CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Erik Jones was the top seed at the start of the inaugural Chase in the Xfinity Series, but a wreck with 10 laps remaining in the opening race has dropped him to ninth in the standings.
Now the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will try to recover at Dover International Speedway, where he won earlier this year.
Jones went into the Chase opener with a series-best four victories and was considered the overwhelming favorite to win the title. Now he’s outside the cutoff to advance to the next round.
He started from the pole last week at Kentucky Speedway and led 100 laps before the crash that he blamed on himself.
“Last week I made a mistake laying it all out on the line for a win, but we definitely had the speed and that’s encouraging heading in to this weekend,” Jones said.
Jones lost control of his No. 20 Toyota as he raced three-wide with teammate Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon. He admitted he was playing defense on restarts and trying to preserve a win that would have advanced him into the second round of the Chase. Instead, Elliott Sadler won the race and Jones is now looking for a win in one of the next two races.
Jones has made two starts at Dover, has one win, two top-10 finishes and an average finish of fifth.
“At this point, we’ll need to focus a little more on points racing and go to Dover with that mindset and try to go out and get a solid finish,” Jones said. “I think we can get a top-five finish the next two weeks and hopefully that will put us in a good position to move on to the next round and keep us in contention for the championship”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will return to the race track this weekend, albeit as a spectator, to support his Hendrick Motorsports team at Dover International Raceway.
Earnhardt is out for the season because of a concussion suffered in June. He said on the weekly “Dale Jr. Download” podcast that he will watch the Xfinity and Sprint Cup races from the pit box Saturday and Sunday.
Jeff Gordon will be driving the No. 88 Chevrolet in Earnhardt’s absence.
“It’s going to be different and tough and maybe not a ton of fun,” he said. “It’s a bit weird to not be in the car but at the track. When you’re a driver, you don’t know what to do with yourself. I’ll try to support the guys and learn a thing or two. Excited to see how Jeff does, he usually runs great at Dover. It’s going to be different. We’ll see how it goes.”
Earnhardt attended news conferences at Watkins Glen International and Darlington Raceway in August, but did not stay for either race.
Earnhardt also gave an update on his health during the podcast, and said his symptoms mostly only flare during stimulating situations. He’s tried exposing himself to more situations, and recently attended a concert in Milwaukee with country music artist Tim Dugger.
“That was interesting,” he said. “We were in a field, and I was four people back from the stage, and no one recognized me. We stood there for the whole concert, got lots of visual stimulation. It was a good experience. We’re going to track to get the same exposure. It’s getting better.”
Ryan Reed will attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut next month at Talladega Superspeedway driving for Roush Fenway Racing.
Reed will try to put the No. 99 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford in the field. Reed is currently fourth in the Xfinity Series standings.
He will try to become the 19th driver to start a Sprint Cup race for Roush Fenway, and the No. 99 was in the Roush lineup from 1996 through 2014. It was driven by Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards, who combined for 40 wins and led more than 9,500 laps in the Sprint Cup Series.