By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Despite a run-in with Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones scored a top-five finish in the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
With 35 laps to go in the race, Jones battled Blaney for seventh on track. The Petty GMS Motorsports driver took offense to a brake check from the No. 12 Menards / Great Lakes Flooring Ford Mustang. Jones used his No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to beat on Blaney’s bumper. The contact sent Blaney up the track and into the outside wall off Turn 2.
“I was racing with him there and he brake-checked me off of (turn) four for no real reason,” explained Jones. “I didn’t appreciate that and felt like I showed it on the track. If we have a conversation, we have a conversation. It’s an exhibition race. We’re out here doing what we can. I was frustrated with the move that he made, so that’s what happened.”
Blaney limped back to pit road as the caution waved. Incensed, he chucked his HANS device at Jones. The Byron, MI native shrugged off the move and continued to push forward on the ensuing restarts. Jones worked his way from seventh up to fourth by the time the checkered flag waved for the NASCAR Cup Series first race on a 0.25-mile track since 1971.
“Overall, my No. 43 FOCUSfactor Chevy was really good,” stated Jones. “It was a good weekend to come home fourth for us. It’s not a race that means a lot, as far as setting us up for the rest of the season. But nobody came out here not trying. It feels good to run good and we’ll hopefully we’ll carry that momentum to Daytona.”
Jones had started the Clash at the Coliseum in 16th. He transferred into the main event after finishing fourth in Heat 4. The 25-year-old started the final Heat race of the day in sixth. By staying out of trouble, he worked his way into a transfer position by the checkered flag.
Although the Clash is a non-points race, the fourth-place finish is Jones’ first top-five since the 2020 Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL race with Joe Gibbs Racing. For the newly rebranded Petty GMS Motorsports, it is the organization’s first top-five finish. The team’s last top-five finish, which came under the Richard Petty Motorsports banner, was earned by Bubba Wallace in the 2020 regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
The first points race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 20.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Fluharty / Harold Hinson Photography.