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Jones survives to win NASCAR crash-fest

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.

Erik Jones has won a crash-filled NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, passing defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap and then crossing the finish line for the first victory of his Cup Series career.

Jones was involved in one of the many wrecks, but his No. 20 Toyota was still in good enough shape to get by Truex.

Truex finished second, followed by AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Chris Buescher.

It was another odd top 10 at Daytona. Ty Dillon was sixth, followed by Matt DiBenedetto and Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon.

Chevrolet extended its winless streak to 18 races, its longest since a 31-race drought in 1981-82.

Last year’s race winner, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., had the most memorable run. He started two early accidents that wrecked more than half the field and was part of two more cautions late.

At the halfway point, the rest of the field could only hope Stenhouse stayed in front and out of the way until the final laps.

“It’s been crazy partly due to a few of my issues,” Stenhouse said over the radio on NBC.

Yeah, just a couple.

Stenhouse, who broke up in the offseason with retired driver Danica Patrick, started the melee when he tapped and turned Brad Keselowski, who was running third. Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford slammed into the side of Kyle Busch, and more than a dozen cars were unable to slow down.

Keselowski said it actually started with a “bad block” by William Byron, who cut in front of Keselowski and prompted him to lift off the gas.

“The 2 got wrecked and so did everyone else,” Hamlin said. “It usually happens much later in the night.”

Added Joey Logano: “When one car sits sideways in front of the field at 200 mph, you can’t get through it.”

Pole-sitter Chase Elliott, Keselowski and Kurt Busch, and former Daytona 500 winners Denny Hamlin and Logano were also involved in a 25-car crash.

Stenhouse was just getting warmed up in his No. 17 Ford. He wiped out two more contenders a few laps later.

Stenhouse tapped Kyle Busch and caused him to lose control. Busch’s No. 18 Toyota slid right and took out William Byron. Byron and Busch were running 1-2 at the time.

“Disappointing to get crashed out by the guy that caused the first crash,” Busch said.

Stenhouse, driving for team owner Jack Roush, won the first two stages and needed a victory to earn an automatic spot in NASCAR’s playoffs. The Cup series has been dominated this season by The Big 3 of Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. Busch and Harvick had five wins entering Daytona and Truex, the reigning series champ, has three. The 16-driver playoff field could have more drivers in on points than wins once its set in September.