Erik Jones came within 1500 feet of scoring his first win in the NASCAR Cup series at Talladega Sunday.
Jones led more laps at Talladega than he had in his 11 starts there, 25, and was leading heading towards the checkered flag after grabbing the top spot from Kyle Larson with 3 laps to go.
Coming into the trioval however, Larson jumped out of line behind Jones; Jones moved up to defend. Both cars slowed and Ross Chastain charged across the line for the win. Larson was fourth; Jones held on for sixth.
While Chastain celebrated, Jones could only reflect on where it all went wrong.
“I mean, just the last lap, right?” he said. “It’s typical here. Been close here so many times, in this race and the fall race. U.S. Air Force Chevy had good speed, felt good to be up front.
“Coming there that last lap, we were single file. I felt pretty good about it. They kind of doubled up behind us. That top lane was getting some momentum. Looking back, I wish I would have stayed at the bottom and let the 1 (Chastain) push me. I didn’t realize they were coming with that much speed.”
“But try to defend on the 5 (Larson), you’re too far ahead already right here. Obviously, a defense on the 5 kind of gives the door to the 1.
“It is what it is. You’re trying to just win the race. You can only see how much is going on from the seat. You’re trying to make the best decision you can the last 1500 feet.”
Jones’ best finish at Talladega came when he was with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020 when he came home second in the fall race. He was pushed aside at Gibbs at the end of that season to make room for Christopher Bell and found a home with Richard Petty Motorsports, which became Petty GMS Motorsports this season.
A disappointed Jones leaves Talladega still searching for his first win, and the first for Petty since 2014.
“Happy to run up front, lead laps,” Jones said. “Would really love to get the 43 in Victory Lane. I thought today might be the day. All day long we were fast and had speed. Especially being up front there at the end, the last 10, I knew we had a shot, but just couldn’t quite close it out.”
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