It has been a season of rumors swirling around Erik Jones and his future. Sunday at Darlington Raceway in the Bojangles Southern 500, Jones silenced any rumors with a statement win.
Jones out-dueled his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and mentor Kyle Busch for the win. This is Jones’ first win of 2019, and his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.
The driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, which was painted like his rookie late model ride at the age of 14, led 79 of the 367 laps in the race, and in the closing laps he was able to stay mistake-free while Busch made hard contact with the wall.
Kyle Larson got around Busch for second on the final lap. Busch, who led a race-high 118 laps and won Stage 2, would limp home to finish third.
By finishing third, Busch secured enough points to lock down the regular season championship. That means he can add 15 more Playoff Points to his total when the Playoffs begin in a couple of weeks.
Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five finishers on the night.
Clint Bowyer’s playoff aspirations got a boost as he finished sixth on a night where his fellow competitors (Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez) for the two final Playoff berths all finished outside the top-10.
Kurt Busch won Stage 1 and led 94 laps on the night, but he faded to finish seventh.
Matt DiBenedetto scored his sixth top-10 finish in the last 10 races as he came home eighth.
Paul Menard was ninth and Austin Dillon finished 10th.
Suarez finished 11th, but he made contact with Newman earlier in the race. Newman vowed on the radio that payback will be coming for Suarez in the near future, so Suarez will need to watch his back at Indianapolis.
Johnson had possibly his best race of 2019, as he scored 13 Stage Points, however he was swept up in a multi-car melee late in the race. Johnson would finish 16th.
Newman ended up 23rd, two laps off the pace.
Bowyer now sits eight points to the good in 15th. Suarez and Newman are tied for 16th and will race at Indy head to head for the final spot in the Playoffs. Johnson sits 18 points back, and basically needs a win to make the Playoffs.
Post-Race Stat Pack:
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