Erik Jones gets 7th Xfinity victory at repaved Texas track

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Pole qualifier Kevin Harvick leads the field across the start/finish line to begin the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, April. It was also more than 2 seconds faster than last year’s quickest qualifying time in Shanghai, set by the now-retired Nico Rosberg.

I just don’t think you can afford to take a chance on two drivers starting toward the front when there are so many drivers starting in the back who have a great chance to finish in the Top 10.

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, whether it was my first opportunity in this sport or my last”.

Shortly after the re-start, Jones moved into the lead with Blaney right behind, pushing Logano back to third place. “You’ve got to take your time and make sure you’re in it but we have a really fast auto today”. William Byron won the stage and the accompanying playoff point, leading nine XFINITY regulars in the top 10 in that stage. Busch, this year’s victor, has gone four races without a top-10 finish, wrecking hard at Martinsville en route to 37th. “Drivers capable of winning races and championships”, Bowyer said. “I’d like to have five wins right now, but four seconds and a win isn’t awful”. Logano, Harvick, Larson and Earnhardt completed the top-five.

Larson was second fastest to Brad Keselowski in Saturday’s first practice session.

“It’s going to get better, but the problem is the groove itself keeps getting better and better and better as we run in it”, said Martin Truex Jr. I don’t know what was wrong with our vehicle going through tech, but if you don’t make it, you don’t get out there and I like that. Is Truex’s infamously bad luck starting to sneak up on him again?

“The re-pave takes a lot of patience to get used to”, said Jones to the NASCAR broadcast crew right after his pit stop.

“Confidence is probably half the battle for me”, Earnhardt said. “And that’s what he’s kind of doing with Clint, too”.

But all that was before the entire 1 1/2-mile track was repaved, and Turns 1 and 2 were reconfigured. “I needed a 15-lap run instead of a 30-lap run”, Logano said.

Jones led 112 of 200 laps for his seventh career Xfinity victory, four of them coming on 1 1/2-mile tracks.

Further expanding the contingent at the rear of the field are Kyle Busch, who hit the wall during opening practice and did not make a qualifying attempt; Erik Jones, who destroyed his primary vehicle during practice and went to a backup, and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who spun during the first round of knockout qualifying, flat-spotted his tires and will start from the back on fresh rubber.

“I think we just had to look at what the track was doing over the race and kind of how the track changed what our vehicle did”, said Jones, accompanied by car-owner Joe Gibbs and crew chief Chris Gabehart. “But that re-start after Stage 2 hurt us more than anything”.

I picked Busch last weekend and he came close, fading to second late after dominating large portions of Martinsville.

Blaney earned his fourth top-10 Xfinity finish in four races at TMS, as well as his second top-10 of the season in the auto fielded by Penske Racing.

Joey Logano, like Harvick, is looking for his first win of the season, and will start in fourth position on Sunday.

Johnson’s only top-10 finish in the first six races this season had been ninth at Phoenix. Then I feel like we could start running him down. Banking in turns one and two was decreased from 24 to 20 degrees and the racing surface at the same end of the track was widened from 60 feet to 80 feet. “Then had too much wheel in it going the other way, so just a mistake on my end”.

Despite Johnson’s early adversity, he knew the No. 48 Chevy was in good shape by the second or third run of the day.

Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne raced backup cars after crashes in practice.

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“The repave was really treacherous to start the weekend and this is a nice way to bounce back for myself after going to a backup the other day in the Cup auto”, he said. Hopefully this is a good start for tomorrow.

FORT WORTH TX- APRIL 09 Jimmie Johnson driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

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