When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, it was the driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry Erik Jones for Joe Gibbs Racing that was victorious. The race went two overtimes and saw half the field and a boatload of contenders wiped out in stage two and in the closing laps, and Jones was there to capitalize and rob Toyota teammate Martin Truex Jr. of his first restrictor-plate win.
This is what happens when you have four drivers that have owned the season with two recording five wins and the other two collecting three and two wins respectively. For the rest of the field, Daytona offers a chance for them to score a win and clinch a playoff berth. In fact, the only wins that have come from drivers other than the “Big Four” have come at Daytona and Talladega with Austin Dillon, Joey Logano and now Erik Jones scoring the first of his career. Heavy blocking, bump drafting and side drafting three-wide at times over 200 mph and you’re bound to tear up a lot of cars.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scored both stage wins, but was caught up late in the race with Kyle Larson and inflicted damage that later caused a tire to go down and send him into the grass tearing up a lot of the car and ending his real chance at scoring yet another plate track win. Stenhouse was involved and played a role in two major crashes in stage two along with William Byron who was blocking awful hard and in sighted a hard reaction from Brad Keselowski who said post race, “You’ve got a list of drivers making moves that they are unqualified to make and it causes big wrecks. It was my fault because I lifted. I should have wrecked (Byron) and sent a message to the whole field.”
Only 13 cars finished on the lead lap and only 8 were in the running to score a win on the final restart. Jones was able to get the run on the high side and score the win. “How about that race, boys and girls?” Jones shouted to the fans in the grandstands after his celebratory burnout in front of the flag stand. “My first Cup win, my first win at Daytona, my first superspeedway win — what an awesome day, man!
Jones led just one lap on the night, but it was the final and most important one. MTJ, AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five. The highest-finishing Ford was Matt DiBenedetto in 7th believe it or not.
Daytona definitely did not disappoint on Saturday night in the annual 4th of July weekend spectacular for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Jones is now locked into the playoffs with his win at Daytona and can breathe a little easier through the rest of the summer.