FORT WORTH, Texas — The drivers got the mayhem out of the way early then settled in for a long run to the checkered flag Saturday afternoon at NASCAR’s 21st annual My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity race at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway.
Erik Jones held off a hard-charging Ryan Blaney to post his second Xfinity win in Texas and seventh overall on the newly renovated 1.5-mile tri-oval.
“This has always been a good track for me,” said Jones. “I always felt comfortable with the old track. This new surface is definitely more challenging than the old surface.”
There were six caution flags during the race — none after the end of the Stage 2 mandatory caution — which meant green flag racing from Lap 97 — the beginning of Stage 3 — through the end of the 200 lap race.
Pole sitter Joey Logano cruised to the early lead with Daniel Hemric close behind.
On the 13th lap, Hemric got loose coming out of turn 1, spun out and slammed into the wall, sending him into the pits for repairs to his car’s right side.
Shortly after the re-start, Jones moved into the lead with Blaney right behind, pushing Logano back to third place.
Everyone held position through the end of the 45 lap first stage with Jones, Blaney, Logano, Ryan Reed and Daniel Suarez finishing one through five.
All the drivers headed to the pits for tires and fuel during the mandatory end-of-stage green flag caution.
“The re-pave takes a lot of patience to get used to,” said Jones to the NASCAR broadcast crew right after his pit stop. “It’s really one groove out there. You’ve got to take your time and make sure you’re in it but we have a really fast car today.”
When Casey Mears came out of pit row his car began leaking oil.
That changed the yellow flag to red, forcing all the cars to park right on the track while safety crews worked to clean up the spill.
And that extended the break from five to 10 laps.
But the drivers didn’t get much racing in after the re-start.
First Daniel Suarez jumped into the lead with Blaney and Jones in pursuit.
Two laps later, Suarez hit the wall coming out of Turn 2 but kept on going, falling only one spot to second place behind Blaney.
Suarez lost traction again just two laps later, on lap 61, avoiding the wall this time as Blaney drove underneath.
Suarez headed to the pits when the day’s third caution flag came out.
Suarez’s adventure wasn’t over yet.
Right after the lap 65 re-start, Darrell Wallace Jr. tried to pass between Suarez and Tyler Reddick. Wallace began to spin, causing a six-car pileup with Kevin Harvick (41), Brandon Jones (33), Tyler Reddick (42), Brendan Gaughn (62) and Brennan Poole (48). Only Poole was knocked out of the race.
Running at the back of the pack, Garrett Smithley spun out on the 83rd lap bringing out another caution. There was one final caution — the mandatory caution on the 90th lap at the end of Stage 2.
When the third and final stage began on Lap 97, Jones was in the lead the lead with Blaney right behind.
Blaney passed low heading into turn one of lap 120 and stayed in front until Jones made the same move to re-claim the lead on lap 135.
There was a full cycle of green flag pits stops beginning on the 140th lap and when everyone was back, Jones and Blaney stayed 1-2 until the checkered flag.
“I thought we had the better car all day,” said Blaney. “We lost our chance to grab the lead on that last pit stop but Erik and his team deserves the credit. They’ve been working hard all year and they earned the win.”
“I thought we had the dominant car all day. We had a really good run to start Stage 3 then we had a really good pit stop,” said Jones. “We were able to hold off Ryan on that last pit stop then put some distance between us and outrace him to the finish.”
Both Jones and Blaney will be back on the Texas Motor Speedway track Sunday for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup 21st annual O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and they plan to use Saturday’s experience to help them with their Sunday race plans.
“I learned a lot about the track today and hopefully I can apply what I learned to tomorrow’s race,”
“This new surface came around, it got better all day,” said Jones. “I expect it to get even better tomorrow. I’m excited to get that race started.”