Monday, May 23, 2022

UPDATE: Josh Bilicki Says Brandon Jones, ‘Making it Right’ After Last Lap Incident at COTA

Here was the damage to the rear of Josh Bilicki’s No. 45 Alpha Prime Racing machine after last lap contact from Brandon Jones at COTA. Photo Credit: Tommy Joe Martins / Facebook Stories.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 29, 2022 at 6:10 PM ET:

Following a last lap dust-up between Josh Bilicki and Brandon Jones, which led to Bilicki being turned on the Frontstretch at COTA, destroying the No. 45 Alpha Prime Racing machine, Jones has apparently reached out to Bilicki and Alpha Prime and is currently, “making things right,” according to a tweet from Bilicki.

ORIGINAL STORY: Sunday, March 27, 2022 at 2:35 PM ET:

Josh Bilicki, one of the more calm personalities in the NASCAR garage, was spitting angry following a last-lap dust up with Brandon Jones in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Pit Boss 250.

For Bilicki and his No. 45 Alpha Prime Racing team, Saturday’s race at Circuit of the Americas was chock-full of adversity. The driver had to start in the back of the field after his team changed the power steering pump following practice and qualifying.

After making headway in the race, Bilicki was spun under caution by a JR Motorsports car, which sent him to the rear of the pack again.

But after restarting 34th with six laps to go, Bilicki looked to be heading toward a solid top-15 to top-20 finish.

That is, until Jones had something to say about it.

“We raced pretty aggressively, but nothing to the point where we were making enemies on track,” Bilicki explained to “I didn’t spin anybody. I didn’t use my bumper. Really just capitalizing on other’s mistakes. There were a lot of mistakes, a lot of spins. We ended up around two Joe Gibbs cars, [Ty Gibbs] and [Jones]. I knew [Gibbs] was probably faster than us, so, when he passed us, I kind of just let him go. The 19 was behind us, and I knew we were faster than him just from racing with him on multiple other tracks.”

Jones would use the chrome horn to get around Bilicki, but then Jones made a mistake and overcooked it in a corner, which allowed Bilicki to regain the spot. Bilicki began pulling away from Jones, but then a battle ahead between Gibbs and another car ahead gave Jones another chance at getting around Bilicki.

“Ahead of us, [Gibbs] and another car were side-by-side and when you race side-by-side at COTA, it obviously slows you down,” Bilicki recalled. “That allowed [Jones] to get back to us. He used his bumper to kind of push me out of the way and we were side-by-side going through the esses and he just pushed me off track right into the grass. I didn’t like that, but I knew we only had a lap to go. So, I just kind of rode behind him, I knew we were faster than him.”

After the fevered battle between the two drivers, Bilicki opted to wait until the final turn to pull a bump and run on Jones.

“Coming to the last corner, I just used my bumper on him gently,” Bilicki said. “It wasn’t a big push. It wasn’t enough to spin him out. It wasn’t going to put him in the wall. It just moved him out of my way, like he did to me. He didn’t like that. Unfortunately, he spun me out going down the straightaway coming to the checkered flag. Spun us in a really bad spot, and we hit the wall and it destroyed our race car and we finished 35th.”

Following the race, Bilicki says that Jones spoke to Alpha Prime Racing’s co-owner Tommy Joe Martins, where Jones admitted that he intentionally crashed Bilicki to send a message.

“He told Tommy Joe that it was his intention to spin us and wreck us on the straightaway because he needed to send a message,” Bilicki said. “I guess he got pushed around all day too, and I get that. That’s this type of racing. But how he retaliated was just way worse than it should have been.”

Bilicki, 26, felt a sense of shock after the altercation at the end of the race, as until the closing laps of Saturday’s event, he had never had a run-in with Jones. However, after speaking to other drivers on Saturday evening, Bilicki feels this incident falls in line with Jones having what Bilicki feels is a lack of talent on road courses.

“I haven’t [had issues with him before]. I’ve raced around him and I think I’ve outqualified him at I think almost every single road course, so I know he’s not the strongest at the road courses,” Bilicki surmised. “After my Tweets last night, I heard from Cody Ware, Preston Pardus, Ryan Ellis — multiple drivers that are talented drivers, but just driving for smaller teams, they’ve had run-ins with him too.

“Someone posted a video of Brandon Jones clear as day spinning out Preston Pardus at Mid-Ohio last year. Now, luckily that one was just into the grass, but it was on a straightaway. At first, I was thinking to myself that maybe I shouldn’t have done this, but sounds like he’s had a lot of run-ins with a lot of smaller teams because in my opinion, he probably doesn’t like the smaller drivers and teams being ahead of a Gibbs car.”

The Wisconsin-native admitted that he doesn’t feel Jones is a bad driver, he just feels that Jones gets easily frustrated in road racing events, which leads to the questionable moments on track.

“Up until this point, I’ve always respected him and liked him. I don’t think he’s a crummy driver, I just think he struggles at the road courses and I don’t think he’s as talented as some of his teammates, but he and I have never had any issues before,” Bilicki explained. “I see how he races. Almost as if he’s frustrated at these races because he’s in a good car, but he’s running 20th and running 25th-best lap times. He just might make moves that are not right because he’s frustrated. When you’re frustrated and you’re upset you make stupid decisions and I think that’s what happened.”

In addition to the frustrations of road racing, for a driver who maybe isn’t fully fluent in turning right in addition to left, Bilicki says the fact that the financial hurdle of racing not being an issue for Jones unquestionably plays a role in how he races as well.

“I think it’s a guy like that, too, obviously, whose dad is sponsoring the race team, there’s not much — he doesn’t really think about how he affects other teams,” Bilicki said of Jones. “If he needs a new car, he just writes a check. The checks are already fairly large, huge, anyways. For us, we just did $20,000 of damage to a race car, plus man hours, plus we lost a bunch of points, plus a purse. He doesn’t think about that. And for me, I think that’s why he drives the way he does.”

Bilicki says he has no intentions of reaching out to Jones in an effort to patch up their relationship, as he feels, based on conversations with other drivers, that Jones doesn’t learn from his mistakes.

According to Bilicki, “Tommy Joe talked to him and he admitted to dumping me, and that’s all we needed to hear.”

So, does Bilicki owe Jones one? And with him driving for a smaller team like Alpha Prime Racing, should we expect retaliation at some point?

“I think it needs to be, I need to look at the situation. What I could have done differently, was push him a little harder and make sure that I pushed him off the racetrack, or make sure I get him into the wall, but at the same time, I have never done that,” Bilicki admitted. “And I don’t think I’m one to do that. But as of right now, I’ll let him make the mistakes, and he’ll be probably racing around us at these future tracks and you know I’m not going to say it’s not going to happen, but I’m not going to say it is going to happen.”

While he was obviously frustrated Saturday in the aftermath of the incidents with Jones, Bilicki now shifts his focus to Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas, where he hopes to have a solid outing in the No. 77 Zeigler Automotive Group Spire Motorsports entry.

Bilicki feels a top-20 is definitely within reach for his team.


Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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