BRISTOL, Tenn. – For the second year in a row, Brandon Jones and his Joe Gibbs Racing team rolled the dice in an effort to steal a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
And just like it did one year ago, Jones’ effort didn’t work out, leaving him with heartbreak at the concrete half-mile following Saturday’s Alsco 300.
Jones stayed out under the final caution period of the race with 40 laps left, putting him on old tires but at the head of the field after being mired in the back half of the top 10 for most of the race.
That clean track paid dividends, too, as Jones jetted out in front of teammate Christopher Bell when the green flag waved for the final time on lap 269 and quickly opened up a gap of seven tenths of a second.
However, Jones’ older rubber eventually came back to haunt him, just like a two-tire call did in 2018.
Bell began to close on Jones’ No. 19 Menards Toyota inside of 25 to go and made what turned out to be the race-winning pass with 18 laps left, using an over-under switch off turn two to gain the upper hand.
From there, Jones quickly began to fade, ultimately brushing the wall three laps after being passed by Bell and having to come to pit road as a result due to a flat tire.
Though he finished two laps off the pace in 14th, Jones had few regrets when he climbed from his race car, knowing that he at least had a shot at parking in victory lane down the closing stretch.
“We were on that set (of tires) for a long time; I don’t know if it was just too long or if getting into the fence a little bit might have helped cut (the tire) down, but once we had that flat we had to pit,” Jones told SPEED SPORT. “Man that was a shot at it, though. (Crew chief Jeff Meendering) made that call and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve been down this road before,’ but as soon as I got clear of Bell I was really pumped up.
“It was a surprise; I don’t know if I really thought it would work out like that off the restart, but we were there, man,” Jones added. “I was lifting so early in the race last year that I kept gaining ground for a while, so I tried to do that again, and I think Bell’s newer tires gave him a little bit more of an edge.”
Jones leaves Bristol seventh in points and eager for next weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, not willing to spend time worrying about what might have been and confident in his team.
“When we look back on it … we were probably going to be fifth or somewhere in there, if not for the tire going down,” Jones noted. “That would have been a really solid day for us, but we’re here to compete for wins and sometimes you have to take risks like that in order to step up to that next level.
“I had a shot to win, man, and that’s all you can ask for. It’s just part of the deal sometimes.”