It’s not an exaggeration to say Erik Jones was glad not to be in Kansas anymore.
The 21-year-old Cup regular returned to what might be quickly becoming his favorite place to re-assert his mastery over the Xfinity Series in the Lone Star State.
Jones, who started from the pole in his No. 20 Toyota, outlasted Ryan Blaney, another Cup regular, by a little more than a second while battling lap traffic in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Saturday to sweep the Xfinity Series races in 2017 at the repaved TMS.
The victory was Jones’ third in six Xfinity starts in Texas. He has never finished out of the top five.
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The sweep of Xfinity races was the first at TMS since Kyle Busch achieved the feat in 2009. It was also the fourth time in TMS history that a pole sitter won the race, including Jones twice.
“It’s been a good race track for me,” Jones said. “It’s a place I’ve enjoyed coming to. When I first came here with the trucks [in 2014] I never thought I would like the place.
“It’s cool to be back here again.”
The victory was is vindication for Jones, who was dominant at the Kansas Speedway two weeks ago, but with four laps remaining, was overtaken by Christopher Bell after leading 186 laps.
Shortly after, the two made contact, ending any remaining chance Jones had.
“I wish we were celebrating two in a row,” said Jones, who earlier in the day netted his 14th career pole in the series, running a lap of 191.27 mph in 28.23 seconds.
The race was interrupted by seven cautions.
The Xfinity playoff field remained tight.
Veteran Elliott Sadler moved ahead of the field by crossing the finish line in fourth. William Byron, ninth on Saturday, moved to second, while Justin Allgaier – the leader entering the race – fell to third. Brennan Poole was fourth.
Sadler is good shape heading to Phoenix next week. The top four after next week advance to the final race.
“The car was probably better than the driver,” Sadler said. “My guys gave me a really good race car. We were able to do the things we needed to do to get our season in decent position. That’s what our goal was entering the weekend, and I feel like we did that.”
The Jones-Blaney 1-2 finish was also identical to the spring race.
“I got to him, but I couldn’t pass him,” Blaney said. “A lot of cars were all over the place. I thought we had the car to win, just a matter of getting in front of him. Just couldn’t do it.”
Jones will start fourth in today’s AAA Texas 500 Cup race in the No. 77 Toyota. Blaney, vying to be one of the final four drivers in Homestead-Miami on Nov. 19, will start eighth in the No. 21 Ford.
“We had a really fast race care,” Jones said. “What a day. Just glad to get this thing back to Victory Lane.”