Saturday, August 28, 2021

XFINITY: Brandon Jones’ engine lets go on first night of Daytona gauntlet

PHOTO: David PeQueen, @CarSDS2078

Brandon Jones picked up the 6th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday and Sunday’s Wawa 250 at the Daytona International Speedway when his #19 Menards Patriot Lighting Toyota fell out with a blown engine after 17 of 100 laps.

The finish, which came in Jones’ 192nd series start, was his second of the year and first since the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, two races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 32nd for the #9, the 151st for Toyota, and the 267th from a blown engine. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 81st for the #19, the 362nd for Toyota, and the 1,107th from an engine.

With the run, Jones now takes the lead in the 2021 LASTCAR XFINITY Series standings with 10 races to go, besting David Starr on a bottom-five tiebreaker of 7-4.

Following the Turn 6 incident that collected him and multiple other drivers in Indy, Jones rebounded nicely at Michigan, finishing runner-up to A.J. Allmendinger in the overtime scramble to the finish. He looked to keep the momentum going in Daytona, where an early crash in February left him a distant 38th in the running order. In five previous attempts, he had yet to finish better than 12th in the summer race there. He’d start 3rd under metric qualifying – his second-best start at the track behind his pole in the 2017 season opener for Richard Childress Racing.

Rolling off 40th and last was Tim Viens, who was making his first XFINITY start of the season in Mike Harmon Racing’s #74 Barnes Law Chevrolet. After minor radio issues on pit road, Viens rolled off with the rest of the field, and was soon joined at the back by at least three other drivers who dropped back voluntarily: 10th-place Jade Buford in the #48 Big Machine Spiked Coolers Chevrolet, 11th-place Ryan Sieg in the #39 CMR Construction & Roofing / A-Game Ford, and 35th-place Jason White in the #66 A-Game / CMR Construction Ford. Although White’s entry was fielded by Motorsports Business Management, it was likely a second RSS Racing Ford teamed with Sieg, much as White had done in February when RSS shared an interest in the #23 team now run exclusively by Our Motorsports.

By the time the field crossed the stripe, two more drivers had also dropped toward the rear – B.J. McLeod Motorsports teammates Matt Mills in the #5 J.F. Electric Toyota and Mason Massey in the #78 Brunt Workwear Toyota. Cup regular Chase Briscoe, who lined up 37th in the McLeod #99, took the green a full second in front of the duo. With this final shuffle in the order, Viens reassumed last place as the final car to cross the stripe. The intervals for the bottom six runners were as follows:

35) #66-Jason White 5.235
36) #5-Matt Mills 5.400
37) #39-Ryan Sieg 5.586
38) #78-Mason Massey 5.625
39) #48-Jade Buford 5.885
40) #74-Tim Viens 6.088

At the end of the first lap, Viens was already struggling to keep up with the draft, reporting “It’s hard to turn!” By then, he was already 0.575 second behind the new 39th-place runner Spencer Boyd in Jimmy Means Racing’s #52 Wheelhouse Bicycle Chevrolet. By Lap 4, Boyd had himself lost touch with 38th-place Mason Massey, and Viens was told Boyd would be dropping back so he could pick up Viens as a pusher. The next time by, Viens reported he couldn’t see because something was on his windshield, and both cars ended up losing more ground to the pack.

Meanwhile, near the front, Brandon Jones was leading the inside line, trying to defend his 3rd starting spot. But on Lap 7, Viens’ radio reported that Jones was spraying water from the overflow, and that he might not make it to the competition caution on Lap 15. The television broadcast soon noticed the water spraying from Jones’ car, and the debris on his grille that was causing it. On Lap 9, Jones pulled to the apron down the backstretch and pitted to get the debris removed. He returned to the track, still spraying water. Still, Jones wouldn’t fall to last place until the 11th circuit, and wouldn’t lose a lap until the 13th. When the leaders caught him, Jones again led a line on the inside – this one around the 15th spot. The now 39th-place Viens, meanwhile, continued to struggle with handling and visibility issues. Both made it to the competition caution.

Under yellow, Jones earned the Lucky Dog, but came down pit road for more work under the hood. The crew hooked-up the “cool-down” machine to address the overheating issue, but it was too late. As rain fell on the backstretch, forcing the red flag that would ultimately postpone the race to Sunday morning, Jones’ crew pushed him behind the wall, done for the night. “Fuck,” said someone on Jones’ radio. “Should’ve caught that sooner.” NASCAR reported “19 to the garage, mechanical” under caution on Lap 19, then confirmed he was out nine minutes later.

Viens and the 38 remaining starters – still on the lead lap – would return on Saturday to complete the race distance. Eliminated in an early crash was Austin Cindric, whose contact from Myatt Snider sent his #22 Car Shop Ford into the outside wall exiting the tri-oval. Spencer Boyd, who struggled to keep up with the draft the night before, lost the engine after 71 laps, the same number Colin Garrett completed before his #26 Stillhouse Toyota wrecked coming off Turn 4. Rounding out the group was Caesar Bacarella, who suffered left-rear damage in the draft, then crashed trying to merge into traffic on the backstretch, leaving his #90 AP Regimen / AP Prime Bites Chevrolet in the 36th spot.

Brandon Brown earned one of his best runs in recent weeks by pacing the field for 9 laps in his #68 Original Larry’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet, even fending off the challenges of several strong Chevrolet teams. His run was undone when he ran out of fuel just before the end of Stage 2, costing him multiple laps and leaving him a distant 34th in the running order.

Back up front at the finish was J.J. Yeley, who finished a strong 13th in Rick Ware Racing and SS-Green Light Racing’s #17 Figgers Wireless Chevrolet. Just one spot behind him came David Starr, who lost the draft early on Saturday, then surged late to take 14th in MBM’s #61 Whataburger Toyota. One spot behind Starr was Jason White, who finally linked up with Ryan Sieg in the final laps, only to finish 15th and 16th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #19 in a XFINITY Series race at Daytona since February 19, 2000, when Mike Skinner’s #19 Pameco Chevrolet was collected in a crash with Jeff Green after 13 laps of the NAPA Auto Parts 300.

40) #19-Brandon Jones / 17 laps / engine
39) #22-Austin Cindric / 27 laps / crash
38) #52-Spencer Boyd / 71 laps / engine
37) #26-Colin Garrett / 71 laps / crash
36) #90-Caesar Bacarella / 82 laps / crash

1st) B.J. McLeod Motorsports (5)
2nd) DGM Racing, JD Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Motorsports Business Management, RSS Racing / Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
3rd) Brandonbilt Motorsports, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (15)
2nd) Toyota (7)
3rd) Ford (1)


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