JOLIET, Ill. – Kyle Busch opened the door, and that was all the invitation Erik Jones needed.
When Busch, the polesitter for Saturday’s The Drive for Safety 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, spun with a tire down while leading on Lap 182 of 200, Jones took full advantage of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate’s misfortune.
The driver of the No. 20 JGR Toyota restarted sixth on Lap 187 after Busch brought out the eighth caution of the afternoon and quickly closed the gap on Elliott Sadler, who restarted second and grabbed the lead from JR Motorsports teammate Clint Bowyer, who had stayed out on old tires.
Jones caught and passed Sadler on Lap 192. Race runner-up Kyle Larson followed four laps later but couldn’t catch Jones before the finish. In the final four laps, Jones moved up the track to take Larson’s preferred racing line and crossed the finish line .392 seconds ahead of Larson, who brushed the outside wall on the final lap while trying to close in on the race winner.
“It was tough,” said Jones, who won for the second time at the 1.5-mile track and the fourth time in his rookie year. “I knew we were in a good spot on tires, but we pretty far back – think we restarted sixth there.
“I didn’t know if my Hisense Camry was going to have enough time to get back up to the front, but we had a really good restart and got clear to third and then just had to go chase Elliott down. It was a matter of time before we got around him. What an awesome day!”
With four victories this season, Jones enters the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase as the No. 1 seed heading to the Chase opener next Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.
“It’s a lot of momentum,” Jones said. “I wish this was our first round right here. We’ll go into Kentucky definitely with a full head of steam and are due for another win there. Our mile-and-a-half program is great – it’s been great all year.
“To finally get a first mile-and-a-half win of the year – just looking forward to getting to Kentucky next weekend and try to chase down another one.”
Saturday’s event finalized the 12-driver Chase field, as Blake Koch and Ryan Sieg clinched the final two spots with finishes of 15th and 12th, respectively.
The full Chase field, in order of seeding, consists of Erik Jones, Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Ryan Sieg, Ryan Reed, Brandon Jones, Blake Koch.
Sadler finished third on Saturday, followed by Suarez and Allgaier.
Larson recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to record his eighth top-five finish in 12 starts this year.
“I knew I could get the top (lane) going, but I knew when I got the top going, Erik would move up just when I got to him,” Larson said. “He did, and I tried to carry a lot of throttle off of (Turn) 2 and maybe get a run on him, but I got into the wall.”
Busch led 154 laps and recovered from his spin to finish 13th. All told, 11 different drivers led at least one lap, including the top eight drivers in the finishing order.