It’s never fun to lose a championship with the checkered flag in sight.
For Erik Jones, the night in Homestead-Miami Speedway never seemed to be in his grasp, as his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez held the lead for 133 of 200 laps toward the XFINITY Series championship
The 20-year-old only led three laps and finished the lowest of the Championship 4 drivers in ninth, which slotted him into fourth in final point standings.
The struggle started when Jones’ No. 20 suffered nose damage early in the Ford EcoBoost 300. Though he had to have repairs performed, the damage had no significant impact on Jones’ pace.
“We had a hole in the nose from earlier,” Jones said. “Once we got that patched up, it came back around. I got in the wall a few times trying to run the No. 19 down but it didnít really seem to hurt.”
Compounding the disappointment of Saturday night, Jones was held up on the race’s final restart with three laps to go after Cole Whitt stayed out to grab the lead of the race.
“It was pretty disrespectful and I strongly hope someone is able to talk to him about that,” Jones said. “I’d hate to see something like that happen again. He stacked the whole top line up, he wasnít spinning his tires or anything. I donít know what was going on there.”
Jones, who will now move to Sprint Cup racing full-time in 2017 for Furniture Row Racing, hopes to talk to Whitt to “know what he was thinking.”
“I hope I get a chance to talk to him,” he said. “I donít know what he’s thinking. Thatís pretty down-low, really. There’s not a lot of respect shown there. I donít know if heís ever started up front in a race before.”
With the negatives to the side, Jones wrapped up a season that saw four wins and 627 laps led. Despite a lost championship, the 2016 XFINITY Rookie of the Year had fun battling his fellow Chase rivals to end it.
“It was pretty intense,” he said. ‘You see the cream rise to the top right there at the end. it was pretty cool that you get all four guys right at the end battling for the win.
“That’s what you want to see and thatís what you got tonight. It was fun there when I was trying to chase down the [Nos.] 19, got around the 7 and then chased him down under that green-flag run. Fun, exciting night.”