Erik Jones completes three-race weekend with 12th in Sprint Cup race

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Standing on pit road following the second official Sprint Cup race of his career, Erik Jones didn’t look like someone who had completed a three-race, 1,021-mile weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the 19 year old was starting to feel it.

“I’m ready to take the day off,” Jones said after finishing 12th in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “I don’t think I’ve ever run more than two races – a Truck and Xfinity race – in more than one weekend. At this point, I’m feeling fine, but I can definitely feeling it coming on. I’ll be worn out tonight.”

Jones felt that way due to being JGR’s choice to once again fill in for an unavailable Sprint Cup driver.

First there was completing Denny Hamlin‘s race at Bristol Motor Speedway in April. Then Jones substituted for Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway while Busch recovered from injuries. That effort ended with Jones spinning and finishing 25 laps down. In both cases, Jones was unable to complete every lap.

That changed Sunday. Jones completed all 334 laps. That was despite having a blown tire in the middle of the race, a common theme throughout the field.

“I wish we could have been a little stronger there at the end,” Jones said. “We had that right front go down and it tore the nose up pretty good, so kind of took us out of a shot at a top-10. To still come home 12th is a good day for us. We worked hard all day to really keep the thing balanced and good and strong.”

The weekend and Jones’ opportunity to build a bond with crew chief Jason Ratcliff was complicated when a wet track canceled two practice sessions Saturday. That meant Jones entered Sunday with only the one hour and 25 minute practice session from Friday.

“I think over the day we learned more and more about each other,” Jones said. “Over the day, (I was) just getting a feel for Jason’s communication and what I was trying to relay to him to get the response I wanted on adjustments and it definitely evolved throughout the day.”

Jones ran as high as sixth, but his average running spot was 12th.

Between his three Sprint Cup races, Jones has discovered what more he needs to do.

“If you have any mistake like we did with the right front, it really takes you out of any shot you have to run well,” Jones said. “Just staying in it and staying out front, that’s the biggest thing you need to do.”

Jones didn’t know he would be attempting a tripleheader until Thursday afternoon when Kenseth’s final appeal was denied.

Then began the marathon weekend of competing in the Camping World Truck Series, the Xfinity Series and the Sprint Cup race.

“When everything came up this week, I said ‘Man, you’re going to have a full plate,'” said team owner Joe Gibbs. “We couldn’t be prouder of him … I think he’s special.”

Jones won the Truck race – his third of the year – and finished fourth in the Xfinity race at the track he earned his first series win at in April.

But prior to the his third Sprint Cup race, Jones opted not to pester Kenseth or even his Truck owner Kyle Busch for advice.

“I haven’t talked to Matt, I kind of let him take his weekend off,” Jones said. “I’d like to talk to him a little bit more about this style of racing and working with Jason and everything else.”

But before that talk and before his next three-race weekend at Phoenix, Jones looks toward Monday.

“I’ll take a nice day off tomorrow.”

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.