Elliott eyes points lead, readies to roll at Chicagoland

FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 04:  Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 OneMain Financial Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

FORT WORTH, TX – APRIL 04: Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 OneMain Financial Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Despite being from Atlanta, over 700 miles away from Chicago, Chase Elliott happens to really like the Windy City.

He grabbed his latest win there last July, vaulted to the top of the standings, and stayed there, using the momentum to run away with the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.

Ranked third in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings, 35 points behind leader Chris Buescher, Elliott hopes to win at Chicagoland Speedway again as he returns to the 1.5-mile track for Saturday’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300 (9:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). The 19-year-old JR Motorsports driver goes in riding a four-race top-10 streak and a visit to Victory Lane could snowball into another NASCAR XFINITY Series title.

“Chicago is a fun race track that has many grooves, which makes for a lot of exciting racing,” Elliott said. “I really enjoyed going there last season. We had some success there in July which really gives me a confidence boost heading into the weekend.”

Don’t be fooled by Elliot’s 35-point deficit in the standings. He has the field right where he wants it. Elliott leads the NASCAR XFINITY Series with 11 top-10 finishes and could easily be in first if not for wrecks at the two restrictor plate tracks – Daytona and Talladega. Elliott finished 28th at Daytona and 37th at Talladega, his only showings outside the top eight this season.

Elliott has been closing in on Victory Lane for the last month. Most recently, he placed runner-up at Michigan after failing to hold off Kyle Busch on the closing laps. In Iowa in May, he paced the field for a career-best 114 laps, but ceded the lead to Buescher on a late restart for another second-place finish.

Elliott understands he cannot gain all of his points back at once and that consistency is the key to another XFINITY Series crown.

“We are in this for the long haul and understand it’s a lengthy season,” he said. “My NAPA team and I are committed to getting better each time we go out and race, that’s where it has to begin.”

Jones hopes to harvest another win at Iowa

No one in their right mind would bring Erik Jones to a casino right now.

His NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season can be summed up with one word.

Unlucky.

Despite dominating races, the NASCAR Next alum has yet to visit Victory Lane. Jones’ latest unfortunate event unfolded at Gateway last week. He led a race-high 84 laps at the St. Louis-area track before an accident on Lap 145 forced him out of the 160-lap race for good. The week before, he led 68 of the first 84 laps before battery issues took him out of contention. Flashback to mid-May, Jones lost to Kasey Kahne by the second-smallest margin in NCWTS history – again after leading the most laps. Rewind another week back, Jones ran out of fuel after pacing the field for a track-record 151 laps.

NEWTON, IOWA. - JULY 11: Erik Jones, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates after winning at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

NEWTON, IOWA. – JULY 11: Erik Jones, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates after winning at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Jones will attempt turn his luck around in Friday’s American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) where he is the defending race-winner.

“Iowa has been a pretty fun place for me,” Jones said. “I ran well in the XFINITY Series race there earlier this year, so I’m pretty excited to get back there this weekend and I think the whole team is as well. It’s a place that has been pretty good to me since I went there for the first time in 2013, when we ran second in the spring, and then we were able to get the win there last year.”

Just how bad has Jones’ luck been?

He leads the NCWTS in nearly every statistical category, yet ranks fourth in the standings, 33 points behind Matt Crafton. Jones sits atop the series in in average start (2.5), average mid-race position (2.1), average running position (3.8), number of fastest laps (333), laps led (480) and driver rating (124.7). His average finish is 8.3, a stark drop from his average start and mid-race positions.

Heading into Friday’s race, Jones’ sole focus is on taking the checkered flag.

“I’m looking forward to having another short-track race this weekend,” Jones said. “We showed some good speed in our Special Olympics World Games Tundra last week at Gateway and we have a really good short-track program overall. I think we have a good shot at defending our title this weekend.”

NASCAR Race Weekend Guide
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Race: Owens Corning AttiCat 300
Track: Chicagoland Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, June 20 at 9:30 p.m. (ET)
Tune-In: FOX Sports 1, 9:30 p.m. (ET), MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
What to Watch For: Five sons of current/former NASCAR drivers will compete on Father’s Day weekend at Chicagoland: Chase Elliott, Ross Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon. Kenseth will make his NASCAR national series debut. … Chris Buescher tries to further his 25-point lead in the driver standings. … Defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott returns to Chicagoland as the defending race-winner. Elliott leads the series with 11 top 10s. … Erik Jones will travel to Chicagoland for double-duty after competing in Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa. … New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, his father and brothers will serve as co-Grand Marshals for Saturday’s race.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Race: American Ethanol 200
Track: Iowa Speedway
Date and Time: Friday, June 19 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Tune-In: FOX Sports 1, 8 p.m. (ET), MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 175 miles (200 laps)
What to Watch For: Erik Jones returns to Iowa Speedway as its defending race-winner and continues to search for his first victory of 2015. … Cole Custer attempts to win his second consecutive race after visiting Victory Lane at Gateway last weekend. … Timothy Peters, the only driver in the field with two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Iowa tries to join Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the only three-time winners at the track in a NASCAR national series. … Open-wheel dirt standout Christopher Bell will make his NASCAR national series debut for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

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