkonen champion in 2007. But Bottas is already hinting that rival Ferrari is the team to beat. Both Ferrari cars were 0.5 seconds faster in qualifying than either Mercedes, a huge gap in F1.
Rossi wins IndyCar pole
Alexander Rossi cruised to the pole for the IndyCar race Sunday through the downtown streets of Long Beach.
Rossi waited on pit lane until the final minute in qualifying. He began his fast lap just as Josef Newgarden slapped the wall ahead of him, which could have clogged Rossi’s path. But Rossi and his Andretti Autosport Honda had the fastest car and his lap of 1 minute, 6.5528 seconds claimed the top starting spot.
The pole for an Andretti team, or any team other than Penske at Long Beach, was a bit of an upset. Team Penske drivers had won seven of the last nine poles before Saturday.
Penske driver Will Power will start second followed by teammate Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal and Newgarden. The Fast Six qualifying session was an equal split of three drivers each from Honda and Chevrolet, but the only Chevy drivers all came from Penske.