Daytona Beach, Fla. — Erik Jones survived several gnarly wrecks, defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. on his bumper late and the pressure of overtime at NASCAR’s most famous track.
Maybe these so-called “Young Guns” do know how to find victory lane.
Jones, who is from Byron, Mich., which is southwest of Flint, won a crash-filled race at Daytona International Speedway, passing Truex on the final lap and then wildly celebrating the first victory of his Cup career. Jones created so much smoke during his burnout that he had trouble breathing afterward.
“How about that race boys and girls?” said Jones, who replaced 2004 series champion Matt Kenseth at Joe Gibbs Racing this year. “I thought we were out of it and all of a sudden we’re right back in it. My first Cup win. My first win at Daytona, My first superspeedway win. What an awesome day.”
It was huge for Jones, who clinched a spot in the playoffs. It may have been just as big for the up-and-coming generation of drivers who had gotten most of the promotion and none of the previous wins in 2018.
International Speedway Corp. President John Saunders pinned some of NASCAR’s woes on the failure of the new crop of drivers, who have struggled to replace the sport’s retired crop of stars.
Saunders said this week the sport needed the young guys to come along and “start to win and build their brands.” Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr. fired back at Saunders, saying the 20-somethings were trying their best to win.
Jones delivered the parting shot on the track.
Truex took a jab at the critics, saying “now maybe ISC and those guys can be happier about those things.”
Jones was involved in one of the many wrecks, but his No. 20 Toyota was still in good enough shape to get by Truex late. Truex blamed himself for failing to see Jones’ run coming in his rear-view mirror.
Truex finished second, followed by AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Chris Buescher – another odd top 10 at Daytona. Ty Dillon was sixth, followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Newman and Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon.
For Jones, 22, driving in his first season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the breakthrough victory came in his 57th career start.
Last year’s race winner, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., had the most memorable run of the night. He started two early accidents that wrecked more than half the field and was part of two more cautions late.
Stenhouse took out Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and others. Jones was one of the lucky ones who avoided major damage.
“I just think it’s cool for Erik,” said Truex, who had Jones as a teammate at Furniture Row Racing last year. “He’s a good kid. He’s worked hard. I don’t know the repercussions of him winning here, what they’re going to be. But I think for me, it’s a good story. So happy for him, happy for his family and his fans.
“Again, he’s put a lot of effort in to getting here and he’s in a good position and he’s got a lot of pressure on him, so to finally get that first one out of the way, I think it’ll help him a bunch. We’ll see where he takes it from here.”
Newgarden gaining momentum
Defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden’s up-and-down season is back on an upswing after a dominant win at Road America two weeks ago.
Newgarden is back at Iowa Speedway – the scene of perhaps his most impressive performance back in 2016 – in hopes of closing the gap further on series leader Scott Dixon.
Newgarden is fourth, 50 points behind Dixon, despite a series-high three wins in 10 starts. That’s because the Tennessee-born Newgarden finished eighth or worse in a five-race stretch that began in Indianapolis and ended in Texas.
Newgarden got things going in the right direction in Wisconsin two weeks ago, leading all but two of 55 laps, and he feels as though his No. 1 Chevy will have an advantage after testing the newly designed aero package at Iowa on June 27.
Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power won his 52nd career pole, with Newgarden set to start second. Ryan Hunter-Reay was third, followed by Simon Pagenaud.
Hamilton has pole position
Lewis Hamilton prevailed in a tight battle with Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel to snatch pole position for the British Grand Prix.
It’s the fourth consecutive pole for Hamilton at Silverstone, his sixth overall on the track, and his 50th for Mercedes.
“I gave it everything I could, it was so close with the Ferraris,” said Hamilton, whose comeback after being behind Vettel set off celebrations among fans. “I’m so grateful for the support.”
Vettel, who leads Hamilton by one point going into the 10th of 21 races, was faster than Hamilton until the British driver went again to finish 0.044 seconds ahead in a track record at Silverstone.
“It felt like the most pressurized lap I’ve ever had,” Hamilton said. “I’m happy for the fans. I hope I can do it for them tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari finished third, followed by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, while Austrian GP winner Max Verstappen was fifth and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo sixth.